(Houstonia caerulea) Madder family

Flowers - Very small, light to purplish blue or white, with

yellow center, and borne at end of each erect slender stem that

rises from 3 to 7 in. high. Corolla funnel-shaped, with 4 oval,

pointed, spreading lobes that equal the slender tube in length;

rarely the corolla has more divisions; 4 stamens inserted on tube

of corolla; 2 stigmas; calyx 4-lobed. Leaves: Opposite, seated on

stem, oblong, tiny; the lower ones spatulate. Fruit: A 2-lobed

pod, broader than long, its upper half free from calyx; seeds

deeply concave. Root stock: Slender, spreading, forming dense


Preferred Habitat - Moist meadows, wet rocks and banks.

Flowering Season - April-July, or sparsely through summer.

Distribution - Eastern Canada and United States west to Michigan,

south to Georgia and Alabama.

Millions of these dainty wee flowers, scattered through the grass

of moist meadows and by the wayside, reflect the blue and the

serenity of heaven in their pure, upturned faces. Where the white

variety grows, one might think a light snowfall had powdered the

grass, or a milky way of tiny floral stars had streaked a

terrestrial path. Linnaeus named the flower for Dr. Houston, a

young English physician, botanist, and collector, who died in

South America in 1733, after an exhausting tramp about the Gulf

of Mexico.

To secure cross-fertilization, the object toward which so much

marvelous floral organism is directed, this little plant puts

forth two forms of blossoms - one with the stamens in the lower

portion of the corolla tube, and the stigmas exserted; the other

form with the stigmas below, and the stamens elevated to the

mouth of the corolla. But the two kinds do not grow in the same

patch, seed from either producing after its kind. Many insects

visit these blossoms, but chiefly small bees and butterflies.

Conspicuous among the latter is the common little meadow

fritillary (Brenthis bellona), whose tawny, dark-speckled wings

expand and close in apparent ecstasy as he tastes the tiny drop

of nectar in each dainty enameled cup. Coming to feast with his

tongue dusted from anthers nearest the nectary, he pollenizes the

large stigmas of a short-styled blossom without touching its tall

anthers. But it is evident that he could not be depended on to

fertilize the long-styled form, with its smaller stigma, because

of this ability to insert his slender tongue from the side where

it avoids contact. Flies and beetles enter the blossoms, but

small bees are best adapted as all-round benefactors. This

simple-looking blossom, that measures barely half an inch across,

is clever enough to multiply its lovely species a thousand fold,

while many a larger, and therefore one might suppose a wiser,

flower dwindles toward extinction.

John Burroughs found a single bluet in blossom one January, near

Washington, when the clump of earth on which it grew was frozen

solid. A pot of roots gathered in autumn and placed in a sunny

window has sent up a little colony of star-like flowers

throughout a winter.


(Dipsacus sylvestris) Teasel family

Flowers - Purple or lilac, small, packed in dense, cylindric

heads, 3 to 4 in. long; growing singly on ends of footstalks, the

flowers set among stiffly pointed, slender scales. Calyx

cup-shaped, 4-toothed. Corolla 4-lobed; stamens 4; leaves of

involucre, slender, bristled, curved upward as high as

flower-head or beyond. Stems: 3 to 6 ft. high, stout, branched,

leafy, with numerous short prickles. Leaves: Opposite,

lance-shaped, seated on stem, with bristles along the stout


Preferred Habitat - Roadsides and waste places.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - Maine to Virginia, westward to Ontario and the

Mississippi. Europe and Asia.

Manufacturers find that no invention can equal the natural teasel

head for raising a nap on woolen cloth, because it breaks at any

serious obstruction, whereas a metal substitute, in such a case,

tears the material. Accordingly, the plant is largely cultivated

in the west of England, and quantities that have been imported

from France and Germany may be seen in wagons on the way to the

factories in any of the woolen-trade towns. After the

flower-heads wither, the stems are cut about eight inches long,

stripped of prickles, to provide a handle, and after drying, the

natural tool is ready for use.

Bristling with armor, the teasel is not often attacked by

browsing cattle. Occasionally even the upper leaf surfaces are

dotted over with prickles enough to tear a tender tongue. This is

a curious feature, for prickles usually grow out of veins. In the

receptacle formed where the bases of the upper leaves grow

together, rain and dew are found collected - a certain cure for

warts, country people say. Venus' Cup, Bath, or Basin, and Water

Thistle, are a few of the teasel's folk names earned by its

curious little tank. In it many small insects are drowned, and

these are supposed to contribute nourishment to the plant; for

Mr. Francis Darwin has noted that protoplasmic filaments reach

out into the liquid.

Owing to the stiff spines which radiate from the flower cluster,

the bumblebees, which principally fertilize it, can reach the

florets only with their heads, and not pollenize them by merely

crawling over them as in the true compositae. But by first

maturing its anthers, then when they have shed their pollen,

elevating its stigmas, the teasel prevents self-fertilization.


