(Epigaea repens) Heath family

Flowers - Pink, fading to nearly white, very fragrant about 1/2

in. across when expanded, few or many in clusters at ends of

branches. Calyx of 5 dry overlapping sepals; corolla

salver-shaped, the slender, hairy tube spreading into 5 equal

lobes; 10 stamens; 1 pistil with a column-like style and a

5-lobed stigma. Stem: Spreading over the ground (Epigaea = on the

earth); woody, the leafy twigs covered with rusty hairs. Leaves:

Alternate, oval, rounded at the base, smooth above, more or less

hairy below, evergreen, weather-worn, on short, rusty, hairy


Preferred Habitat - Light sandy loam in woods, especially under

evergreen trees, or in mossy, rocky places.

Flowering Season - March-May.

Distribution - Newfoundland to Florida, west to Kentucky, and the

Northwest Territory.

Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring -

that delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of

pines, and the snow-soaked soil just warming into life? Those who

know the flower only as it is sold in the city streets, tied with

wet, dirty string into tight bunches, withered and forlorn, can

have little idea of the joy of finding the pink, pearly blossoms

freshly opened among the withered leaves of oak and chestnut,

moss, and pine needles in which they nestle close to the cold

earth in the leafless, windy northern forest. Even in Florida,

where broad patches carpet the woods in February, one misses

something of the arbutus's accustomed charm simply because there

are no slushy remnants of snow drifts, no reminders of winter

hardships in the vicinity. There can be no glad surprise at

finding dainty spring flowers in a land of perpetual summer.

Little wonder that the Pilgrim Fathers, after the first awful

winter on the "stern New England coast," loved this early

messenger of hope and gladness above the frozen ground at

Plymouth. In an introductory note to his poem "The Mayflowers,"

Whittier states that the name was familiar in England, as the

application of it to the historic vessel shows; but it was

applied by the English, and still is, to the hawthorn. Its use in

New England in connection with the trailing arbutus dates from a

very early day, some claiming that the first Pilgrims so used it

in affectionate memory of the vessel and its English flower


"Sad Mayflower I watched by winter stars,

And nursed by winter gales,

With petals of the sleeted spars,

And leaves of frozen sails!

"But warmer suns ere long shall bring

To life the frozen sod,

And through dead leaves of hope shall spring

Afresh the flowers of God!"

Some have attempted to show that the Pilgrims did not find the

flowers until the last month of spring, and that, therefore, they

were named Mayflowers. Certainly the arbutus is not a typical May

blossom even in New England. Bryant associates it with the

hepatica, our earliest spring flower, in his poem, "The,

Twenty-seventh of March":

"Within the woods

Tufts of ground laurel, creeping underneath

The leaves of the last summer, send their sweets

Upon the chilly air, and by the oak,

The squirrel cups, a graceful company

Hide in their bells a soft aerial blue."

There is little use trying to coax this shyest of sylvan flowers

into our gardens where other members of its family,

rhododendrons, laurels, and azaleas make themselves delightfully

at home. It is wild as a hawk, an untamable creature that slowly

pines to death when brought into contact with civilization.

Greedy street venders, who ruthlessly tear up the plant by the

yard, and others without even the excuse of eking out a paltry

income by its sale, have already exterminated it within a wide

radius of our Eastern cities. How curious that the majority of

people show their appreciation of a flower's beauty only by

selfishly, ignorantly picking every specimen they can find!

In many localities the arbutus sets no fruit, for it is still

undergoing evolutionary changes looking toward the perfecting of

an elaborate system to insure cross-fertilization. Already it has

attained to perfume, nectar, and color to attract quantities of

insects, chiefly flies and small female bees but in some flowers

the anthers produce no pollen for them to carry, while others are

filled with grains, yet all the stigmas in the neighboring

clusters may be defective. The styles and the filaments are of

several different lengths, showing a tendency toward trimorphism,

perhaps, like the wonderful purple loosestrife; but at present

the flower pursues a most wasteful method of distributing pollen,

and in different sections of the country acts so differently that

its phases are impossible to describe except to the advanced

student. They may, however, be best summarized in the words of

Professor Asa Gray: "The flowers are of two kinds, each with two

modifications; the two main kinds characterized by the nature and

perfection of the stigma, along with more or less abortion of the

stamens; their modifications by the length of the style."

When our English cousins speak of the arbutus, they have in mind

a very different species from ours. Theirs is the late flowering

strawberry-tree, an evergreen shrub with clustering white

blossoms and beautiful rough, red berries. Indeed, the name

arbutus is derived from the Celtic word Arboise, meaning rough



(Oxycoccus macrocarpus; Vaccinium macrocarpon of Gray)

Huckleberry family

Flowers - Light pink, about 1/2 in. across, nodding on slender

pedicels from sides and tips of erect branches. Calyx round, 4-or

5-parted; corolla a long cone in bud, its four or five nearly

separate, narrow petals turned far backward later; 8 or 10

stamens, the anthers united into a protruding cone, its hollow

tubes shedding pollen by a pore at tip. Stem: Creeping or

trailing, slender, woody, 1 to 3 ft. long, its leafy branches 8

in. high or less. Leaves: Small, alternate, oblong, evergreen,

pale beneath, the edges rolled backward. Fruit: An oblong or

ovoid, many seeded, juicy red berry (Oxycoccus = sour berry).

Preferred Habitat - Bogs; sandy, swampy meadows.

Flowering Season - June-August.

Distribution - North Carolina, Michigan, and Minnesota northward

and westward.

A hundred thousand people are interested in the berry of this

pretty vine to one who has ever seen its flowers. Yet if the

blossom were less attractive, to insects at least, and took less

pains to shake out its pollen upon them as they cling to the cone

to sip its nectar, few berries would accompany the festive

Thanksgiving turkey. Cultivators of the cranberry know how

important it is to have the flooded bogs well drained before the

flowering season. Water (or ice) may cover the plants to the

depth of a foot or more all winter and until the 10th of May; and

during the late summer it is often advisable to overflow the bogs

to prevent injury of the fine, delicate roots from drought, and

to destroy the worm that is the plant's worst enemy; but until

the flowers have wooed the bees, flies, and other winged

benefactors, and fruit is well formed, every cultivator knows

enough not to submerge his bog. With flowers under water there

are no insect visitors, consequently no berries. Dense mats of

the wiry vines should yield about one hundred and fifty bushels

of berries to the acre, under skilful cultivation - a most

profitable industry, since the cranberry costs less to cultivate,

gather, and market than the strawberry or any of the small

perishable fruits. Planted in muck and sand in the garden, the

vines yield surprisingly good results. The Cape Cod Bell is the

best known market berry. One of the interesting sights to the

city loiterer about the New England coast in early autumn is the

berry picking that is conducted on an immense scale. Men, women,

and children drop all other work; whole villages are nearly

depopulated while daylight lasts; temporary buildings set up on

the edges of the bogs contain throngs of busy people sorting,

measuring, and packing fruit; and lonely railroad stations, piled

high with crates, give the branch line its heaviest freight

business of the year.

THISTLES TRAILING BUSH CLOVER facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail