(Physalis Virginiana; P. Pennsylvanica of Gray) Potato family

Flowers - Sulphur or greenish yellow, with 5 dark purplish dots,

1 in. across or less, solitary from the leaf axils. Calyx

5-toothed, much inflated in fruit; corolla open bell-shaped, the

edge 5-cleft; 5 stamens, the anthers yellow, style slender,

2-cleft. Stem: l 1/2 to 3 ft. tall, erect, more or less hairy or

glandular, branched, from a thick rootstock. Leaves: Ovate to

lanceolate, tapering at both ends or wedge-shaped, often

yellowish green, entire or sparingly wavy-toothed. Fruit: An

inflated, 5-angled capsule, sunken at the base, loosely

surrounding the edible reddish berry.

Preferred Habitat - Open ground; rich, dry pastures; hillsides.

Flowering Season - July-September

Distribution - New York to Manitoba, south to the Gulf States.

A common plant, so variable, however, that the earlier botanists

thought it must be several distinct species, lanceolata among

others. A glance within shows that the open flower is not so

generous as its spreading form would seem to indicate, for tufts

of dense hairs at each side of grooves where nectar is secreted,

conceal it from the mob, and, with the thickened filaments,

almost close the throat. Doubtless these hairs also serve as

footholds for the welcome bee clinging to its pendent host. The

dark spots are pathfinders. One anther maturing after another, a

visitor must make several trips to secure all the pollen, and if

she is already dusted from another blossom, nine chances out of

ten she will first leave some of the vitalizing dust on the

stigma poked forward to receive it before collecting more.

Professor Robertson says that all the ground cherries near his

home in Illinois are remarkable for their close mutual relation

with two bees of the genus Colletes. So far as is known, the

insignificant little greenish or purplish bell-shaped flowers of

the Alum-root (Heuchera Americana), with protruding orange

anthers, are the only other ones to furnish these females with

pollen for their babies' bread. Slender racemes of this species

are found blooming in dry or rocky woods from the Mississippi

eastward, from May to July, by which time the ground cherry is

ready to provide for the bee's wants. The similar Philadelphia

species was formerly cultivated for its "strawberry tomato." Many

birds which feast on all this highly attractive fruit disperse

the numerous kidney-shaped seeds.


(Verbascum Thapsus) Figwort family

Flowers - Yellow, 1 in. across or less, seated around a thick,

dense, elongated spike. Calyx 5-parted; corolla of 5 rounded

lobes; 5 anther-bearing stamens, the 3 upper ones short, woolly;

1 pistil. Stem: Stout, 2 to 7 ft. tall, densely woolly, with

branched hairs. Leaves: Thick, pale green, velvety-hairy, oblong,

in a rosette on the ground; others alternate, strongly clasping

the stem.

Preferred Habitat - Dry fields, banks, stony waste land.

Flowering Season - June-September.

Distribution - Minnesota and Kansas, eastward to Nova Scotia and

Florida. Europe.

Leaving the fluffy thistle-down he has been kindly scattering to

the four winds, the goldfinch spreads his wings for a brief

undulating flight, singing in waves also as he goes to where

tall, thick-set mullein stalks stand like sentinels above the

stony pasture. Here companies of the exquisite little black and

yellow minstrels delight to congregate with their somber families

and feast on the seeds that rapidly follow the erratic flowers up

the gradually lengthening spikes.

Delpino long ago pointed out that the blossom is best adapted to

pollen-collecting bees, which, alighting on the two long,

protruding stamens, rub off pollen on their undersides while

clinging for support to the wool on the three shorter stamens,

whose anthers supply their needs. As a bee settles on another

flower, the stigma is calculated to touch the pollen on his under

side before he gets dusted with more; thus cross-pollination is

effected. Three stamens furnish a visitor with food, two others

clap pollen on him. Numerous flies assist in removing the pollen,


"I have come three thousand miles to see the mullein cultivated

in a garden, and christened the velvet plant," says John

Burroughs in "An October Abroad." But even in England it grows

wild, and much more abundantly in Southern Europe, while its

specific name is said to have been given it because it was so

common in the neighborhood of Thapsus; but whether the place of

that name in Africa, or the Sicilian town mentioned by Ovid and

Virgil, is not certain. Strange that Europeans should labor under

the erroneous impression that this mullein is native to America,

whereas here it is only an immigrant from their own land. Rapidly

taking its course of empire westward from our seaports into which

the seeds smuggled their passage among the ballast, it is now

more common in the Eastern States, perhaps, than any native.

Forty or more folk-names have been applied to it, mostly in

allusion to its alleged curative powers, its use for candlewick

and funeral torches in the Middle Ages. The generic title, first

used by Pliny, is thought to be a corruption of Barbascum = with

beards, in allusion to the hairy filaments, or, as some think, to

the leaves.

Of what use is this felt-like covering to the plant? The

importance of protecting the delicate, sensitive, active cells

from intense light, draught, or cold, have led various plants to

various practices; none more common, however, than to develop

hairs on the epidermis of their leaves, sometimes only enough to

give it a downy appearance, sometimes to coat it with felt, as in

this case, where the hairs branch and interlace. Fierce sunlight

in the exposed, dry situations where the mullein grows; prolonged

drought, which often occurs at flowering season, when the

perpetuation of the species is at stake; and the intense cold

which the exquisite rosettes formed by year-old plants must

endure through a winter before they can send up a flower-stalk

the second spring - these trials the well-screened, juicy, warm

plant has successfully surmounted through its coat of felt.

Hummingbirds have been detected gathering the hairs to line their

tiny nests. The light, strong stalk makes almost as good a cane

as bamboo, especially when the root end, in running under a

stone, forms a crooked handle. Pale country beauties rub their

cheeks with the velvety leaves to make them rosy.

VIRGIN'S BOWER VIRGINIA CLEMATIS TRAVELLER'S JOY OLD MAN'S VIRGINIA STRAWBERRY facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail