(Ceanothus Americanus) Buckthorn family

Flowers - Small, white, on white pedicels, crowded in dense,

oblong, terminal clusters. Calyx white, hemispheric, 5-lobed;

petals, hooded and long-clawed; 5 stamens with long filaments;

style short, 3-cleft. Stems: Shrubby, 1 to 3 ft. high, usually

several, from a deep reddish root. Leaves: Alternate,

ovate-oblong, acute at tip, finely saw-edged, 3-nerved, on short


Preferred Habitat - Dry, open woods and thickets.

Flowering Season - May-July.

Distribution - Ontario south and west to the Gulf of Mexico.

Light, feathery clusters of white little flowers crowded on the

twigs of this low shrub interested thrifty colonial housewives of

Revolutionary days not at all; the tender, young, rusty, downy

leaves were what they sought to dry as a substitute for imported

tea. Doubtless the thought that they were thereby evading George

the Third's tax and brewing patriotism in every kettleful added a

sweetness to the homemade beverage that sugar itself could not

impart. The American troops were glad enough to use New Jersey

tea throughout the war. A nankeen or cinnamon-colored dye is made

from the reddish root.


(Vitis Labrusca) Grape family

Flowers - Greenish, small, deliciously fragrant, some staminate,

some pistillate, rarely perfect; the fertile flowers in more

compact panicles than the sterile ones. Stem: Climbing with the

help of tendrils; woody, bark loose. Leaves: Large, rounded or

lobed, toothed, rusty-hairy underneath, especially when young,

each leathery leaf opposite a tendril or a flower cluster. Fruit:

Clusters containing a few brownish, purple, musky-scented grapes,

3/4 in. across. Ripe, August-September.

Preferred Habitat - Sunny thickets, loamy or gravelly soil.

Flowering Season - June.

Distribution - New England to Georgia, west to Minnesota and


Aesop's fox may never have touched the grapes of fable, but this,

our wild species, certainly retains a strong foxy odor, which at

least suggests that he came very near them. Tough pulp and thick

skin by no means deter birds and beasts from feasting on this

fruit, and so dispersing the seeds; but mankind prefers the

tender, delightful flavored Isabella, Catawba, and Concord grapes

derived from it. The Massachusetts man who produced the Concord

variety in the town whose name he gave it, declares he would be a

millionaire had he received only a penny royalty on every Concord

grapevine planted.

What fragrance is more delicious than that of the blossoming

grape? To swing in a loop made by some strong old vine, when the

air almost intoxicates one with its sweetness on a June evening,

is many a country child's idea of perfect bliss. Not until about

nine o'clock do the leaves "go to sleep" by becoming depressed in

the center like saucers. This was the signal for bedtime that one

child, at least, used to wait for. We have seen in the clematis

how its sensitive leafstalks hook themselves over any support

they rub against; but the grapevine has gone a step farther, and

by discarding an occasional flower cluster and prolonging the

flower stalk into a coiling, forking tendril it moors itself to

the thicket. We know that all tendrils are either transformed

leaves, as in the case of the pea vine, where each branch of its

tendril represents a modified leaflet; or they are transformed

flower stalks or other organs. Occasionally the tendril of a

grapevine reveals its ancestry by bearing a blossom or a cluster

of flowers, and sometimes even fruit, about midway on the coil,

which attempts to fill all offices at once like Pooh Bah.

The phylloxera having destroyed many of the finest vineyards in

Europe, it would seem that Americans have the best of chances to

supply the world with high-class wines, for there is not a State

in the Union where the vine will not flourish. Here its worst

enemy is mildew, a parasitical fungus which attacks the leaves,

revealing itself in yellowish-brown patches on the upper side,

and thin, frosty patches underneath. Soon the leaves become sere,

and then they fall. The microscope reveals a miniature forest of

growth in each leaf, with the threadlike roots of the fungi

searching about the leaf cells for food. To burn old leaves, and

to blow sulphur over the vine while it is wet, are efficacious

remedies. Bees and wasps which puncture grapes to feast on them,

are the innocent means of destroying quantities.

Both the RIVERSIDE or SWEET-SCENTED GRAPE (V. vulpina; formerly

V. cordifolia, var. riparia) - whose bluish-black, bloom-covered

fruit begins to ripen in July; and the FROST, CHICKEN, POSSUM, or

WINTER GRAPE (V. cordifolia), whose smaller, shining black

berries are not at their best till after frost, grow along

streams and preferably in rocky situations. The shining, light

green, thin leaves of the sweet-scented species are sharply

lobed, the three to seven lobes have acute teeth, and the

tendrils are intermittent. The frost grape's leaves, which are

commonly three or four inches wide, are deeply heart-shaped,

entire (rarely slightly three-lobed), tapering to a long point

and acutely toothed.

Another familiar member of the Grape family, the VIRGINIA


erroneously called WOODBINE (Parthenocissus quinquefolia;

formerly Ampelopsis quinquefolia) - is far more charming in its

glorious autumnal foliage, when its small dark blue berries hang

from red peduncles, than when its insignificant greenish flower

clusters appear in July. The leaves, compounded of five leaflets,

should sufficiently distinguish the harmless vine from the

three-leaved poison ivy, sometimes confounded with it. From

Manitoba and Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean, and even in Cuba, the

Virginia creeper rambles over thickets, fences, and walls,

ascends trees, festoons rocky woodlands, drapes our verandas,

making its way with the help of modified flower stalks that are

now branching tendrils, each branch bearing an adhesive disk at

the end. "In the course of about two days after a tendril has

arranged its branches so as to press upon any surface," says

Darwin, "its curved tips swell, become bright red, and form on

their undersides little disks or cushions with which they adhere

firmly." It is supposed that these disks secrete a cement. At any

rate, we know that they have a very tenacious hold, because often

one contracting tendril, as elastic as a steel spring, supports,

by means of these little disks, the entire weight of the branch

it lifts up. Darwin concluded that a tendril with five

disk-bearing branches, on which he experimented, would stand a

strain of ten pounds, even after ten years' exposure to high

winds and softening rains.

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