(Helianthemum Canadense) Rock-rose family

Flowers - Solitary, or rarely 2; about 1 in. across, 5-parted,

with showy yellow petals; the 5 unequal sepals hairy. Also

abundant small flowers lacking petals, produced from the axils

later. Stem: Erect, 3 in. to 2 ft. high; at first simple, later

with elongated branches. Leaves: Alternate, oblong, almost seated

on stem.

Preferred Habitat - Dry fields, sandy or rocky soil.

Flowering Season - Petal-bearing flowers, May-July.

Distribution - New England to the Carolinas, westward to

Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Only for a day, and that must be a bright sunny one, does the

solitary frost-flower expand its delicate yellow petals. On the

next, after pollen has been brought to it by insect messengers

and its own carried away, the now useless petal advertisements

fall, and the numerous stamens, inserted upon the receptacle with

them, also drop off, leaving the club-shaped pistil to develop

with the ovary into a rounded, ovoid, three-valved capsule.

Notice how flat the stamens lie upon the petals to keep safely

out of reach of the stigma. Another flower, exactly like the

first, now expands, and the bloom continues for weeks. Why does

only one blossom open at a time? Because the whole aim of the

showy flowers is to set cross-fertilized seed, and when only one

at a time appears, pollination not only between distinct blossoms

but between distinct plants insures the healthiest, most vigorous

offspring - a wise precaution against degeneracy, in view of the

quantities of self-fertilized seed that will be set late in

summer by the tiny apetalous flowers that never open (see white

wood sorrel). Surely two kinds of blossoms should be enough for

any species; but why call this the frost-flower when its bloom is

ended by autumn? Only the witch-hazel may be said to flower for

the first time after frost. When the stubble in the dry fields is

white some cold November morning, comparatively few notice the

ice crystals, like specks of glistening quartz, at the base of

the stems of this plant. The similar HOARY FROST-WEED (H. majus),

whose showy flowers appear in clusters at the hoary stein's

summit, in June and July, also bears them. Often this ice

formation assumes exquisite feathery, whimsical forms, bursting

the bark asunder where an astonishing quantity of sap gushes

forth and freezes. Indeed, so much sap sometimes goes to the

making of this crystal flower, that it would seem as if an extra

reservoir in the soil must pump some up to supply it with its

large fantastic corolla.


(Hudsonia tomentosa) Rock-rose family

Flowers - Bright yellow, small, about 1/4 in. across, numerous,

closely ascending the upper part of the heath-like branches.

Sepals 5, unequal; 5 petals; stamens, 9 to 18. Stem: 4 to 8 in.

tall, tufted, densely branched and matted, hoary hairy, pale.

Leaves: Overlapping like scales, very small.

Preferred Habitat - Sands of the seashore, pine barrens, beaches

of rivers and lakes.

Flowering Season - May-July.

Distribution - New Brunswick to Maryland, west to Lake of the


Like the showy flowers of the frost-weed, these minute ones open

in the sunshine only, and then but for a single day.

Nevertheless, the hoary, heath-like little shrub, by growing in

large colonies and keeping up a succession of bright bloom,

tinges the sand dunes back of the beach with charming color that

artists delight to paint in the foreground of their marine


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