(Solanum Dulcamara) Potato family

Flowers - Blue, purple, or, rarely, white with greenish spots on

each lobe; about 1/2 in. broad, clustered in slender, drooping

cymes. Calyx 5-lobed, oblong, persistent on the berry; corolla

deeply, sharply 5-cleft, wheel-shaped, or points curved backward;

5 stamens inserted on throat, yellow, protruding, the anthers

united to form a cone; stigma small. Stem: Climbing or

straggling, woody below, branched, 2 to 8 ft. long. Leaves:

Alternate, 2 to 4 in. long, 1 to 2 1/2 in. wide, pointed at the

apex, usually heart-shaped at base; some with 2 distinct leaflets

below on the petiole, others have leaflets united with leaf like

lower lobes or wings. Fruit: A bright red, oval berry.

Preferred Habitat - Moist thickets, fence rows.

Flowering Season - May-September.

Distribution - United States east of Kansas, north of New Jersey.

Canada, Europe, and Asia.

More beautiful than the graceful flowers are the drooping cymes

of bright berries, turning from green to yellow, then to orange

and scarlet, in the tangled thicket by the shady roadside in

autumn, when the unpretending, shrubby vine, that has crowded its

way through the rank midsummer vegetation, becomes a joy to the

eye. Another bittersweet, so-called, festoons the hedgerows with

yellow berries which, bursting, show their scarlet-coated seeds.

Rose hips and mountain-ash berries, among many other conspicuous

bits of color, arrest attention, but not for us were they

designed. Now the birds are migrating, and, hungry with their

long flight, they gladly stop to feed upon fare so attractive.

Hard, indigestible seeds traverse the alimentary canal without

alteration and are deposited many miles from the parent that bore

them. Nature's methods for widely distributing plants cannot but

stir the dullest imagination.

The purple pendent flowers of this nightshade secrete no nectar,

therefore many insects let them alone; but it is now believed

that no part of the plant is poisonous. Certainly one that claims

the potato, tomato, and eggplant among its kin has no right to be

dangerous. The BLACK, GARDEN, or DEADLY NIGHTSHADE, also called

MOREL (S. nigrum), bears jet-black berries that are alleged to be

fatal. Nevertheless, female bumblebees, to which its white

flowers are specially adapted, visit them to draw out pollen from

the chinks of the anthers with their jaws, just as they do in the

case of the wild, sensitive plant, and with no more disastrous

result. It has been well said that the nightshades are a blessing

both to the sick and to the doctors. The present species takes

its name from dulcis, sweet, and amaras, bitter, referring to the

taste of the juice; the generic name is derived from solamen,

solace or consolation, referring to the relief afforded by the

narcotic properties of some of these plants.


(Linaria Canadensis) Figwort family

Flowers - Pale blue to purple, small, irregular, in slender

spikes. Calyx 5-pointed; corolla 2-lipped, with curved spur

longer than its tube, which is nearly closed by a white, 2-ridged

projection or palate; the upper lip erect, 2-lobed; lower lip

3-lobed, spreading. Stamens 4, in pairs, in throat; 1 pistil.

Stem: Slender, weak, of sterile shoots, prostrate; flowering

stem, ascending or erect, 4 in. to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Small,

linear, alternately scattered along stem, or oblong in pairs or

threes on leafy sterile shoots.

Preferred Habitat - Dry soil, gravel, or sand.

Flowering Season - May-October.

Distribution - North, Central, and South Americas.

Sometimes lying prostrate in the dust, sometimes erect, the

linaria's delicate spikes of bloom wear an air of injured

innocence, yet the plant, weak as it looks, has managed to spread

over three Americas from ocean to ocean. More beautiful than the

rather scrawny flowers are the tufts of cool green foliage made

by the sterile shoots that take complete possession of a wide

area around the parent plants.

Unlike its relative butter-and-eggs, the corolla of this toadflax

is so contracted that bees cannot enter it; but by inserting

their long tongues, they nevertheless manage to drain it. Small,

short-tongued bees contrive to reach only a little nectar. The

palate, so valuable to the other linaria, has in this one lost

its function; and the larger flies, taking advantage of the

flower's weakness, pilfer both sweets and pollen. Butterflies, to

which a slender spurred flower is especially attractive, visit

this one in great numbers, and as they cannot regale themselves

without touching the anthers and stigma, they may be regarded as

the legitimate visitors.

Wolf, rat, mouse, sow, cow, cat, snake, dragon, dog, toad, are

among the many animal prefixes to the names of flowers that the

English country people have given for various and often most

interesting reasons. Just as dog, used as a prefix, expresses an

idea of worthlessness to them, so toad suggests a spurious plant;

the toadflax being made to bear what is meant to be an odious

name because before flowering it resembles the true flax, linum,

from which the generic title is derived.