(Glecoma hederacea; Nepeta Glechoma of Gray) Mint family
Flowers - Light bluish purple, dotted with small specks of
reddish violet; growing singly or in clusters along stem, seated
in leaf axils; calyx hairy, with 5 sharp teeth; corolla tubular,
over 1/2 in. long,
2-lipped, the upper lip 2-lobed, lower lip
with 3 spreading lobes, middle one largest; 4 stamens in pairs
under upper lip; the anther sacs spreading; pistil with 2-lobed
style. Stem: Trailing, rooting at intervals, sometimes 18 in.
long, leafy, the branches ascending. Leaves: From 1/2 to 1 1/2
in. across; smooth, rounded, kidney-shaped, scallop-edged.
Preferred Habitat - Waste places, shady ground.
Flowering Season - March-May.
Distribution - Eastern half of Canada and the United States, from
Georgia and Kansas northward.
Besides the larger flowers, containing both stamens and pistils,
borne on this little immigrant, smaller female flowers,
containing a pistil only, occur just as they do in thyme, mint,
marjoram, and doubtless other members of the great family to
which all belong. Muller attempted to prove that these small
flowers, being the least showy, are the last to be visited by
insects, which, having previously dusted themselves with pollen
from the stamens of the larger flowers when they first open, are
in a condition to make cross-fertilization certain. So much for
the small flower's method of making insects serve its end; the
larger flowers have another way. At first they are male; that is,
the pistil is as yet undeveloped and the four stamens are mature,
ready to shed pollen on any insect alighting on the lip. Later,
when the stamens are past maturity, the pistil elongates itself
and is ready for the reception of pollen brought from younger
flowers. Many blossoms are male on the first day of opening, and
female later, to protect themselves against self-fertilization.
In Europe, where the aromatic leaves of this little creeper were
long ago used for fermenting and clarifying beer, it is known by
such names as ale-hoof and gill ale-gill, it is said, being
derived from the old French word, guiller, to ferment or make
merry. Having trailed across Europe, the persistent hardy plant
is now creeping its way over our continent, much to the disgust
of cattle, which show unmistakable dislike for a single leaf
caught up in a mouthful of herbage.
Very closely allied to the ground ivy is the CATMINT or CATNIP
(Nepela Cataria) ,whose pale-purple, or nearly white flowers,
dark-spotted, may be most easily named by crushing the coarsely
toothed leaves in one's hand. It is curious how cats will seek
out this hoary-hairy plant in the waste places where it grows and
become half-crazed with delight over its aromatic odor.
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