LESSER RATTLESNAKE PLANTAIN [DWARF RATTLESNAKEPLANTAIN]





(Peramium repens; Goodyera repens of Gray) Orchid family



Flowers - Small, greenish white, the lip pocket-shaped, borne on

one side of a bracted spike 5 to 10 in. high, from a fleshy,

thick fibrous root. Leaves: From the base, tufted, or ascending

the stem on one side for a few inches, 1/2 in. to over 1 in.

long, ovate, the silvery-white veins forming a network, or leaf

blotched with white.

Preferred Habitat - Woods, especially under evergreens.

Flowering Season - July-August.

Distribution - Colorado eastward to the Atlantic, from Nova

Scotia to Florida. Europe and Asia.



Tufts of these beautifully marked little leaves carpeting the

ground in the shadow of the hemlocks attract the eye, rather than

the spires of insignificantly small flowers. Whoever wishes to

know how the bumblebee ruptures the sensitive membrane within the

tiny blossom with her tongue, and draws out the pollinia that are

instantly cemented to it after much the same plan employed by the

ladies' tresses, must use a good lens in studying the operation.

To the structural botanist the rattlesnake plantains form an

interesting connecting link between orchids of d1stinct forms. In

them we see a tendency to lengthen the pollen-masses into

caudicles as the showy orchis, for example, has done. "Goodyera

probably shows us the state of organs in a group of orchids now

mostly extinct," says Darwin; "but the parents of many living

descendants."



It has been said that the Indians use this plant to cure bites of

the rattlesnake; that they will handle the deadly creature

without fear if some of these leaves are near at hand - in fact,

a good deal is said about Indians by palefaces that makes even

the stolid red man smile when confronted with the white man's

tales about him. An intelligent Indian student declares that none

of his race will handle a rattlesnake unless its fangs have been

removed; that this plant takes its name from the resemblance of

its netted-veined leaves to the belly of a serpent, and not to

their curative powers; and, finally, that the Southern tribes,

especially so reverence the rattlesnake that, far from trying to

cure its bite, they count themselves blessed to be bitten to

death by one. Indeed, the rattle, a sacred symbol, has been

employed in religious ceremonies of most tribes. Snakes may be

revered in other lands, but only in America is the rattlesnake

worshipped. Among the Moquis there still survives much of the

religion of the snake-worshipping Aztecs. Bernal Diaz tells how

living rattlesnakes, kept in the great temple at Mexico as sacred

and petted objects, were fed with the bodies of the sacrificed.

Cortes found a town called by the Spaniards Terraguea, or the

city of serpents, whose walls and temples were decorated with

figures of the reptiles, which the inhabitants worshiped as gods.



The DOWNY RATTLESNAKE PLANTAIN (P. pubescens), usually a taller

plant than the preceding, with larger cream-white,

globular-lipped flowers on both sides of its spike, and

glandular-hairy throughout, has even more strongly marked leaves.

These, the most conspicuous parts, are dark grayish green,

heavily netted with greenish or silvery-white veins, silky to the

touch, and often wavy edged. This plant scarcely strays westward

beyond the Mississippi, but it is common East. It also blooms in

midsummer, and shows a preference for dry woods where oak and

pine abound.





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