(Physostegia Virginiana) Mint family

Flowers - Pale magenta, purplish rose, or flesh-colored, often

variegated with white, 1 in. long or over, in dense spikes from 4

to 8 in. long. Calyx a 5-toothed oblong bell, swollen and

remaining open in fruit, held up by lance-shaped bracts. Corolla

tubular and much enlarged where it divides into 2 lips, the upper

lip concave, rounded, entire, the lower lip 3 lobed. Stamens 4,

in two pairs under roof of upper lip, the filaments hairy; 1

pistil. Stem: 1 to 4 ft. high, simple or branched above, leafy.

Leaves: Opposite, firm, oblong to oblong-lanceolate, narrowing at

base, deeply saw-edged.

Preferred Habitat - Moist soil.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - Quebec to the Northwest Territory, southward to

the Gulf of Mexico as far west as Texas.

Bright patches of this curious flower enliven railroad ditches,

gutters, moist meadows and brooksides - curious, for it has the

peculiarity of remaining in any position in which it is placed.

With one puff a child can easily blow the blossoms to the

opposite side of the spike, there to stay in meek obedience to

his will. "The flowers are made to assume their definite

position," says Professor W. W. Bailey in the "Botanical

Gazette," "by friction of the pedicels against the subtending

bracts. Remove the bracts, and they at once fall limp."

Qf course the plant has some better reason for this peculiar

obedience to every breath that blows than to amuse windy-cheeked

boys and girls. Is not the ready movement useful during stormy

weather in turning the mouth of the flower away from driving

rain, and in fair days, when insects are abroad, in presenting

its gaping lips where they can best alight? We all know that

insects, like birds, make long flights most easily with the wind,

but in rising and alighting it is their practice to turn against

it. When bees, for example, are out for food on windy days, and

must make frequent stops for refreshment among the flowers, they

will be found going against the wind, possibly to catch the

whiffs of fragrance borne on it that guide them to feast, but

more likely that they may rise and alight readily. One always

sees bumblebees conspicuous among the obedient plant's visitors.

After the anthers have shed their pollen - and tiny teeth at the

edges of the outer pair aid its complete removal by insects - the

stigma comes up to occupy their place under the roof. Certainly

this flower; which is so ill-adapted to fertilize itself, has

every reason to court insect messengers in fair and stormy


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