(Habenaria ciliaris) Orchid family

Flowers - Bright yellow or orange, borne in a showy, closely set,

oblong spike, 3 to 6 in. long. The lip of each flower copiously

fringed; the slender spur 1 to 1 1/2 in. long; similar to white

fringed orchis (q.v.); and between the two, intermediate pale

yellow hybrids may be found. Stem: Slender, leafy, 1 to 2 1/2

feet high. Leaves: Lance-shaped, clasping.

Preferred Habitat - Moist meadows and sandy bogs.

Flowering Season - July-August.

Distribution - Vermont to Florida; Ontario to Texas.

Where this brilliant, beautiful orchid and its lovely white

sister grow together in the bog - which cannot be through a very

wide range, since one is common northward, where the other is

rare, and vice versa - the yellow fringed orchis will be found

blooming a few days later. In general structure the plants

closely resemble each other. Their similar method of enforcing

payment for a sip of nectar concealed in a tube so narrow and

deep none but a sphinx moth or butterfly may drain it all (though

large bumblebees occasionally get some too, from brimming

nectaries) has been described (q.v.), to which the interested

reader is referred. Both these orchids have their sticky discs

projecting unusually far, as if raised on a pedicel - an

arrangement which indicates that they "are to be stuck to the

face or head of some nectar-sucking insect of appropriate size

that visits the flowers," wrote Dr. Asa Gray over forty years

ago. Various species of hawk moths, common in different parts of

our area, of course have tongues of various lengths, and

naturally every visitor does not receive his load of pollen on

the same identical spot. At dusk, when sphinx moths begin their

rounds, it will be noticed that the white and yellow flowers

remain conspicuous long after blossoms of other colors have

melted into the general darkness. Such flowers as cater to these

moths, if they have fragrance, emit it then most strongly, as an

additional attraction. Again, it will be noticed that few such

flowers provide a strong projecting petal-platform for visitors

to alight on; that would be superfluous, since sphinx moths suck

while hovering over a tube, with their wings in exceedingly rapid

motion, just like a hummingbird, for which the larger species are

so often mistaken at twilight. This deep-hued orchid apparently

attracts as many butterflies as sphinx moths, which show a

predilection for the white species.

>From Ontario and the Mississippi eastward, and southward to the

Gulf, the TUBERCLED or SMALL PALE GREEN ORCHIS (H. flava) lifts a

spire of inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers, more attractive

to the eye of the structural botanist than to the aesthete. It

blooms in moist places, as most orchids do, since water with

which to manufacture nectar enough to fill their deep spurs is a

prime necessity. Orchids have arrived at that pinnacle of

achievement that it is impossible for them to fertilize

themselves. More than that, some are absolutely sterile to their

own pollen when it is applied to their stigmas artificially with

insect aid, however, a single plant has produced over 1,000,700

seeds. No wonder, then, that, as a family, they have adopted the

most marvelous blandishments and mechanism in the whole floral

kingdom to secure the visits of that special insect to which each

is adapted, and, having secured him, to compel him unwittingly to

do their bidding. In the steaming tropical jungles, where

vegetation is luxuriant to the point of suffocation, and where

insect life swarms in mvriads undreamed of here, we can see the

best of reasons for orchids mounting into trees and living on air

to escape strangulation on the ground, and for donning larger and

more gorgeous apparel to attract attention in the fierce

competition for insect trade waged about them. Here, where the

struggle for survival is incomparably easier, we have terrestrial

orchids, small, and quietly clad, for the most part.

Having the gorgeous, exotic air plants of the hothouse in mind,

this little tubercled orchis seems a very poor relation indeed.

In June and July, about a week before the ragged orchis comes

out, we may look for this small, fringeless sister. Its clasping

leaves, which decrease in size as they ascend the stem (not to

shut off the light and rain from the lower ones), are

parallel-veined, elliptic, or, the higher ones, lance-shaped. A

prominent tubercle, or palate, growing upward from the lip,

almost conceals the entrance to the nectary. and makes a side

approach necessary. Why? Usually an insect has free, straight

access down the center of a flower's throat, but here he cannot

have it. A slender tongue must be directed obliquely from above

into the spur, and it will enter the discal groove as a thread

enters the eye of a needle. By this arrangement the tongue must

certainly come in contact with one of the sticky discs to which

an elongated pollen gland is attached. The cement on the disc

hardening even while the visitor sucks, the pollen gland is

therefore drawn out, because firmly attached to his tongue. At

first the pollen mass stands erect on the proboscis; but in the

fraction of a moment which it takes a butterfly to flit to

another blossom, it has bent forward automatically into the exact

position required for it to come in contact with the sticky

stigma of the next tubercled orchis entered, where it will be

broken off. Now we understand the use of the palate. Butterfly

collectors often take specimens with remnants of these pollen

stumps stuck to their tongues. In his classical work "On the

Fertilization of Orchids by Insects," Darwin tells of finding a

mottled rustic butterfly whose proboscis was decorated with

eleven pairs of pollen masses, taken from as many blossoms of the

pyramidal orchis. Have these flowers no mercy on their

long-suffering friends? A bee with some orchid pollen-stumps

attached to its head was once sent to Mr. Frank Cheshire, the

English expert who had just discovered some strange bee diseases.

He was requested to name the malady that had caused so abnormal

an outgrowth on the bee's forehead!

Often found growing in the same bog with the tubercled species is

the RAGGED or FRINGED GREEN ORCHIS (H. lacera), so inconspicuous

we often overlook it unawares. Examine one of the dingy,

greenish-yellow flowers that are set along the stern in a spike

to make all the show in the world possible, each with its

three-parted, spreading lip finely and irregularly cut into

thread-like fringe to hail the passing butterfly, and we shall

see that it, too, has made ingenious provision against the

draining of its spur by a visitor without proper pay for his

entertainment. Even without the gay color that butterflies ever

delight in, these flowers contain so much nectar in their spurs,

neither butterflies nor large bumblebees are long in hunting them

out. In swamps and wet woodland from Nova Scotia to Georgia, and

westward to the Mississippi, the ragged orchis blooms in June or



(Nymphaea advena; Nupisar advena of Gray) Water-lily family

Flowers - Yellow or greenish outside, rarely purple tinged,

round, depressed, 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 in. across. Sepals 6, unequal,

concave, thick, fleshy; petals stamen-like, oblong, fleshy,

short; stamens very numerous, in 5 to 7 rows; pistil compounded

of many carpels, its stigmatic disc pale red or yellow, with 12

to 24 rays. Leaves: Floating, or some immersed, large, thick,

sometimes a foot long, egg-shaped or oval, with a deep cleft at

base, the lobes rounded.

Preferred Habitat - Standing water, ponds, slow streams.

Flowering Season - April-September.

Distribution - Rocky Mountains eastward, south to the Gulf of

Mexico, north to Nova Scotia.

Comparisons were ever odious. Because the yellow water lily has

the misfortune to claim relationship with the sweet-scented white

species (q.v.), must it never receive its just meed of praise?

Hiawatha's canoe, let it be remembered,

"Floated on the river

Like a yellow leaf in autumn,

Like a yellow water-lily."

But even those who admire Longfellow's lines see no beauty in the

golden flower-bowls floating among the large, lustrous, leathery


By assuming the functions of petals, the colored sepals advertise

for insects. Beetles, which answer the first summons to a free

lunch, crowd in as the sepals begin to spread. In the center the

star-like disc, already sticky, is revealed, and on it any pollen

they have carried with them from older flowers necessarily rubs

off. At first, or while the stigma is freshly receptive to

pollen, an insect cannot make his entrance except by crawling

over this large, sticky plate. At this time, the anthers being

closed, self-fertilization is impossible. A day or two later,

after the pollen begins to ripen on countless anthers, the flower

is so widely open that visitors have no cause to alight in the

center; anyway, no harm could result if they did,

cross-fertilization having been presumably accomplished. While

beetles (especially Donacia) are ever abundant visitors, it is

likely they do much more harm than good. So eagerly do they gnaw

both petals and stamens, which look like loops of narrow yellow

ribbon within the bowl of an older flower, that, although they

must carry some pollen to younger flowers as they travel on, it

is probable they destroy ten times more than their share. Flies

transport pollen too. The smaller bees (Halictus and Andrena

chiefly) find some nectar secreted on the outer faces of the

stamen-like petals, which they mix with pollen to make their

babies' bread.

The very beautiful native AMERICAN LOTUS (Nelumbo lutea), also

known as WATER CHINKAPIN or WANKAPIN, found locally in Ontario,

the Connecticut River, some lakes, slow streams, and ponds in New

Jersey, southward to Florida, and westward to Michigan and

Illinois, Indian Territory and Louisiana, displays its pale

yellow flowers in July and August. They measure from four to ten

inches across, and suggest a yellow form of the sweet-scented

white water lily; but there are fewer petals, gradually passing

into an indefinite number of stamens. The great round, ribbed

leaves, smooth above, hairy beneath, may be raised high above the

water, immersed or floating. Both leaf and flower stalks contain

several large air canals. The flowers which are female when they

expand far enough for a pollen-laden guest to crawl into the

center, are afterward male, securing cross-fertilization by this

means, just as the yellow pond lily does; only the small bees

must content themselves here with pollen only - a diet that

pleases the destructive beetles and the flies (Syrphidae)


Japanese artists especially have taught us how much of the beauty

of a Nelumbo we should lose if it ripened its decorative

seed-vessel below the surface as the sweet-scented white water

lily does. This flat-topped receptacle, held erect, has its

little round nuts imbedded in pits in its surface, ready to be

picked out by aquatic birds, and distributed by them in their

wanderings. Both seeds and tubers are farinaceous and edible. In

some places it is known the Indians introduced the plant for

food. Professor Charles Goodyear has written an elaborate,

plausible argument, illustrated, with many reproductions of

sculpture, pottery, and mural painting in the civilized world of

the ancients to prove that all decorative ornamental design has

been evolved from the sacred Egyptian lotus (Nelumbo Nelumubo),

still revered throughout the East (q.v.).

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