(Actaea alba) Crowfoot family

Flowers - Small, white, in a terminal oblong raceme. Calyx of 3

to 5 petal-like, early-falling sepals; petals very small, 4 to

10, spatulate, clawed; stamens white, numerous, longer than

petals; 1 pistil with a broad stigma. Stem: Erect, bushy, to 2

ft. high. Leaves: Twice or thrice compounded of sharply toothed

and pointed, sometimes lobed, leaflets, petioled. Fruit: Clusters

of poisonous oval white berries with dark purple spot on end,

formed from the pistils. Both pedicels and peduncles much

thickened and often red after fruiting.

Preferred Habitat - Cool, shady, moist woods.

Flowering Season - April-June.

Distribution - Nova Scotia to Georgia and far West.

However insignificant the short fuzzy clusters of flowers lifted

by this bushy little plant, we cannot fail to name it after it

has set those curious white berries with a dark spot on the end,

which Mrs. Starr Dana graphically compares to "the china eyes

that small children occasionally manage to gouge from their

dolls' heads." For generations they have been called "doll's

eyes" in Massachusetts. Especially after these poisonous berries

fully ripen and the rigid stems which bear them thicken and

redden, we cannot fail to notice them. As the sepals fall early,

the white stamens and stigmas are the most conspicuous parts of

the flowers. A cluster opening its blossoms almost

simultaneously, the plant's only hope of cross-fertilization lies

in the expectation that the small female bees (Halictus) which

come for pollen - no nectar being secreted - will leave some

brought from another flower on the stigma as they enter, and

before collecting a fresh supply. The time elapsing between the

maturity of the stigmas and the anthers is barely perceptible;

nevertheless there is a tendency toward the former maturing



spicata, var. rubra of Gray) - a more common species northward,

although with a range, habit, and aspect similar to the

preceding, may be known by its more ovoid raceme of feathery

white flowers, its less sharply pointed leaves, and, above all,

by its rigid clusters of oval red berries on slender pedicels, so

conspicuous in the woods of late summer.

WHITE AVENS WHITE OR TRUE WOOD~SORREL ALLELULA facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail