(Sedum Telephium) Orpine family

Flowers - Dull purplish, very pale or bright reddish purple in

close, round, terminal clusters, each flower 1/3 in. or less

across, 5-parted, the petals twice as long as the sepals; 10

stamens, alternate ones attached to petals; pistils 4 or 5. Stem:

2 ft. high or less, erect, simple, in tufts, very smooth, pale

green, juicy, leafy. Leaves: Alternate, oval, slightly scalloped,

thick, fleshy, smooth, juicy, pale gray green, with stout midrib,

seated on stalk.

Preferred Habitat - Fields, waysides, rocky soil, originally

escaped from gardens.

Flowering Season - June- September.

Distribution - Quebec westward, south to Michigan and Maryland.

Children know the live-forever, not so well by the variable

flower - for it is a niggardly bloomer - as by the thick leaf

that they delight to hold in the mouth until, having loosened the

membrane, they are able to inflate it like a paper bag. Sometimes

dull, sometimes bright, the flower clusters never fail to attract

many insects to their feast, which is accessible even to those of

short tongues. Each blossom is perfect in itself, i.e., it

contains both stamens and pistils; but to guard against

self-fertilization it ripens its anthers and sheds its pollen on

the insects that carry it away to older flowers before its own

stigmas mature and become susceptible to imported pollen. After

the seed-cases take on color, they might be mistaken for


As if the plant did not already possess enough popular names, it

needs must share with the European goldenrod and our common

mullein the title of Aaron's rod. Sedere, to sit, the root of the

generic name, applies with rare appropriateness to this entire

group that we usually find seated on garden walls, rocks, or, in

Europe, even on the roofs of old buildings. Rooting freely from

the joints, our plant forms thrifty tufts where there is little

apparent nourishment; yet its endurance through prolonged drought

is remarkable. Long after the farmer's scythe, sweeping over the

roadside, has laid it low, it thrives on the juices stored up in

fleshy leaves and stem until it proves its title to the most

lusty of all folk names.


(Geum rivale) Rose family

Flowers - Purple, with some orange chrome, 1 in. broad or less,

terminal, solitary, nodding; calyx 5-lobed, purplish, spreading;

5 petals, abruptly narrowed into claws, forming a cup-shaped

corolla; stamens and pistils of indefinite number; the styles,

jointed and bent in middle, persistent, feathery below. Stem: 1

to 2 ft. high, erect, simple or nearly so, hairy, from thickish

rootstock. Leaves: Chiefly from root, on footstems; lower leaves

irregularly parted; the side segments usually few and small; the

1 to 3 terminal segments sharply, irregularly lobed; the few

distant stem leaves 3-foliate or simple, mostly seated on stem.

Fruit: A dry, hairy head stalked in calyx.

Preferred Habitat - Swamps and low, wet ground.

Flowering Season - May-July.

Distribution - Newfoundland far westward, south to Colorado,

eastward to Missouri and Pennsylvania, also northern parts of Old


Mischievous bumblebees, thrusting their long tongues between the

sepals and petals of these unopened flowers, steal nectar without

conferring any favor in return. Later, when they behave properly

and put their heads inside to feast at the disk on which the

stamens are inserted, they dutifully carry pollen from old

flowers to the early maturing stigmas of younger ones.

Self-fertilization must occur, however, if the bees have not

removed all the pollen when a blossom closes. When the purple

avens opens in Europe, the bees desert even the primrose to feast

upon its abundant nectar. Since water is the prime necessity in

the manufacture of this sweet, and since insects that feed upon

it have so much to do with the multiplication of flowers, it is

not surprising that the swamp, which has been called "nature's

sanctuary," should have its altars so exquisitely decked. This

blossom hangs its head, partly to protect its precious nectar

from rain, and partly to make pilfering well nigh impossible to

the unwelcome crawling insect that may have braved the forbidding

hairy stems.