MAYFLOWERS





(Cratoegus coccinea) Apple family



Flowers - White, rarely pinkish, usually less than 1 in. across,

numerous, in terminal corymbs. Calyx 5-lobed; 5 spreading petals

inserted in its throat numerous stamens; styles 3 to 5. Stem: A

shrub or small tree, rarely attaining 30 ft. in height (Kratos =

strength, in reference to hardness and toughness of the wood);

branches spreading, and beset with stout spines (thorns) nearly 2

in. long. Leaves: Alternate, petioled, 2 to 3 in. long, ovate,

very sharply cut or lobed, the teeth glandular-tipped. Fruit:

Coral red, round or oval; not edible.

Preferred Habitat - Thickets, fence-rows, woodland borders.

Flowering Season - May.

Distribution - Newfoundland and Manitoba southward to the Gulf of

Mexico.



"The fair maid who, the first of May,

Goes to the fields at break of day

And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree

Will ever after handsome be."



Here is a popular recipe omitted from that volume of

heart-to-heart talks entitled "How to Be Pretty though Plain"!



The sombre-thoughted Scotchman, looking for trouble, tersely

observes:



"Mony haws,

Mony snaws."



But in delicious, blossoming May, when the joy of living fairly

intoxicates one, and every bird's throat is swelling with happy

music, who but a Calvinist would croak dismal prophecies? In

Ireland, old crones tell marvelous tales about the hawthorns, and

the banshees which have a predilection for them. So much for

folklore.



As one might suspect from the rather disagreeable odor of these

blossoms, they are most attractive to flies and beetles, which,

carrying pollen from older flowers, leave some on the stigmas

that are already mature in newly-opened ones. A concave

nectar-secreting disk, not concealed by the filaments in this

case, is eagerly pilfered by numerous little short-lipped insects

which render no benefit in return; but many others assist in

self-pollination after the anthers ripen. The splendid monarch

butterfly (Anosia plexippus), the banded purple (Basilarchia

arthemis), whose caterpillar feeds on hawthorn foliage, and the

light brown hunter's butterfly [American painted lady] (Pyrameis

huntera [Vanessa virginiensis]) are, among the visitors seen

flitting about this exquisite little tree in early May, when it

is fairly white with bloom.



The RED-FRUITED THORN (C. mollis), more hairy on its twigs,

petioles, calices, and fruit than the preceding, but so like it

in most respects it was formerly accounted a mere variety, is an

earlier and even more prolific bloomer, the generous, large

clusters of malodorous flowers coming with the leaves in April,

and lasting until the common hawthorn starts into lively

competition with it for insect trade.



Numerous long, slender thorns, often measuring a finger-length,

distinguish the COCKSPUR or NEWCASTLE THORN (C. Crus-Galli),

whose abundant small flowers and shining, leathery leaves, dull

underneath, are conspicuous in thickets from Quebec to the Gulf.

Immense numbers of little bees, among many other visitors, may be

noted on a fine day in May and early June about this showy shrub

or tree. Because it blooms later than its rival sisters, it has

the insect wooers then abroad all to itself.



While most of our beautiful native hawthorns have been introduced

to European gardens, it is the WHITE THORN or MAY (C. Oxyacantha)

of Europe and Asia which is most commonly cultivated here. Truly

a shrub, like a prophet, is not without honor save in its own

country.





WHITE SWEET CLOVER; BOKHARA or TREE CLOVER; WHITE MELILOT; HONEY

LOTUS

(Melilotus alba) Pea family



Flowers - Small, white, fragrant, papilionaceous, the standard

petal a trifle longer than the wings; borne in slender racemes.

Stem: 3 to 10 ft. tall, branching. Leaves: Rather distant,

petioled, compounded of 3 oblong, saw-edged leaflets; fragrant,

especially when dry.

Preferred Habitat - Wastelands, roadsides.

Flowering Season - June-November.

Distribution - United States, Europe, Asia.



Happy must the honeybees have been to find that the sweet clover,

one of their dearest delights in the Old World, had preceded them

in immigrating to the New. Immense numbers of insects - bees in

great variety, wasps, flies, moths, and beetles - visit the

little blossoms that provide entertainment so generous and

accessible; but honey-bees are ever especially abundant. Slight

weight depresses the keel, releasing the stigma and anthers

therefore, so soon as a bee alights and opens the flower, he is

hit below the belt by the projecting stigma. Pollen carried by

him there from other clovers comes off on its sticky surface

before his abdomen gets freshly dusted from the anthers, which

are necessarily rubbed against while he sips nectar. On the

removal of his pressure, the floret springs back to its closed

condition, to protect the precious nectar and pollen from rain

and pilferers. As the stigma projects too far beyond the anthers

to be likely to receive any of the flower's own pollen, good

reason is there for the blossoms guarding their attractions for

the benefit of their friends, which transfer the vitalizing dust

from one floret to another. By clustering its small flowers in

spikes, to make them conspicuous, as well as to facilitate dining

for its benefactors; by prolonging its season of bloom, to get

relief from the fiercest competition for insect trade, and so to

insure an abundance of vigorous cross-fertilized seed, this plant

reveals at a glance some of the reasons why it has been able to

establish itself so quickly throughout our vast area.



Both the white and the yellow sweet clover put their leaves to

sleep at night in a remarkable manner: the three leaflets of each

leaf twist through an angle of 90 degrees, until one edge of each

vertical blade is uppermost. The two side leaflets, Darwin found,

always tend to face the north with their upper surface, one

facing north-northwest and the other north-northeast, while the

terminal leaflet escapes the chilling of its sensitive upper

surface through radiation by twisting to a vertical also, but

bending to either east or west, until it comes in contact with

the vertical upper surface of either of the side leaflets. Thus

the upper surface of the terminal and of at least one of the side

leaflets is sure to be well protected through the night; one is

"left out in the cold."



The dried branches of sweet clover will fill a room with

delightful fragrance; but they will not drive away flies, nor

protect woolens from the ravages of moths, as old women once

taught us to believe.



The ubiquitous WHITE or DUTCH CLOVER (Trifolium repens), whose

creeping branches send up solitary round heads of white or

pinkish flowers on erect, leafless stems, from May to December,

in fields, open waste land, and cultivated places throughout our

area, Europe, and Asia, devotes itself to wooing bees, since

these are the only insects that effect cross-fertilization

regularly, other visitors aiding it only occasionally. When nets

are stretched over these flowers to exclude insects, only

one-tenth the normal quantity of fertile seed is set. Therefore,

for the bee's benefit, does each little floret conceal nectar in

a tube so deep that small pilferers cannot reach it; but when a

honeybee, for example, depresses the keel of the papilionaceous

blossom, abundant reward awaits him in consideration of his

services in transferring pollen. After the floret which he has

been the means of fertilizing closes over its seed-vessel on his

departure, it gradually withers, grows brown, and hangs downward,

partly to indicate to the next bee that comes along which fords

in the head still contain nectar, and which are done for; partly

to hide the precious little vigorous green seed-pod in the center

of each withered, papery corolla from the visitation of certain

insects whose minute grubs destroy countless millions of the

progeny of less careful plants. Thus the erect florets in a head

stand awaiting their benefactors; those drooping around the outer

edge are engaged in the most serious business of life. Sometimes

a solitary old maid remains standing, looking anxiously for a

lover, at the end of the season. Usually all the florets are then

bent down around the stem in a brown and crumpled mass. But

however successfully the clover guards its seeds from

annihilation, its foliage is the favorite food of very many

species of caterpillars and of all grazing cattle the world

around. This is still another plant frequently miscalled

shamrock. Good luck or bad attends the finding of the leaves,

when compounded of an even or an odd number of leaflets more than

the normal count, according to the saying of many simple-minded

folk.



The little RABBIT'S-FOOT, PUSSY, OLD-FIELD, or STONE CLOVER (T.

arvense) has silky plumed calices to hold its minute whitish

florets, giving the dense, oblong heads a charming softness and

dove color after it has gone to seed. Like most other clovers, it

has come to us from the Old World.





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