BITTERBLOOM ROSEPINK SQUARESTEMMED SABBATIA ROSY CENTAURY
(Sabbatia angularis) Gentian family
Flowers - Clear rose pink, with greenish star in center, rarely
white, fragrant, 1 1/2 in. broad or less, usually solitary on
long peduncles at ends of branches. Calyx lobes very narrow;
corolla of 5 rounded segments; stamens 5;
style 2-cleft. Stem:
Sharply 4-angled, 2 to 3 ft. high, with opposite branches, leafy.
Leaves: Opposite, 5-nerved, oval, tapering at tip, and clasping
stem by broad base.
Preferred Habitat - Rich soil, meadows, thickets.
Flowering Season - July-August.
Distribution - New York to Florida, westward to Ontario,
Michigan, and Indian Territory.
During the drought of midsummer the lovely rose-pink blooms
inland with cheerful readiness to adapt itself to harder
conditions than most of its moisture-loving kin will tolerate;
but it may be noticed that although we may oftentimes find it
growing in dry soil, it never spreads in such luxuriant clusters
as when the roots are struck beside meadow runnels and ditches.
Probably the plant would be commoner than it is about populous
Eastern districts were it not so much sought after as a tonic
It was the Centaurea, represented here by the blue ragged sailor
of gardens, and not our Centaury, a distinctly American group of
plants, which, Ovid tells us, cured a wound in the foot of the
Centaur Chiron, made by an arrow hurled by Hercules.
Three exquisite members of the Sabbatia tribe keep close to the
Atlantic coast in salt meadows and marshes, along the borders of
brackish rivers, and very rarely in the sand at the edges of
fresh-water ponds a little way inland. From Maine to Florida they
range, and less frequently are met along the shores of the Gulf
of Mexico so far as Louisiana. How bright and dainty and are!
Whole meadows are radiant with their blushing lovliness. Probably
if they consented to live far away from the sea, they would lose
some of the deep, clear pink from out their lovely petals, since
all flowers show a tendency to brighten their colors as they
approach the coast. In England some of the same wildflowers we
have here are far deeper-hued, owing, no doubt to the fact that
they live on a sea-girt, moisture-laden island, and also that the
sun never scorches and blanches at the far north as it does in
the United States.
As might be expected, blossoms so bright of hue as the marsh
pinks attract many insects. Guided by the yellow eye that serves
as a pathfinder to the nectary, they feast on the generour supply
of sweets; but all unwittingly they must pay for their
entertainment by carrying pollen from early to later flowers.
Like so many other blossoms, the sabbatias guard themselves
against the evils of self-fertilization by shedding their pollen
before they mature and spread their two-cleft style, which is now
ready to receive the golden, quickening dust on its stigmatic
The SEA or MARSH PINK, or ROSE OF PLYMOUTH (S. stellaris), whose
graceful alternate branching stem attains a height of two feet
only under most favorable conditions, from July to September
opens a succession of pink flowers that often fade to white. The
yellow eye is bordered with carmine. They measure about one inch
across, and are usually solitary at the ends of branches, or else
sway on slender peduncles from the axils. The upper leaves are
narrow and bract-like; those lower down gradually widen as they
approach the root.
Similar to the Rose of Plymouth is the even more graceful SLENDER
MARSH PINK (S. Campanulata - the S. gracilis of Gray), whose
upper leaves are almost thread-like in their narrowness. Its five
calyx lobes, too, are exceedingly slender, and often as long as
the corolla lobes. One of our soldiers in Cuba, during the
Spanish War, sent home to his sister in Massachusetts some of
these same little flowers in a letter. "You would just love to
see the marshes here," he wrote. "They are filled with beautiful
little pink flowers. I wish I knew their names." That soldier had
passed by New England marshes aglow with the blossoms all his
life, but he had never noticed them until all his perceptions
became quickened by the stimulus of travel and the excitement of
war. How blind and deaf we all are in some directions; having
eyes we see not, and ears we hear not, in the natural as in the
No danger of confusing the LARGE MARSH PINK (S. dodecandra - S.
chloroides of Gray) with its smaller, more branching relatives.
It displays few flowers to a plant, but each measures two and a
half inches or less across, and has from nine to twelve pink (or
rarely white) petals. This sabbatia often chooses the sandy
borders of ponds for its habitat.
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