MARYLAND FIGWORT BEE PLANT KNOTTED FIGWORT HEALALL PILEWORT
(Scrophularia Marylandica; S. nodosa of Gray) Figwort family
Flowers - Very small, dull green on outside; vivid, shining
brownish purple within; borne in almost leafless terminal
clusters on slender stems; Calyx 5-parted.; corolla of 5 rounded
lobes, the 2 upper ones erect, side
ones ascending, lower one
bent downward; 5 staroens, 4 of them twin-like and bearing
anthers, the fifth sterile, a mere scale on roof of the globular
corolla tube; style with knot-like stigma. Stem: From 3 to 10 ft.
high, square, with grooved sides, widely. branching. Leaves: From
3 to 12 in. long, oblong, pointed, coarsely toothed, on slender
stems, strong smelling.
Preferred Habitat - Moist, shady ground.
Flowering Season - July-September.
Distribution - New York to the Carolinas, westward to Tennessee
and Kansas; possibly beyond.
An insignificant little flower by itself, conspicuous only
because it rears itself in clusters on a level with one's eyes,
lacking beauty, perfume, and all that makes a blossom charming to
the human mind - why has it been elevated by the botanists to the
dignity of lending its name to a large and important family, and
why is it mentioned at all in a popular flower book beside the
more showy ornaments of nature's garden? Both questions have the
same answer: Because it is the typical flower of the family, and
therefore serves as an illustration of the manner in which many
others are fertilized. Beautiful blossoms are by no means always
the most important ones.
It well repays one to observe the relative times of maturing
anthers and stigmas in the flowers, as thereby hangs a tale in
which some insect plays an interesting role. The figwort matures
its stigma at the lip of the style before its anthers have
ripened their pollen. Why? By having the stigma of a newly opened
flower thrust forward to the mouth of the corolla, an insect
alighting on the lip, which forms his only convenient landing
place, must brush against it and leave upon it some pollen
brought from an older flower, whose anthers are already matured.
At this early stage of the flower's development its stamens lie
curved over in the tube of the corolla; but presently, as the
already fertilized style begins to wither, and its stigma is dry
and no longer receptive to pollen, then, since there can be no
longer any fear of self-pollination - the horror of so many
flowers - the figwort uncurls and elevates its stamens. The
insect visitor in search of nectar must get dusted with pollen
from the late maturing anthers now ready for him. By this
ingenious method the flower becomes cross-fertilized and wastes
the least pollen.
Bees and wasps evidently pursue opposite routes in going to work,
the former beginning at the bottom of a spike or raceme, where
the older, more mature flowers are, and working upward; the wasps
commencing at the top, among the newly opened ones. In spite of
the fact that we usually see hive bees about this plant,
pilfering the generous supply of nectar in each tiny cup, it is
undoubtedly the wasp that is the flower's truest benefactor,
since he carries pollen from the older blossoms of the last
raceme visited to the projecting stigmas of the newly opened
flowers at the top of the next cluster. Manifestly no flower,
even though it were especially adapted to wasps, as this one is,
could exclude bees. About one-third of all its visitors are
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