WILD POTATOVINE MANOFTHEEARTH MECHAMECK





(Ipomoea pandurata) Morning-glory family



Flowers - Funnel form, wide-spread, 2 to 3 in. long, pure white

or pinkish purple inside the throat; the peduncles 1 to 5

flowered. Stem: Trailing over the ground or weakly twining, 2 to

12 ft. long. Leaves: Heart, fiddle, or halbert shaped (rarely

3-lobed), on slender petioles. Root: Enormous, fleshy.

Preferred Habitat - Dry soil, sandy or gravelly fields or hills.

Flowering Season - May-September.

Distribution - Ontario, Michigan, and Texas, east to the Atlantic

Ocean.



No one need be told that this flaring, trumpet-shaped flower is

next of kin to the morning-glory that clambers over the trellises

of countless kitchen porches, and escapes back to Nature's garden

whenever it can. When the ancestors of these blossoms welded

their five petals into a solid deep bell, which still shows on

its edges the trace of five once separate parts, they did much to

protect their precious contents from rain; but some additional

protection was surely needed against the little interlopers not

adapted to fertilize the flower, which could so easily crawl down

its tube. Doubtless the hairs on the base of the filaments,

between which certain bumblebees and other long-tongued

benefactors can easily penetrate to suck the nectar secreted in a

fleshy disk below, act as a stockade to little would-be

pilferers. The color in the throat serves as a pathfinder to the

deep-hidden sweets. How pleasant the way is made for such insects

as a flower must needs encourage! For these the perennial wild

potato vine keeps open house far later in the day than its annual

relatives. Professor Robertson says it is dependent mainly upon

two bees, Entechnia taurea and Xenoglossa ipomoeae, the latter

its namesake.



One has to dig deep to find the huge, fleshy, potato-like root

from which the vine derived its name of man-of-the-earth. Such a

storehouse of juices is surely necessary in the dry soil where

the wild potato lives.



Happily, the COMMON MORNING-GLORY (I. purpurea) - the

Convolvulus major of seedsmen's catalogues - has so commonly

escaped from cultivation in the eastern half of the United States

and Canada as now to deserve counting among our wild flowers,

albeit South America is its true home. Surely no description of

this commonest of all garden climbers is needed; everyone has an

opportunity to watch how the bees cross-fertilize it.



The vine has a special interest because of Darwin's illuminating

experiments upon it when he planted six self-fertilized seeds and

six seeds fertilized with the pollen brought from flowers on a

different vine, on opposite sides of the same pot. Vines produced

by the former reached an average height of five feet four inches,

whereas the cross-pollenized seed sent its stems up two feet

higher, and produced very many more flowers. If so marked a

benefit from imported pollen may be observed in a single

generation, is it any wonder that ambitious plants employ every

sort of ingenious device to compel insects to bring them pollen

from distant flowers of the same species? How punctually the

MOON-FLOWER (I. grandiflora), next of kin to the morning-glory,

opens its immense, pure white, sweet-scented flowers at night to

attract night-flying moths, because their long tongues, which

only can drain the nectar, may not be withdrawn until they are

dusted with vitalizing powder for export to some waiting sister.





GRONOVIUS' or COMMON DODDER; STRANGLE-WEED; LOVE VINE; ANGEL'S

HAIR

(Cuscuta gronovii) Dodder family



Flowers - Dull white, minute, numerous, in dense clusters. Calyx

inferior, greenish white, 5-parted; corolla bell-shaped, the 5

lobes spreading, 5 fringed scales within; 5 stamens, each

inserted on corolla throat above a scale; 2 slender styles. Stem:

Bright orange yellow, thread-like, twining high, leafless.

Preferred Habitat - Moist soil, meadows, ditches, beside streams.

Flowering Season - July-September.

Distribution - Nova Scotia and Manitoba, south to the Gulf

States.



Like tangled yellow yarn wound spirally about the herbage and

shrubbery in moist thickets, the dodder grows, its beautiful

bright threads plentifully studded with small flowers tightly

bunched. Try to loosen its hold on the support it is climbing up,

and the secret of its guilt is out at once; for no honest vine is

this, but a parasite, a degenerate of the lowest type, with

numerous sharp suckers (haustoria) penetrating the bark of its

victim, and spreading in the softer tissues beneath to steal all

their nourishment. So firmly are these suckers attached, that the

golden thread-like stem will break before they can be torn from

their hold.



Not a leaf now remains on the vine to tell of virtue in its

remote ancestors; the absence of green matter (chlorophyll)

testifies to dishonest methods of gaining a living (see Indian

pipe); not even a root is left after the seedling is old enough

to twine about its hard-working, respectable neighbors. Starting

out in life with apparently the best intentions, suddenly the

tender young twiner develops an appetite for strong drink and

murder combined, such as would terrify any budding criminal in

Five Points or Seven Dials! No sooner has it laid hold of its

victim and tapped it, than the now useless root and lower portion

wither away, leaving the dodder in mid-air, without any

connection with the soil below, but abundantly nourished with

juices already stored up, and even assimilated, at its host's

expense. By rapidly lengthening the cells on the outer side of

its stem more than on the inner side, the former becomes convex,

the latter concave; that is to say, a section of spiral is formed

by the new shoot, which, twining upward, devitalizes its

benefactor as it goes. Abundant, globular seed vessels, which

develop rapidly, while the blossoming continues unabated, soon

sink into the soft soil to begin their piratical careers close

beside the criminals which bore them; or better still, from their

point of view, float downstream to found new colonies afar. When

the beautiful jewelweed - a conspicuous sufferer - is hung about

with dodder, one must be grateful for at least such symphony of

yellows.





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