(Saponaria officinalis) Pink family

Flowers - Pink or whitish, fragrant, about 1 inch broad, loosely

clustered at end of stem, also sparingly from axils of upper

leaves. Calyx tubular, 5-toothed, about 3/4 in. long; 5 petals,

the claws inserted in deep tube. Stamens 10, in 2 sets; 1 pistil

with 2 styles. Flowers frequently double. Stem: to 2 ft. high,

erect, stout, sparingly branched, leafy. Leaves: Opposite,

acutely oval, 2 to 3 in. long, about 1 in. wide, 3 to 5 ribbed.

Fruit: An oblong capsule, shorter than calyx, opening at top by 4

short teeth or valves.

Preferred Habitat - Roadsides, banks, and waste places.

Flowering Season - June-September.

Distribution - Generally common. Naturalized from Europe.

A stout, buxom, exuberantly healthy lassie among flowers is

bouncing Bet, who long ago escaped from gardens whither she was

brought from Europe, and ran wild beyond colonial farms to

roadsides, along which she has traveled over nearly our entire

area. Underground runners and abundant seed soon form thrifty

colonies. This plant, to which our grandmothers ascribed healing

virtues, makes a cleansing, soap-like lather when its bruised

leaves are agitated in water.

Butterflies, which delight in bright colors and distinct

markings, find little to charm them here; but the pale shade of

pink or white, easily distinguished in the dark, and the

fragrance, strongest after sunset, effectively advertise the

flower at dusk when its benefactors begin to fly. The sphinx

moth, a frequent visitor, works as rapidly in extracting nectar

from the deep tube as any hawk moth, so frequently mistaken for a

hummingbird. The little cliff-dwelling bees (Halictus), among

others, visit the flowers by day for pollen only. At first five

outer stamens protrude slightly from the flower and shed their

pollen on the visitor, immediately over the entrance. Afterward,

having spread apart to leave the entrance free, the path is clear

for the five inner stamens to follow the same course. Now the

styles are still enclosed in the tube but when there is no longer

fear of self-fertilization - that is to say, when the pollen has

all been carried off, and the stamens have withered - up they

come and spread apart to expose their rough upper surfaces to

pollen brought from younger flowers by the moths.

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