(Cratoegus coccinea) Apple family
Flowers - White, rarely pinkish, usually less than 1 in. across,
numerous, in terminal corymbs. Calyx 5-lobed; 5 spreading petals
inserted in its throat numerous stamens; styles 3 to 5. Stem: A
shrub or small tree, rarely attaining 30
ft. in height (Kratos =
strength, in reference to hardness and toughness of the wood);
branches spreading, and beset with stout spines (thorns) nearly 2
in. long. Leaves: Alternate, petioled, 2 to 3 in. long, ovate,
very sharply cut or lobed, the teeth glandular-tipped. Fruit:
Coral red, round or oval; not edible.
Preferred Habitat - Thickets, fence-rows, woodland borders.
Flowering Season - May.
Distribution - Newfoundland and Manitoba southward to the Gulf of
"The fair maid who, the first of May,
Goes to the fields at break of day
And washes in dew from the hawthorn tree
Will ever after handsome be."
Here is a popular recipe omitted from that volume of
heart-to-heart talks entitled "How to Be Pretty though Plain"!
The sombre-thoughted Scotchman, looking for trouble, tersely
But in delicious, blossoming May, when the joy of living fairly
intoxicates one, and every bird's throat is swelling with happy
music, who but a Calvinist would croak dismal prophecies? In
Ireland, old crones tell marvelous tales about the hawthorns, and
the banshees which have a predilection for them. So much for
As one might suspect from the rather disagreeable odor of these
blossoms, they are most attractive to flies and beetles, which,
carrying pollen from older flowers, leave some on the stigmas
that are already mature in newly-opened ones. A concave
nectar-secreting disk, not concealed by the filaments in this
case, is eagerly pilfered by numerous little short-lipped insects
which render no benefit in return; but many others assist in
self-pollination after the anthers ripen. The splendid monarch
butterfly (Anosia plexippus), the banded purple (Basilarchia
arthemis), whose caterpillar feeds on hawthorn foliage, and the
light brown hunter's butterfly [American painted lady] (Pyrameis
huntera [Vanessa virginiensis]) are, among the visitors seen
flitting about this exquisite little tree in early May, when it
is fairly white with bloom.
The RED-FRUITED THORN (C. mollis), more hairy on its twigs,
petioles, calices, and fruit than the preceding, but so like it
in most respects it was formerly accounted a mere variety, is an
earlier and even more prolific bloomer, the generous, large
clusters of malodorous flowers coming with the leaves in April,
and lasting until the common hawthorn starts into lively
competition with it for insect trade.
Numerous long, slender thorns, often measuring a finger-length,
distinguish the COCKSPUR or NEWCASTLE THORN (C. Crus-Galli),
whose abundant small flowers and shining, leathery leaves, dull
underneath, are conspicuous in thickets from Quebec to the Gulf.
Immense numbers of little bees, among many other visitors, may be
noted on a fine day in May and early June about this showy shrub
or tree. Because it blooms later than its rival sisters, it has
the insect wooers then abroad all to itself.
While most of our beautiful native hawthorns have been introduced
to European gardens, it is the WHITE THORN or MAY (C. Oxyacantha)
of Europe and Asia which is most commonly cultivated here. Truly
a shrub, like a prophet, is not without honor save in its own
WHITE SWEET CLOVER; BOKHARA or TREE CLOVER; WHITE MELILOT; HONEY
(Melilotus alba) Pea family
Flowers - Small, white, fragrant, papilionaceous, the standard
petal a trifle longer than the wings; borne in slender racemes.
Stem: 3 to 10 ft. tall, branching. Leaves: Rather distant,
petioled, compounded of 3 oblong, saw-edged leaflets; fragrant,
especially when dry.
Preferred Habitat - Wastelands, roadsides.
Flowering Season - June-November.
Distribution - United States, Europe, Asia.
Happy must the honeybees have been to find that the sweet clover,
one of their dearest delights in the Old World, had preceded them
in immigrating to the New. Immense numbers of insects - bees in
great variety, wasps, flies, moths, and beetles - visit the
little blossoms that provide entertainment so generous and
accessible; but honey-bees are ever especially abundant. Slight
weight depresses the keel, releasing the stigma and anthers
therefore, so soon as a bee alights and opens the flower, he is
hit below the belt by the projecting stigma. Pollen carried by
him there from other clovers comes off on its sticky surface
before his abdomen gets freshly dusted from the anthers, which
are necessarily rubbed against while he sips nectar. On the
removal of his pressure, the floret springs back to its closed
condition, to protect the precious nectar and pollen from rain
and pilferers. As the stigma projects too far beyond the anthers
to be likely to receive any of the flower's own pollen, good
reason is there for the blossoms guarding their attractions for
the benefit of their friends, which transfer the vitalizing dust
from one floret to another. By clustering its small flowers in
spikes, to make them conspicuous, as well as to facilitate dining
for its benefactors; by prolonging its season of bloom, to get
relief from the fiercest competition for insect trade, and so to
insure an abundance of vigorous cross-fertilized seed, this plant
reveals at a glance some of the reasons why it has been able to
establish itself so quickly throughout our vast area.
Both the white and the yellow sweet clover put their leaves to
sleep at night in a remarkable manner: the three leaflets of each
leaf twist through an angle of 90 degrees, until one edge of each
vertical blade is uppermost. The two side leaflets, Darwin found,
always tend to face the north with their upper surface, one
facing north-northwest and the other north-northeast, while the
terminal leaflet escapes the chilling of its sensitive upper
surface through radiation by twisting to a vertical also, but
bending to either east or west, until it comes in contact with
the vertical upper surface of either of the side leaflets. Thus
the upper surface of the terminal and of at least one of the side
leaflets is sure to be well protected through the night; one is
"left out in the cold."
The dried branches of sweet clover will fill a room with
delightful fragrance; but they will not drive away flies, nor
protect woolens from the ravages of moths, as old women once
taught us to believe.
The ubiquitous WHITE or DUTCH CLOVER (Trifolium repens), whose
creeping branches send up solitary round heads of white or
pinkish flowers on erect, leafless stems, from May to December,
in fields, open waste land, and cultivated places throughout our
area, Europe, and Asia, devotes itself to wooing bees, since
these are the only insects that effect cross-fertilization
regularly, other visitors aiding it only occasionally. When nets
are stretched over these flowers to exclude insects, only
one-tenth the normal quantity of fertile seed is set. Therefore,
for the bee's benefit, does each little floret conceal nectar in
a tube so deep that small pilferers cannot reach it; but when a
honeybee, for example, depresses the keel of the papilionaceous
blossom, abundant reward awaits him in consideration of his
services in transferring pollen. After the floret which he has
been the means of fertilizing closes over its seed-vessel on his
departure, it gradually withers, grows brown, and hangs downward,
partly to indicate to the next bee that comes along which fords
in the head still contain nectar, and which are done for; partly
to hide the precious little vigorous green seed-pod in the center
of each withered, papery corolla from the visitation of certain
insects whose minute grubs destroy countless millions of the
progeny of less careful plants. Thus the erect florets in a head
stand awaiting their benefactors; those drooping around the outer
edge are engaged in the most serious business of life. Sometimes
a solitary old maid remains standing, looking anxiously for a
lover, at the end of the season. Usually all the florets are then
bent down around the stem in a brown and crumpled mass. But
however successfully the clover guards its seeds from
annihilation, its foliage is the favorite food of very many
species of caterpillars and of all grazing cattle the world
around. This is still another plant frequently miscalled
shamrock. Good luck or bad attends the finding of the leaves,
when compounded of an even or an odd number of leaflets more than
the normal count, according to the saying of many simple-minded
The little RABBIT'S-FOOT, PUSSY, OLD-FIELD, or STONE CLOVER (T.
arvense) has silky plumed calices to hold its minute whitish
florets, giving the dense, oblong heads a charming softness and
dove color after it has gone to seed. Like most other clovers, it
has come to us from the Old World.
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Next: FLOWERING SPURGE
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