(Claytonia Virginica) Purslane family.

Flowers - White veined with pink, or all pink, the veinings of

deeper shade, on curving, slender pedicels, several borne in a

terminal loose raceme, the flowers mostly turned one way

(secund). Calyx of 2 ovate sepals; corolla of 5 petals slightly

united by their bases; 5 stamens, 1 inserted on base of each

petal; the style 3-cleft. Stem: Weak, 6 to 12 in. long, from a

deep, tuberous root. Leaves: Opposite above, linear to

lance-shaped, shorter than basal ones, which are 3 to 7 in. long;

breadth variable.

Preferred Habitat - Moist woods, open groves, low meadows.

Flowering Season - March-May.

Distribution - Nova Scotia and far westward, south to Georgia and


Dainty clusters of these delicate, starry blossoms, mostly turned

in one direction, expand in the sunshine only, like their gaudy

cousin the portulaca and the insignificant little yellow flowers

of another relative, the ubiquitous, invincible "pussley"

immortalized in "My Summer in a Garden." At night and during

cloudy, stormy weather, when their benefactors are not flying,

the claytonias economically close their petals to protect nectar

and pollen from rain and pilferers. Pick them, the whole plant

droops, and the blossoms close with indignation; nor will any

coaxing but a combination of hot water and sunshine induce them

to open again. Theirs is a long beauty sleep. They are

supersensitive exquisites, however hardy.

Very early in the spring a race is run with the hepatica,

arbutus, adder's tongue, blood-root, squirrel corn, and anemone

for the honor of being the earliest wild flower; and although

John Burroughs and Dr. Abbott have had the exceptional experience

of finding the claytonia even before the hepatica - certainly the

earliest spring blossom worthy the name in the Middle and New

England States - of course the rank skunk-cabbage, whose name is

snobbishly excluded from the list of fair competitors, has

quietly opened dozens of minute florets in its incurved horn

before the others have even started.

Whether the petals of the spring beauty are white or pink, they

are always exquisitely marked with pink lines converging near the

base and ending in a yellow blotch to serve as pathfinders for

the female bumblebees and the little brown bombylius, among other

pollen carriers. A newly opened flower, with its stamens

surrounding the pistil, must be in peril of self-fertilization

one would think who did not notice that when the pollen is in

condition for removal by the bees and flies, the stigmatic

surfaces of the three-cleft style are tightly pressed together

that not a grain may touch them. But when the anthers have shed

their pollen, and the filaments have spread outward and away from

the pistil, the three stigmatic arms branch out to receive the

fertilizing dust carried from younger flowers by their busy