(Lupinus perennis) Pea family

Flowers - Vivid blue, very rarely pink or white, butterfly-shaped

corolla consisting of standard, wings, and keel; about 1/2 in.

long, borne in a long raceme at end of stern; calyx 2-lipped,

deeply toothed. Stem: Erect, branching, leafy, to 2 ft. high.

Leaves: Palmnate, compounded of from 7 to 11 (usually 8)

leaflets. Fruit: A broad, flat, very hairy pod, 1 1/2 in. long,

and containing 4 or 5 seeds.

Preferred Habitat - Dry, sandy places, banks, and hillsides.

Flowering Season - May-June.

Distribution - United States east of Mississippi, and eastern


Farmers once thought that this plant preyed upon the fertility of

their soil, as we see in the derivation of its name, from lupus,

a wolf; whereas the lupine contents itself with sterile waste

land no one should grudge it - steep gravelly banks, railroad

tracks, exposed sunny hills, where even it must often burn out

under fierce sunshine did not its root penetrate to surprising

depths. It spreads far and wide in thrifty colonies, reflecting

the vivid color of June skies, until, as Thoreau says, "the earth

is blued with it."

What is the advantage gained in the pea-shaped blossom? As usual,

the insect that fertilizes the flower best knows the answer. The

corolla has five petals, the upper one called the standard,

chiefly a flaunted advertisement; two side wings, or platforms,

to alight on; and a keel like a miniature boat, formed by the two

lower petals, whose edges meet. In this the pistil, stamens, and

nectar are concealed and protected. The pressure of a bee's

weight as he alights on the wings, light as it must be, is

nevertheless sufficient to depress and open the keel, which is

elastically affected by their motion, and so to expose the pollen

just where the long-lipped bee must rub off some against his

underside as he sucks the nectar. He actually seems to pump the

pollen that has fallen into the forward part of the keel upon

himself, as he moves about. As soon as he leaves the flower, the

elastic wings resume their former position, thus closing the keel

to prevent waste of pollen. Take a sweet pea from the garden,

press down its wings with the thumb and forefinger to imitate the

action of the bee on them; note how the keel opens to display its

treasures, and resumes its customary shape when the pressure is


The lupine is another of those interesting plants which go to

sleep at night. Some members of the genus erect one half of the

leaf and droop the other half until it becomes a vertical instead

of the horizontal star it is by day. Frequently the leaflets

rotate as much as 90 degrees on their own axes. Some lupines fold

their leaflets, not at night only, but during the day also there

is more or less movement in the leaves. Sun dial, a popular name

for the wild lupine, has reference to this peculiarity. The leaf

of our species shuts downward around its stem, umbrella fashion,

or the leaflets are erected to prevent the chilling which comes

to horizontal surfaces by radiation, some scientists think. "That

the sleep movements of leaves are in some manner of high

importance to the plants which exhibit them," says Darwin, "few

will dispute who have observed how complex they sometimes are."


(Meibomia Canadensis; Desmodium Canadense of Gray) Pea family

Flowers - Pinkish or bluish purple, butterfly-shaped, about 1/2

in. long, borne in dense, terminal, elongated racemes. Stem;

Erect, hairy, leafy, 2 to 8 ft. high. Leaves: Compounded of 3

oblong leaflets, the central one largest; upper leaves nearly

seated on stem; bracts, conspicuous before flowering, early

falling off. Fruit: A flat pod, about 1 in. long, jointed, and

covered with minute hooked bristles, the lower edge of pod

scalloped; almost seated in calyx.

Preferred Habitat - Thickets, woods, riverbanks, bogs. Flowering

Season - July-September.

Distribution - New Brunswick to Northwest Territory, south to

North Carolina, westward to Indian Territory and Dakota.

As one travels hundreds or even thousands of miles in a

comfortable railway carriage and sees the same flowers growing

throughout the length and breadth of the area, one cannot but

wonder however the plants manage to make the journey. We know

some creep along the ground, or under it, a tortoise pace, but a

winning one; that some send their offspring flying away from

home, like dandelions and thistles; and many others with wings

and darts are blown by the wind. Berries have their seeds dropped

afar by birds. Aquatic plants and those that grow beside running

water travel by river and flood. European species reach our

shores among the ballast. Darwin raised over sixty wild plants

from seed carried in a pellet of mud taken from the leg of a

partridge. So on and so on. The imagination delights to picture

these floral vagabonds, each with its own clever method of

getting a fresh start in the world. But by none of these methods

just mentioned do the tick-trefoils spread abroad. Theirs is

indeed a by hook or by crook system. The scalloped, jointed pod,

where the seeds lie concealed, has minute crooked bristles, which

catch in the clothing of man or beast, so that every herd of

sheep, every dog, every man, woman, or child who passes through a

patch of trefoils gives them a lift. After a walk through the

woods and lanes of late summer and autumn, one's clothes reveal

scores of tramps that have stolen a ride in the hope of being

picked off and dropped amid better conditions in which to rear a


Only the largest bees can easily "explode" the showy

tick-trefoil. A bumblebee alights upon a flower, thrusts his head

under the base of the standard petal, and forces apart the wing

petals with his legs, in order to dislodge them from the

standard. This motion causes the keel, also connected with the

standard, to snap down violently, thus releasing the column

within and sending upward an explosion of pollen on the under

surface of the bee. Here we see the wing petals acting as

triggers to discharge the flower. Depress them and up flies the

fertilizing dust - once. The little gun will not "go off" twice.

No nectar rewards the visitor, which usually is a

pollen-collecting bee. The highly intelligent and important

bumblebee has the advantage over his smaller kin in being able to

discharge the pollen from both large and smaller flowers.

The NAKED-FLOWERED TICK-TREFOIL (M. nudiflora; D. nudiflorum of

Gray) lifts narrow, few-flowered panicles of rose-purple blooms

during July and August. The flowers are much smaller than those

of the showy trefoil; however, when seen in masses, they form

conspicuous patches of color in dry woods. Note that there is a

flower stalk which is usually leafless and also a leaf-bearing

stem rising from the base of the plant, the latter with its

leaves all crowded at the top, if you would distinguish this very

common species from its multitudinous kin. The trefoliate leaves

are pale beneath. The two or three jointed pod rises far above

the calyx on its own stalk, as in the next species.

The POINTED-LEAVED TICK-TREFOIL (M. grandifiora; D. acuminatum of

Gray) has for its distinguishing feature a cluster of leaves high

up on the same stem from which rises a stalk bearing a quantity

of purple flowers that are large by comparison only. The leaves

have leaflets from two to six inches long, rounded on the sides,

but acutely pointed, and with scattered hairs above and below.

This trefoil is found blooming in dry or rocky woods, throughout

a wide range, from June to September.

Lying outstretched for two to six feet on the dry ground of open

woods and copses east of the Mississippi, the PROSTRATE

TICK-TREFOIL (M. Michauxii; D. rotundifoliurn of Gray) can

certainly be named by its soft hairiness, the almost perfect

roundness of its trefoliate leaves, its rather loose racemes of

deep purple flowers that spring both from the leaf axils and from

the ends of the sometimes branching stem; and by its three to

five jointed pod, which is deeply scalloped on its lower edge and

somewhat indented above, as well.


(Vicia Cracca) Pea family

Flowers - Blue, later purple; 1/2 in. long, growing downward in

1-sided spike, 15 to 40 flowered; calyx oblique, small, with

unequal teeth; corolla butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard,

wings, and keel, all oblong; the first clawed, the second

oblique, and adhering to the shorter keel; 10 stamens, 1 detached

from other 9. Stem: Slender, weak, climbing or trailing, downy, 2

to 4 ft. long. Leaves: Tendril bearing, divided into 18 to 24

thin, narrow, oblong leaflets. Fruit: A smooth pod 1 in. long or

less, 5 to 8 seeded.

Preferred Habitat - Dry soil, fields, wastelands.

Flowering Season - June-August.

Distribution - United States from New Jersey, Kentucky, and Iowa

northward and northwestward. Europe and Asia.

Dry fields blued with the bright blossoms of the tufted vetch,

and roadsides and thickets where the angular vine sends forth

vivid patches of color, resound with the music of happy bees.

Although the parts of the flower fit closely together, they are

elastic, and opening with the energetic visitor's weight and

movement give ready access to the nectary. On his departure they

resume their original position, to protect both nectar and pollen

from rain and pilferers whose bodies are not perfectly adapted to

further the flower's cross-fertilization. The common bumblebee

(Bombus terrestris) plays a mean trick, all too frequently, when

he bites a hole at the base of the blossom, not only gaining easy

access to the sweets for himself, but opening the way for others

less intelligent than he, but quite ready to profit by his

mischief, and so defeat nature's plan. Dr. Ogle observed that the

same bee always acts in the same manner, one sucking the nectar

legitimately, another always biting a hole to obtain it

surreptitiously, the natural inference, of course, being that

some bees, like small boys, are naturally depraved.

In cultivated fields and waste places farther south and westward

to the Pacific Coast roams the COMMON or PEBBLE VETCH OR TARE (V.

saliva), another domesticated weed that has come to us from

Europe, where it is extensively grown for fodder. Let no reproach

fall on these innocent plants that bear an opprobrious name: the

tare of Scripture is altogether different, the bearded darnel of

Mediterranean regions, whose leaves deceive one by simulating

those of wheat, and whose smaller seeds, instead of nourishing

man, poison him. Only one or two light blue-purple flowers grow

in the axils of the leaves of our common vetch. The leaf,

compounded of from eight to fourteen leaflets, indented at the

top, has a long terminal tendril, whose little sharp tip assists

the awkward vine, like a grappling hook.

The AMERICAN VETCH or TARE or PEA VINE (V. Americana) boasts

slightly larger bluish-purple flowers than the blue vetch, but

fewer of them; from three to nine only forming its loose raceme.

In moist soil throughout a very broad northerly and westerly

range it climbs and trails its graceful way, with the help of the

tendrils on the tips of leaves compounded of from eight to

fourteen oblong, blunt, and veiny leaflets.


(Lathyrus maritimus) Pea family

Flowers - Purple, butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard petal,

wings, and keel; 1 in. long or less, clustered in short raceme at

end of slender footstalk from leaf axils; calyx 5-toothed;

stamens 10 (9 and 1); style curved, flattened, bearded on inner

side. Stem: to 2 ft. long, stout, reclining, spreading, leafy.

Leaves: Compounded of 3 to 6 pairs of oblong leaflets somewhat

larger than halberd-shaped stipules at base of leaf; branched

tendrils at end of it. Fruit: A flat, 2-valved, veiny pod,

continuous between the seeds.

Preferred Habitat - Beaches of Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, also

of Great Lakes.

Flowering Season - May-August. Sometimes blooming again in


Distribution - New Jersey to Arctic Circle; also Northern Europe

and Asia.

Sturdy clumps of the beach pea, growing beyond reach of the tide

in the dunes and sandy wastelands back of the beach, afford the

bee the last restaurant where he may regale himself without fear

of drowning. From some members of the pea family, as from the

wild lupine, for example, his weight, as he moves about, actually

pumps the pollen that has fallen into the forward part of the

blossom's keel onto his body, that he may transfer it to another

flower. In some other members his weight so depresses the keel

that the stamens are forced out to dust him over, the flower

resuming its original position to protect its nectar and the

remaining pollen just as soon as the pressure is removed. Other

peas, again, burst at his pressure, and discharge their pollen on

him. Now, in the beach pea, and similarly in the vetches, the

style is hairy on its inner side, to brush out the pollen on the

visitor who sets the automatic sweeper in motion as he alights

and moves about. So perfectly have many members of this

interesting family adapted their structure to the requirements of

insects, and so implicitly do they rely on their automatic

mechanism, that they have actually lost the power to fertilize


In moist or wet ground throughout a northern range from ocean to

ocean, the MARSH VETCHLING (Lathyrus palustris) bears its purple,

butterfly-shaped flowers, that are the merest trifle over half

the size of those of the beach pea. From two to six of these

little blossoms are alternately set along the end of the stalk.

The leaflets, which are narrowly oblong, and acute at the apex,

stand up opposite each other in pairs (from two to four) along

the main leafstalk, that splits at the end to form hooked



(Clitoria Mariana) Pea family

Flowers - Bright lavender blue, showy, about 2 in. long; from 1

to 3 borne on a short peduncle. Calyx tubular, 5-toothed; corolla

butterfly-shaped, consisting of very large, erect standard petal,

notched at rounded apex; 2 oblong, curved wings, and shorter,

acute keel; 10 stamens; style incurved, and hairy along inner

side. Stem: Smooth, ascending or partly twining, 1 to 3 ft. high.

Leaves: Compounded of 3 oblong leaflets, paler beneath, each on

short stalk. Fruit: A few-seeded, acutely pointed pod about 1 in.


Preferred Habitat - Dry soil.

Flowering Season - June-July.

Distribution - New Jersey to Florida, westward to Missouri,

Texas, and Mexico.

A beautiful blossom, flaunting a large banner out of all

proportion to the size of its other parts, that it may arrest the

attention of its benefactors the bees. According to Henderson,

the plant, which is found in our Southern States and over the

Mexican border, grows also in the Khasia Mountains of India, but

in no intervening place. Several members of the tropic-loving

genus, that produce large, highly colored flowers, have been

introduced to American hothouses; but the blue butterfly pea is

our only native representative. The genus is thought to take its

name from kleio, to shut up, in reference to the habit these peas

have of seeding long before the flower drops off.


(Falcata comosa; Amphicarpaea monoica of Gray) Pea family

Flowers - Numerous small, showy ones, borne in drooping clusters

from axils of upper leaves; lilac, pale purplish, or rarely

white, butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard petal partly

enfolding wings and keel. Calyx tubular, 4 or 5 toothed; 10

stamens (9 and 1); 1 pistil. (Also solitary fertile flowers,

lacking petals, on thread-like, creeping branches from lower

axils or underground). Stem: Twining wiry brownish-hairy, to 8

ft. long. Leaves: Compounded of 3 thin leaflets, egg-shaped at

base, acutely pointed at tip. Fruit: Hairy pod 1 in. long. Also

1-seeded, pale, rounded, underground peanut.

Preferred Habitat - Moist thickets, shady roadsides.

Flowering Season - August-September.

Distribution - New Brunswick westward to Nebraska, south to Gulf

of Mexico.

Amphicarpaea ("seed at both ends"), the Greek name by which this

graceful vine was formerly known, emphasizes its most interesting

feature, that, nevertheless, seems to many a foolish duplication

of energy on Nature's part. Why should the same plant bear two

kinds of blossoms and seeds? Among the foliage of low shrubbery

and plants in shady lanes and woodside thickets, we see the

delicate, drooping clusters of lilac blossoms hanging where bees

can readily discover them and, in pilfering their sweets,

transfer their pollen from flower to flower. But in case of

failure to intercross these blossoms that are dependent upon

insect help to set fertile seed, what then? Must the plant run

the risk of extinction? Self-fertilization may be an evil, but

failure to produce seed at all is surely the greatest one. To

guard against such a calamity, insignificant looking flowers that

have no petals to open for the enticing of insects, but which

fertilize themselves with their own pollen, produce abundant seed

close to the ground or under it.Then what need of the showy

blossoms hanging in the thicket above? Close inbreeding in the

vegetable world, as in the animal, ultimately produces degenerate

offspring; and although the showy lilac blossoms of the wild

peanut yield comparatively few cross-fertilized seeds, these are

quite sufficient to enable the vine to maintain those desired

features which are the inheritance from ancestors that struggled

in their day and generation after perfection. No plant dares

depend upon its cleistogamous or blind flowers alone for

offspring; and in the sixty or more genera containing these

curious growths, that usually look like buds arrested in

development, every plant that bears them bears also showy flowers

dependent upon cross-pollination by insect aid.

The boy who

"Drives home the cows from the pasture

Up through the long shady lane"

knows how reluctantly they leave the feast afforded by the wild

peanut. Hogs, rooting about in the moist soil where it grows,

unearth the hairy pods that should produce next year's vines;

hence the poor excuse for branding a charming plant with a

repellent folk-name,

WILD GINGER CANADA SNAKEROOT ASARABACCA WILD OR FIELD PARSNIP MADNEP TANK facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail