(Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum) Thistle family

Flower-heads - Disk florets yellow, tubular, 4 or 5 toothed,

containing stamens and pistil; surrounded by white ray florets,

which are pistillate, fertile. Stem: Smooth, rarely branched, to

3 ft. high. Leaves: Mostly oblong in outline, coarsely toothed

and divided.

Preferred Habitat - Meadows, pastures, roadsides, wasteland.

Flowering Season - May-November.

Distribution - Throughout the United States and Canada; not so

common in the South and West.

Myriads and myriads of daisies, whitening our fields as if a

belated blizzard had covered them with a snowy mantle in June,

fill the farmer with dismay, the flower-lover with rapture. When

vacation days have come; when chains and white-capped old women

are to be made of daisies by happy children turned out of

schoolrooms into meadows; when pretty maids, like Goethe's

Marguerite, tell their fortunes by the daisy "petals;" when music

bubbles up in a cascade of ecstasy from the throats of bobolinks

nesting among the daisies, timothy, and clover; when the blue sky

arches over the fairest scenes the year can show, and all the

world is full of sunshine and happy promises of fruition, must we

Americans always go to English literature for a song to fit our

joyous mood?

"When daisies pied, and violets blue,

And lady-smocks all silver white,

And cuckoo-buds of yellow hue,

Do paint the meadows with delight-"

sang Shakespeare. His lovely suggestion of an English spring

recalls no familiar picture to American minds. No more does


"Wee, modest crimson-tippit flower."

Shakespeare, Burns, Chaucer, Wordsworth, and all the British

poets who have written familiar lines about the daisy, extolled a

quite different flower from ours - Bellis perennis, the little

pink and white blossom that hugs English turf as if it loved it -

the true day's-eye, for it closes at nightfall and opens with the


Now, what is the secret of the large, white daisy's triumphal

conquest of our territory? A naturalized immigrant from Europe

and Asia, how could it so quickly take possession? In the

over-cultivated Old World no weed can have half the chance for

unrestricted colonizing that it has in our vast unoccupied area.

Most of our weeds are naturalized foreigners, not natives. Once

released from the harder conditions of struggle at home (the

seeds being safely smuggled in among the ballast of freight

ships, or hay used in packing), they find life here easy,

pleasant; as if to make up for lost time, they increase a

thousandfold. If we look closely at a daisy - and a lens is

necessary for any but the most superficial acquaintance - we

shall see that, far from being a single flower, it is literally a

host in itself. Each of the so-called white "petals" is a female

floret, whose open corolla has grown large, white, and showy, to

aid its sisters in advertising for insect visitors - a prominence

gained only by the loss of its stamens. The yellow center is

composed of hundreds of minute tubular florets huddled together

in a green cup as closely as they can be packed. Inside each of

these tiny yellow tubes stand the stamens, literally putting

their heads together. As the pistil within the ring of stamens

develops and rises through their midst, two little hair brushes

on its tip sweep the pollen from their anthers as a rounded brush

would remove the soot from a lamp chimney. Now the pollen is

elevated to a point where any insect crawling over the floret

must remove it. The pollen gone, the pistil now spreads its two

arms, that were kept tightly closed together while any danger of

self-fertilization lasted. Their surfaces become sticky, that

pollen brought from another flower may adhere to them. Notice

that the pistils in the white ray florets have no hairbrushes on

their tips, because, no stamens being there, there is no pollen

to be swept out. Because daisies are among the most conspicuous

of flowers, and have facilitated dining for their visitors by

offering them countless cups of refreshment that may be drained

with a minimum loss of time, almost every insect on wings alights

on them sooner or later. In short, they run their business on the

principle of a cooperative department store. Immense quantities

of the most vigorous, because cross-fertilized, seed being set in

every patch, small wonder that our fields are white with daisies

- a long and a merry life to them!

Since all flowers must once have passed through a white stage

before attaining gay colors, so evolution teaches, it is not

surprising that occasional reversions to the white type should be

found even among the brightest-hued species. Again, some white

flowers which are in a transition state show aspirations after

color, often so marked in individuals as to mislead one into

believing them products of a far advanced colored type. Also,

pale colors blanch under a summer sun. These facts must be borne

in mind, and the blue, pink, and yellow blossoms should be

investigated before the reader despairs of identifying a flower

not found in the white group.