(Campanula rotundifolia) Bellflower family

Flowers - Bright blue or violet blue, bell-shaped, 1/2 in. long

or over, drooping from hair-like stalks. Calyx of 5-pointed,

narrow, spreading lobes; slender stamens alternate with lobes of

corolla, and borne on summit of calyx tube, which is adherent to

ovary; pistil with 3 stigmas in maturity only. Stem: Very

slender, 6 in. to 3 ft. high, often several from same root;

simple or branching. Leaves: Lower ones nearly round, usually

withered and gone by flowering season; stem leaves narrow,

pointed, seated on stem. Fruit: An egg-shaped, pendent, 3-celled

capsule with short openings near base; seeds very numerous, tiny.

Preferred Habitat - Moist rocks, uplands.

Flowering Season - June-September.

Distribution - Arctic regions of Europe, Asia, and America;

southward on this continent, through Canada to New Jersey and

Pennsylvania; westward to Nebraska, to Arizona in the Rockies,

and to California in the Sierra Nevadas.

The inaccessible crevice of a precipice, moist rocks sprayed with

the dashing waters of a lake or some tumbling mountain stream,

wind-swept upland meadows, and shady places by the roadside may

hold bright bunches of these hardy bells, swaying with exquisite

grace on tremulous, hair-like stems that are fitted to withstand

the fiercest mountain blasts, however frail they appear. How

dainty, slender, tempting these little flowers are! One gladly

risks a watery grave or broken bones to bring down a bunch from

its aerial cranny.

It was a long stride forward in the evolutionary scale when the

harebell welded its five once separate petals together; first at

the base, then farther and farther up the sides, until a solid

bell-shaped structure resulted. This arrangement which makes

insect fertilization a more certain process because none of the

pollen is lost through apertures, and because the visitor must

enter the flower only at the vital point where the stigmas come

in contact with his pollen-laden body, has given to all the

flowers that have attained to it, marked ascendency.

Like most inverted blossoms, the harebell hangs its head to

protect its nectar and pollen, not only from rain, but from the

intrusion of undesirable crawling insects which would simply

brush off its pollen in the grass before reaching the pistil of

another flower, and so defeat cross-fertilization, the end and

aim of so many blossoms. Advertising for winged insects by its

bright color, the harebell attracts bees, butterflies, and many

others. These visitors cannot well walk on the upright petals,

and sooner or later must clasp the pistil if they would secure

the nectar secreted at the base. In doing so, they will dust

themselves and the immature pistil with the pollen from the

surrounding anthers; but a newly opened flower is incapable of

fertilization. The pollen, although partially discharged in the

unopened bud, is prevented from falling out by a coat of hairs on

the upper part of the style. By the time all the pollen has been

removed by visitors, however, and the stamens which matured early

have withered, the pistil has grown longer, until it looks like

the clapper in a bell; the stigma at its top has separated into

three horizontal lobes which, being sticky on the under side, a

pollen-laden insect on entering the bell must certainly brush

against them and render them fertile. But bumblebees, its chief

benefactors, and others may not have done their duty by the

flower; what then? Why, the stigmas in that case finally bend

backward to reach the left over pollen, and fertilize themselves,

obviously the next best thing for them to do. How one's reverence

increases when one begins to understand, be it ever so little of,

the divine plan!

"Probably the most striking blue and purple wild flowers we

have," says John Burroughs, "are of European origin. These

colors, except with the fall asters and gentians, seem rather

unstable in our flora." This theory is certainly borne out in the


rapunculoides), now detected in the act of escaping from gardens

from New Brunswick to Ontario, Southern New York, Pennsylvania,

and Ohio, and making itself very much at home in our fields and

along the waysides. Compared with the delicate little harebell,

it is a plant of rank, rigid habit. Its erect, rather stout stem,

set with elongated oval, hairy, alternate leaves, and crowned

with a one-sided raceme of widely expanded, purple-blue bells

rising about two feet above the ground, has little of the

exquisite grace of its cousin. It blooms from July to September.

This is the species whose roots are eaten by the omnivorous

European peasant.

One of the few native campanulas, the TALL BELLFLOWER (C.

Americana), waves long, slender wands studded with blue or

sometimes whitish flowers high above the ground of moist thickets

and woods throughout the eastern half of this country, but rarely

near the sea. Doubtless the salt air, which intensifies the color

of so many flowers, would brighten its rather slatey blue. The

corolla, which is flat, round, about an inch across, and deeply

cleft into five pointed petals, has the effect of a miniature

pinwheel in motion. Mature flowers have the style elongated, bent

downward, then curved upward, that the stigmas may certainly be

in the way of the visiting insect pollen-laden from an earlier

bloomer, and be cross-fertilized. The larger bees, its

benefactors, which visit it for nectar, touch only the upper side

of the style, on which they must alight; but the anthers waste

pollen by shedding it on all sides. No insect can take shelter

from rain or pass the night in this flower, as he frequently does

in its more hospitable relative, the harebell. English gardeners,

more appreciative than our own of our native flora, frequently

utilize this charming plant in their rockwork, increasing their

stock by a division of the dense, leafy rosettes.

VENUS' LOOKINGGLASS CLASPING BELLFLOWER VERNAL WHITLOWGRASS facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail