(Pontederia cordata) Pickerel-weed family

Flowers - Bright purplish blue, including filaments, anthers, and

style; crowded in a dense spike; quickly fading; unpleasantly

odorous. Perianth tubular, 2-lipped, parted into 6 irregular

lobes, free from ovary; middle lobe of upper lip with 2 yellow

spots at base within. Stamens 6, placed at unequal distances on

tube, 3 opposite each lip. Pistil 1, the stigma minutely toothed.

Stem: Erect, stout, fleshy, to 4 ft. tall, not often over 2 ft.

above water line. Leaves: Several bract-like, sheathing stem at

base; leaf only, midway on flower-stalk, thick, polished,

triangular, or arrow-shaped, 4 to 8 in. long, 2 to 6 in. across


Preferred Habitat - Shallow water of ponds and streams.

Flowering Season - June-October.

Distribution - Eastern half of United States and Canada.

Grace of habit and the bright beauty of its long blue spikes of

ragged flowers above rich, glossy leaves give a charm to this

vigorous wader. Backwoodsmen will tell you that pickerels lay

their eggs among the leaves; but so they do among the sedges,

arums, wild rice, and various aquatic plants, like many another

fish. Bees and flies, that congregate about the blossoms to feed,

may sometimes fly too low, and so give a plausible reason for the

pickerel's choice of haunt. Each blossom lasts but a single day;

the upper portion, withering, leaves the base of the perianth to

harden about the ovary and protect the solitary seed. But as the

gradually lengthened spike keeps up an uninterrupted succession

of bloom for months, more than ample provision is made for the

perpetuation of the race - a necessity to any plant that refuses

to thrive unless it stands in water. Ponds and streams have an

unpleasant habit of drying up in summer, and often the pickerel

weed looks as brown as a bulrush where it is stranded in the

baked mud in August. When seed falls on such ground, if indeed it

germinates at all, the young plant naturally withers away.

In the Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club, Mr. W. H. Leggett,

who made a careful study of the flower, tells that three forms

occur, not on the same, but on different plants, being even more

distinctly trimorphic than the purple Loosestrife. As these

flowers set no seed without insects' aid, the provisions made to

secure the greatest benefit from their visits are marvelous. Of

the three kinds of blossoms, one raises its stigma on a long

style reaching to the top of the flower; a second form lifts its

stigma only halfway up, and the third keeps its stigma in the

bottom of the tube. Now, there are two sets of stamens, three in

each set bearing pollen grains of different size and value.

Whenever the stigma is high, the two sets of stamens keep out of

its way by occupying the lowest and middle positions, or just

where the stigmas occur in the two other forms; or, let us say,

whenever the stigma is in one of the three positions, the

different sets of stamens occupy the other two. In a long series

of experiments on flowers occurring in two and three forms -

dimorphic and trimorphic - Darwin proved that perfect fertility

can be obtained only when the stigma in each form is pollenized

with grains carried from the stamens of a corresponding height.

For example, a bee on entering the flower must get his abdomen

dusted with pollen from the long stamens, his chest covered from

the middle-length stamens, and his tongue and chin from the set

in the bottom of the tube nearest the nectary. When he flies off

to visit another flower, these parts of his body coming in

contact with the stigmas that occupy precisely the position where

the stamens were in other individuals, he necessarily brushes off

each lot of pollen just where it will do the most good. Pollen

brought from high stamens, for example, to a low stigma, even

should it reach it, which is scarcely likely, takes little or no

effect. Thus cross-fertilization is absolutely essential, and in

three-formed flowers there are two chances to one of securing it.


(Quamasia kyacinthina; Scilla Fraseri of Gray) Lily family

Flowers - Several or many, pale violet blue, or rarely white, in

a long, loose raceme; perianth of 6 equal, narrowly oblong,

widely spreading divisions, the thread-like filaments inserted at

their bases; style thread-like, with 3-lobed stigma. Scape: 1 to

2 ft. high, from egg-shaped, nearly black bulb, 1 to 1 1/2 in.

long. Leaves: Grass-like, shorter than flowering scape, from the

base. Fruit: A 3-angled, oval capsule containing shining black


Preferred Habitat - Meadows, prairies, and along banks of


Flowering Season - April-May.

Distribution - Pennsylvania and Ohio westward to Minnesota, south

to Alabama and Texas.

Coming with the crocuses, before the snow is off the ground, and

remaining long after their regal gold and purple chalices have

withered, the Siberian scillas sold by seedsmen here deserve a

place in every garden, for their porcelain-blue color is rare as

it is charming; the early date when they bloom makes them

especially welcome; and, once planted and left undisturbed, the

bulbs increase rapidly, without injury from overcrowding.

Evidently they need little encouragement to run wild.

Nevertheless they are not wild scillas, however commonly they may

be miscalled so. Certainly ladies' tresses, known as wild

hyacinth in parts of New England, has even less right to the


Our true native wild hyacinth, or scilla, is quite a different

flower, not so pure a blue as the Siberian scilla, and paler; yet

in the middle West, where it abounds, there are few lovelier

sights in spring than a colony of these blossoms directed

obliquely upward from slender, swaying scapes among the lush

grass. Their upward slant brings the stigma in immediate contact

with an incoming visitor's pollen-laden body. As the stamens

diverge with the spreading of the divisions of the perianth, to

which they are attached, the stigma receives pollen brought from

another flower, before the visitor dusts himself anew in

searching for refreshment, thus effecting cross-pollination.

Ants, bees, wasps, flies, butterflies, and beetles may be seen

about the wild hyacinth, which is obviously best adapted to the

bees. The smallest insects that visit it may possibly defeat

Nature's plan and obtain nectar without fertilizing the flower,

owing to the wide passage between stamens and stigma. In about an

hour, one May morning, Professor Charles Robertson captured over

six hundred insects, representing thirty-eight distinct species,

on a patch of wild hyacinths in Illinois.

The bulb of a MEDITERRANEAN SCILLA (S. maritima) furnishes the

sourish-sweet syrup of squills used in medicine for bronchial


The GRAPE HYACINTH (Muscari botrycides), also known as Baby's

Breath, because of its delicate faint fragrance, escapes from

gardens at slight encouragement to grow wild in the roadsides and

meadows from Massachusetts to Virginia and westward to Ohio. Its

tiny, deep-blue, globular flowers, stiffly set around a fleshy

scape that rises between erect, blade-like, channeled leaves,

appear spring after spring wherever the small bulbs have been

planted. On the east end of Long Island there are certain meadows

literally blued with the little runaways.


(Trillium erectum) Lily-of-the-Valley family

Flowers - Solitary, dark, dull purple, or purplish red; rarely

greenish, white, or pinkish; on erect or slightly inclined

footstalk. Calyx of 3 spreading sepals, 1 to 1 1/2 in. long, or

about length of 3 pointed, oval petals; stamens 6; anthers longer

than filaments; pistil spreading into 3 short, recurved stigmas.

Stem: Stout, 8 to i6 in. high, from tuber-like rootstock. Leaves:

In a whorl of 3; broadly ovate, abruptly pointed, netted-veined.

Fruit: A 6-angled, ovate, reddish berry.

Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist woods.

Flowering Season - April-June.

Distribution - Nova Scotia westward to Manitoba, southward to

North Carolina and Missouri.

Some weeks after the jubilant, alert robins have returned from

the South, the purple trillium unfurls its unattractive,

carrion-scented flower. In the variable colors found in different

regions, one can almost trace its evolution from green, white,

and red to purple, which, we are told, is the course all flowers

must follow to attain to blue. The white and pink forms, however

attractive to the eye, are never more agreeable to the nose than

the reddish-purple ones. Bees and butterflies, with delicate

appreciation of color and fragrance, let the blossom alone, since

it secretes no nectar; and one would naturally infer either that

it can fertilize itself without insect aid - a theory which

closer study of its organs goes far to disprove - or that the

carrion-scent, so repellent to us, is in itself an attraction to

certain insects needful for cross-pollination. Which are they?

Beetles have been observed crawling over the flower, but without

effecting any methodical result. One inclines to accept Mr.

Clarence M. Weed's theory of special adaptation to the common

green flesh-flies (Lucilia carnicina), which would naturally be

attracted to a flower resembling in color and odor a raw

beefsteak of uncertain age. These little creatures, seen in every

butcher shop throughout the summer, the flower furnishes with a

free lunch of pollen in consideration of the transportation of a

few grains to another blossom. Absence of the usual floral

attractions gives, the carrion flies a practical monopoly of the

pollen food, which no doubt tastes as it smells.

The SESSILE-FLOWERED WAKE-ROBIN (T. sessile), whose dark purple,

purplish-red, or greenish blossom, narrower of sepal and petals

than the preceding, is seated in a whorl of three egg-shaped,

sometimes blotched, leaves, possesses a rather pleasant odor;

nevertheless it seems. to have no great attraction for insects.

The stigmas, which are very large, almost touch the anthers

surrounding them; therefore the beetles which one frequently sees

crawling over them to feed on the pollen so jar them, no doubt,

as to self-fertilize the flower; but it is scarcely probable

these slow crawlers often transfer the grains from one blossom to

another. A degraded flower like this has little need of color and

perfume, one would suppose; yet it may be even now slowly

perfecting its way toward an ideal of which we see a part only

complete. In deep, rich, moist woods and thickets the. sessile

trillium blooms in April or May, from Pennsylvania, Ohio, and

Minnesota southward nearly to the Gulf.

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