(Lespedeza procumbens) Pea family

Flowers - Purplish pink or violet, veined, the butterfly-shaped

ones having standard petal, wings, and keel, clustered at end of

peduncles; the minute flowers lacking a corolla, nearly sessile.

Calyx of 5 slender, nearly equal lobes. Stems: Prostrate,

trailing, or sometimes ascending, woolly or downy, leafy. Leaves:

Clover-like, trefoliate. Fruit: A very small, hairy, flat,

rounded, acute pod.

Preferred Habitat - Dry soil open, sandy places.

Flowering Season - August-September.

Distribution - Massachusetts to the Gulf, and westward to the


Springing upward from a mass of clover-like leaves, these showy

little blossoms elevate themselves to arrest, not our attention,

but the notice of the passing bee. As the claw of the standard

petal and the calyx are short, he need not have a long tongue to

drain the nectary pointed out to him by a triangular white mark

at the base of the banner. Now, as his weight depresses the

incurved keel, wherein the vital organs are protected, the stigma

strikes the visitor in advance of the anthers, so that pollen

brought on his underside from another flower must come off on

this one before he receives fresh pollen to transfer to a third

blossom. At first the keel returns to its original position when

depressed; later it loses its elasticity. But besides these showy

flowers intended to be cross-fertilized by insects, the bush

clovers bear, among the others, insignificant-looking, tightly

closed, bud-like ones that produce abundant self-fertilized seed.

The petaliferous flowers are simply to counteract the inevitable

evils resulting from close inbreeding. One usually finds

caterpillars of the "dusky wings" butterfly feeding on the

foliage and the similar tick trefoils which are its staple. At

night the bush clover leaves turn upward, completely changing the

aspect of these plants as we know them by day. Michaux named the

group of flowers for his patron, Lespedez, a governor of Florida

under the Spanish regime.

Perhaps the commonest of the tribe is the VIOLET BUSH CLOVER (L.

violacea), a variable, branching, erect, or spreading plant,

sometimes only a foot high, or again three times as tall. Its

thin leaves are more elliptic than the decidedly clover-like ones

of the preceding species; its rose-purple flowers are more

loosely clustered, and the stems are only sparingly hairy, never


On the top of the erect, usually unbranched, but very leafy stem

of the WAND-LIKE BUSH CLOVER (L. frutescens), the two kinds of

flowers grow in a crowded cluster, and more sparingly from the

axils below. The clover-like leaflets, dark green and smooth

above, are paler and hairy below. Like the rest of its kin, this

bush clover delights in dry soil, particularly in open, sandy

places near woods of pine and oak. One readily distinguishes the

SLENDER BUSH CLOVER (L. Virginica) by the very narrowly oblong

leaves along its wand, which bears two kinds of bright rose

flowers, clustered at the top chiefly, and in the axils.

Yellowish-white flowers, about a quarter of an inch long, and

with a purplish-rose spot on the standard petal to serve as a

pathfinder to the nectary, are crowded in oblong spikes an inch

and a half long or less on the HAIRY BUSH CLOVER (L. hirta). The

stem, which may attain four feet, or half that height, is usually

branched; and the entire plant is often downy to the point of


Dense clusters of the yellowish-white flowers of the ROUND-HEADED

BUSH CLOVER (L. capitata) are seated in the upper axils of the

silvery-hairy, wand-like stem. Pink streaks at the base of the

standard petal serve as pathfinders, and its infolded edges guide

the bee's tongue straight to the opening in the stamen tube

through which he sucks.


(Geranium maculatum) Geranium family

Flowers - Pale magenta, purplish pink, or lavender, regular, 1 to

1 1/2 in. broad, solitary or a pair, borne on elongated

peduncles, generally with pair of leaves at their base. Calyx of

5 lapping, pointed sepals; 5 petals, woolly at base; 10 stamens;

pistil with 5 styles. Fruit: A slender capsule pointed like a

crane's bill. In maturity it ejects seeds elastically far from

the parent plant. Stem: 1 to 2 ft. high, hairy, slender, simple

or branching above. Leaves: Older ones sometimes spotted with

white; basal ones 3 to 6 in. wide, 3 to 5 parted, variously cleft

and toothed; 2 stem leaves opposite.

Preferred Habitat - Open woods, thickets, and shady roadsides.

Flowering Season - April-July.

Distribution - Newfoundland to Georgia, and westward a thousand


Sprengel, who was the first to exalt flowers above the level of

mere botanical specimens, had his attention led to the intimate

relationship existing between plants and insects by studying out

the meaning of the hairy corolla of the common wild geranium of

Germany (G. sylvaticum), being convinced, as he wrote in 1787,

that "the wise Author of Nature has not made even a single hair

without a definite design." A hundred years before, Nehemias Grew

had said that it was necessary for pollen to reach the stigma of

a flower in order that it might set fertile seed; and Linnaeus

had to come to his aid with conclusive evidence to convince a

doubting world that this was true. Sprengel made the next step

forward, but his writings lay neglected over seventy years

because he advanced the then incredible and only partially true

statement that a flower is fertilized by insects which carry its

pollen from its anthers to its stigma. In spite of his

discoveries that the hairs inside the geranium's corolla protect

its nectar from rain for the insect's benefit, just as eyebrows

keep perspiration from falling into the eye; that most flowers

which secrete nectar have what he termed "honey guides" - spots

of bright color, heavy veining, or some such pathfinder on the

petals - in spite of the most patient and scientific research

that shed great light on natural selection a half-century before

Darwin advanced the theory, he left it for the author of "The

Origin of Species" to show that cross-fertilization - the

transfer of pollen from one blossom to another, not from anthers

to stigma of the same flower - is the great end to which so much

marvelous mechanism is chiefly adapted. Cross-fertilized blossoms

defeat self-fertilized flowers in the struggle for existence.

No wonder Sprengel's theory was disproved by his scornful

contemporaries in the very case of his wild geranium, which sheds

its pollen before it has developed a stigma to receive any;

therefore no insect that had not brought pollen from an earlier

bloom could possibly fertilize this flower. How amazing that he

did not see this! Our common wild crane's-bill, which also has

lost the power to fertilize itself, not only ripens first the

outer, then the inner, row of anthers, but actually drops them

off after their pollen has been removed, to overcome the barest

chance of self-fertilization as the stigmas become receptive.

This is the geranium's and many other flowers' method to compel

cross-fertilization by insects. In cold, stormy, cloudy weather a

geranium blossom may remain in the male stage several days before

becoming female; while on a warm, sunny day, when plenty of

insects are flying, the change sometimes takes place in a few

hours. Among others, the common sulphur or puddle butterfly, that

sits in swarms on muddy roads and makes the clover fields gay

with its bright little wings, pilfers nectar from the geranium

without bringing its long tongue in contact with the pollen.

Neither do the smaller bees and flies which alight on the petals

necessarily come in contact with the anthers and stigmas.

Doubtless the larger bees are the flowers' true benefactors.

The so-called geraniums in cultivation are pelargoniums, strictly


In barren soil, from Canada to the Gulf, and far westward, the

CAROLINA CRANE'S-BILL (G. Carolinianum), an erect, much-branched

little plant resembling the spotted geranium in general features,

bears more compact clusters of pale rose or whitish flowers,

barely half an inch across. As their inner row of anthers comes

very close to the stigmas, spontaneous self-fertilization may

sometimes occur; although in fine weather small bees, especially,

visit them constantly. The beak of the seed vessel measures

nearly an inch long.

TRAILING ARBUTUS MAYFLOWER GROUND LAUREL TRUMPET facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail