(Pastinaca sativa) Carrot family

Flowers - Dull or greenish yellow, small, without involucre or

involucels; borne in 7 to 15 rayed umbels, 2 to 6 in. across.

Stem: 2 to 5 ft. tall, stout, smooth, branching, grooved, from a

long, conic, fleshy, strong-scented root. Leaves: Compounded

(pinnately), of several pairs of oval, lobed, or cut, sharply

toothed leaflets; the petioled lower leaves often 1 1/2 ft. long.

Preferred Habitat - Waste places, roadsides, fields.

Flowering Season - June-September.

Distribution - Common throughout nearly all parts of the United

States and Canada. Europe.

Men are not the only creatures who feed upon such of the

umbel-bearing plants as are innocent - parsnips, celery, parsley,

carrots, caraway, and fennel, among others; and even those which

contain properties that are poisonous to highly organized men and

beasts, afford harmless food for insects. Pliny says that

parsnips, which were cultivated beyond the Rhine in the days of

Tiberius, were brought to Rome annually to please the emperor's

exacting palate; yet this same plant, which has overrun two

continents, in its wild state (when its leaves are a paler

yellowish green than under cultivation) often proves poisonous. A

strongly acrid juice in the very tough stem causes intelligent

cattle to let it alone - precisely the object desired. But

caterpillars of certain swallow-tail butterflies, particularly of

the common eastern swallow-tail (Papilio asterias), may be taken

on it - the same greenish, black-banded, and yellow-dotted fat

"worm" found on parsnips, fennel, and parsley in the kitchen

garden. Insects understood plant relationships ages before

Linnaeus defined them. When we see this dark, velvety butterfly,

marked with yellow, hovering above the wild parsnip, we may know

she is there only to lay eggs that her larvae may eat their way

to maturity on this favorite food store. After the flat, oval,

shining seeds with their conspicuous oil tubes are set in the

spreading umbels, the strong, vigorous plant loses nothing of its

decorative charm.

>From April to June the lower-growing EARLY or GOLDEN MEADOW

PARSNIP (Zizia aurea) spreads its clearer yellow umbels above

moist fields, meadows, and swamps from New Brunswick and Dakota

to the Gulf of Mexico. Its leaves are twice or thrice compounded

of oblong, pointed, saw-edged, but not lobed leaflets.

The HAIRY-JOINTED MEADOW PARSNIP (Thaspium barbinode), another

early bloomer, with pale-yellow flowers, most common in the

Mississippi basin, may always be distinguished by the little

tufts of hair at the joints of the stem, the compound leaves, and

often on the rays of the umbels.

A yellow variety of the PURPLE MEADOW PARSNIP, which is popularly

known as GOLDEN ALEXANDERS (T. trifoliatum var. aureum), confines

itself chiefly to woodlands. The leaves are compounded of three

leaflets, longer and more lance-shaped in outline than those of

other yellow species.


(Lysimachia quadrifolia) Primrose family

Flowers - Yellow, streaked with dark red, 1/2 in. across or less;

each on a thread-like, spreading footstem from a leaf axil.

Calyx, 5 to 7 parted; corolla of 5 to 7 spreading lobes, and as

many stamens inserted on the throat; 1 pistil. Stem: Slender,

erect, to 3 ft. tall, leafy. Leaves: In whorls of 4 (rarely in

3's to 7's), lance-shaped or oblong, entire, black dotted.

Preferred Habitat - Open woodland, thickets, roadsides, moist,

sandy soil.

Flowering Season - June-August.

Distribution - Georgia and Illinois, north to New Brunswick.

Medieval herbalists usually recorded anything that "Plinie

saieth" with profoundest respect; not always so, quaint old

Parkinson. Speaking of the common (vulgaris), wild loosestrife of

Europe, a rather stout, downy species with terminal clusters of

good-sized, yellow flowers, that was once cultivated in our

Eastern States, and has sparingly escaped from gardens, he thus

refers to the reputation given it by the Roman naturalist: "It is

believed to take away strife, or debate between ye beasts, not

onely those that are yoked together, but even those that are wild

also, by making them tame and quiet...if it be either put about

their yokes or their necks," significantly adding, "which how

true, I leave to them shall try and find it soe." Our slender,

symmetrical, common loosestrife, with its whorls of leaves and

little star-shaped blossoms on thread-like pedicels at regular

intervals up the stem, is not even distantly related to the

wonderful purple loosestrife (q.v.).

Another common, lower-growing species, the BULB-BEARING

LOOSESTRIFE (L. terrestris; L. stricta of Gray) - blooming from

July to September, lifts a terminal, elongated raceme of even

smaller, slender-pedicelled, yellow flowers streaked or dotted

with reddish; and in the axils of its abundant, opposite,

lance-shaped, black-dotted leaves, long bulblets, that are in

reality suppressed branches, are usually borne after the

flowering season. Occasionally no flowers are produced, only

these strange bulblets. In this state Linnaeus mistook the plant

for a terrestrial mistletoe. This species shows a decided

preference for swamps, moist thickets, and ditches throughout a

range which extends from Manitoba and Arkansas to the Atlantic


MONEYWORT, or CREEPING LOOSESTRIFE (L. Nummularia), a native of

Great Britain, which has long been a favorite vine in American

hanging baskets and urns, when kept in moist soil, suspended from

a veranda, will produce prolific shoots two or three feet in

length, hanging down on all sides. Pairs of yellow, dark-spotted,

five-lobed flowers grow from the axils of the opposite leaves

from June to August. One often finds it running wild in moist

soil beyond the pale of old gardens from Pennsylvania and Indiana

northward into Canada. Slight encouragement in starting runaways

would easily induce the hardy little evergreen to be as common

here as it is in England.

The LANCE-LEAVED LOOSESTRIFE (Steironema lanceolatum), most

common in the West and South, although it is by no means rare in

the northeastern States, produces either single blossoms or

few-flowered, spreading, axillary clusters on slender peduncles,

each unspotted, yellow corolla half an inch across or over; the

petal edges as if gnawed by the finest of teeth; the pointed

calyx segments showing between them. Sterile stamens in addition

to the fertile ones characterize this clan. In moist soil it

blooms from June to August. It is a strange fact that female bees

of the genus Macropis have never been taken on plants outside the

loosestrife connection. Here there appears to be the closest

interdependence between flower and insect. Even in Germany,

Muller found them by far the most abundant visitors, "diligently

sweeping the flowers (L. vulgaris) and piling large masses of

moistened pollen on their hind legs." He inclined to believe that

such blossoms in this group as have spots or streaks on their

petals - pathfinders for insect visitors - are largely dependent

on them, and cannot easily fertilize themselves; whereas the

unmarked blossoms, growing in such situations as are less

favorable to insect visits, are regularly self-fertile.