POINTED BLUEEYED GRASS EYEBRIGHT BLUE STAR
(Sisyrinchium angustifolium) Iris family
Flowers - From blue to purple, with a yellow center; a Western
variety, white; usually several buds at the end of stem, between
2 erect unequal bracts; about 1/2 in. across; perianth of 6
spreading divisions, each pointed with
a bristle from a notch;
stamens 3, the filaments united to above the middle; pistil 1,
its tip 3-cleft. Stem: 3 to 14 in. tall, pale hoary green, flat,
rigid, 2-edged. Leaves: Grass-like, pale, rigid, mostly from
base. Fruit: 3-celled capsule, nearly globose.
Preferred Habitat - Moist fields and meadows.
Flowering Season - May-August.
Distribution - Newfoundland to British Columbia, from eastern
slope of Rocky Mountains to Atlantic, south to Virginia and
Only for a day, and that must be a bright one, will this "little
sister of the stately blue flag" open its eyes, to close them in
indignation on being picked; nor will any coaxing but the
sunshine's induce it to open them again in water, immediately
after. The dainty flower, growing in dense tufts, makes up in
numbers what it lacks in size and lasting power, flecking our
meadows with purplish ultramarine blue in a sunny June morning.
Later in the day, apparently there are no blossoms there, for all
are tightly closed, never to bloom again. New buds will unfold to
tinge the field on the morrow.
Usually three buds nod from between a pair of bracts, the lower
one of which may be twice the length of the upper one but only
one flower opens at a time. Slight variations in this plant have
been considered sufficient to differentiate several species
formerly included by Gray and other American botanists under the
name of S. Bermudiana.
LARGE or EARLY, PURPLE-FRINGED ORCHIS
(Habenaria grandiflora; H. fimbriata of Gray) Orchid family
Flowers - Pink-purple and pale lilac, sometimes nearly white;
fragrant, alternate, clustered in thick, dense spikes from 3 to
15 in. long. Upper sepal and toothed petals erect; the lip of
deepest shade, 1/2 in. long, fan-shaped, 3-parted, fringed half
its length, and prolonged at base into slender, long spur; stamen
united with style into short column; 2 anther sacs slightly
divergent, the hollow between them glutinous, stigmatic. Stem. 1
to 5 ft. high, angled, twisted. Leaves: Oval, large, sheathing
the stem below; smaller, lance-shaped ones higher up; bracts
above. Root: Thick, fibrous.
Preferred Habitat - Rich, moist meadows, muddy places, woods.
Flowering Season - June-August.
Distribution - New Brunswick to Ontario; southward to North
Carolina, westward to Michigan.
Because of the singular and exquisitely unerring adaptations of
orchids as a family to their insect visitors, no group of plants
has greater interest for the botanist since Darwin interpreted
their marvelous mechanism, and Gray, his instant disciple,
revealed the hidden purposes of our native American species, no
less wonderfully constructed than the most costly exotic in a
A glance at the spur of this orchid, one of the handsomest and
most striking of its clan, and the heavy perfume of the flower,
would seem to indicate that only a moth with a long proboscis
could reach the nectar secreted at the base of the thread-like
passage. Butterflies, attracted by the conspicuous color,
sometimes hover about the showy spikes of bloom, but it is
probable that, to secure a sip, all but possibly the very largest
of them must go to the smaller purple-fringed orchis, whose
shorter spur holds out a certain prospect of reward; for, in
these two cases, as in so many others, the flower's welcome for
an insect is in exact proportion to the length of its visitor's
tongue. Doubtless it is one of the smaller sphinx moths, such as
we see at dusk working about the evening primrose and other
flowers deep of chalice, and heavily perfumed to guide visitors
to their feast, that is the great purple-fringed orchid's
benefactor, since the length of its tongue is perfectly adapted
to its needs. Attracted by the showy, broad lower petal, his
wings ever in rapid motion, the moth proceeds to unroll his
proboscis and drain the cup, that is frequently an inch and a
half deep. Thrusting in his head, either one or both of his
large, projecting eyes are pressed against the sticky
button-shaped disks to which the pollen masses are attached by a
stalk, and as he raises his head to depart, feeling that he is
caught, he gives a little jerk that detaches them, and away he
flies with these still fastened to his eyes.
Even while he is flying to another flower, that is to say, in
half a minute, the stalks of the pollen masses bend downward from
the perpendicular and slightly toward the center, or just far
enough to require the moth, in thrusting his proboscis into the
nectary, to strike the glutinous, sticky stigma. Now, withdrawing
his head, either or both of the golden clubs he brought in with
him will be left on the precise spot where they will fertilize
the flower. Sometimes, but rarely, we catch a butterfly or moth
from the smaller or larger purple orchids with a pollen mass
attached to his tongue, instead of to his eyes; this is when he
does not make his entrance from the exact center - as in these
flowers he is not obliged to do - and in order to reach the
nectary his tongue necessarily brushes against one of the sticky
anther sacs. The performance may be successfully imitated by
thrusting some blunt point about the size of a moth's head, a
dull pencil or a knitting-needle, into the flower as an insect
would enter. Withdraw the pencil, and one or both of the pollen
masses will be found sticking to it, and already automatically
changing their attitude. In the case of the large, round-leaved
orchis, whose greenish-white flowers are fertilized in a similar
manner by the sphinx moth, the anther sacs converge, like little
horns; and their change of attitude while they are being carried
to fertilize another flower is quite as exquisitely exact.
Usually in wetter ground than we find its more beautiful big
sister growing in, most frequently in swamps and bogs, the
SMALLER PURPLE-FRINGED ORCHIS (H. psycodes) lifts its perfumed
lilac spires. Thither go the butterflies and long-lipped bees to
feast in July and August. Inasmuch as without their aid the
orchid must perish from its inability to set fertile seed, no
wonder it woos its benefactors with a showy mass of color,
charming fringes, sweet perfume, and copious draughts of nectar,
and makes their visits of the utmost value to itself by the
ingenious mechanism described above. Here is no waste of pollen;
that is snugly packed in little bundles, ready to be carried off,
but placed where they cannot come in contact with the adjoining
stigma, since every orchid, almost without exception, refuses to
be deteriorated through self-fertilization.
>From New Jersey and Illinois southward, particularly in
mountainous regions, if not among the mountains themselves, the
FRINGELESS PURPLE ORCHIS (H. perarnoena) may be found blooming in
moist meadows through July and August. Moisture, from which to
manufacture the nectar that orchids rely upon so largely to
entice insects to work for them, is naturally a prime necessity;
yet Sprengel attempted to prove that many orchids are gaudy shams
and produce no nectar, but exist by an organized system of
deception. "Scheinsaftblumen" he called them. From the number of
butterflies seen hovering about this fringeless orchis and its
more attractive kin, it is small wonder their nectaries are soon
exhausted and they are accused of being gay deceivers. Sprengel's
much-quoted theory would credit moths, butterflies, and even the
highly intelligent bees with scant sense; but Darwin, who
thoroughly tested it, forever exonerated these insects from
imputed stupidity and the flowers from gross dishonesty. He found
that many European orchids secrete their nectar between the outer
and inner walls of the tube, which a bumblebee can easily pierce,
but where Sprengel never thought to look for it. The large lip of
this orchis is not fringed, but has a fine picotee edge. The
showy violet-purple, long-spurred flowers are alternately set on
a stem that is doing its best if it reach a height of two and a
WATER-SHIELD or WATER TARGET
(Brasenia purpurea; B. peltata of Gray) Water-lily family
Flowers - Small, dull purplish, about 1/2 in. across, on stout
footstalks from axils of upper leaves; 3 narrow sepals and
petals; stamens 12 to 18; pistils 4 to 18, forming 1 to 3-seeded
pods. Stem: From submerged rootstock; slender, branching, several
feet long, covered with clear jelly, as are footstalks and lower
leaf surfaces. Leaves: On long petioles attached to center of
underside of leaf, floating or rising, oval to roundish, 2 to 4
in. long, 1 1/2 to 2 in. wide.
Preferred Habitat - Still, rather deep water of ponds and slow
Flowering Season - All summer.
Distribution - Parts of Asia, Africa, and Australia, Nova Scotia
to Cuba, and westward from California to Puget Sound.
Of this pretty water plant Dr. Abbott says, in "Wasteland
Wanderings": "I gathered a number of floating, delicate leaves,
and endeavored to secure the entire stem also; but this was too
difficult a task for an August afternoon. The under side of the
stem and leaf are purplish brown and were covered with
translucent jelly, embedded in which were millions of what I took
to be insects' eggs. They certainly had that appearance. I was
far more interested to find that, usually, beneath each leaf
there was hiding a little pike. The largest was not two inches in
length. When disturbed, they swam a few inches, and seemed wholly
'at sea' if there was not another leaf near by to afford them
EUROPEAN or COMMON GARDEN COLUMBINE
(Aquilegia vulgaris) Crowfoot family
Flowers - Showy, blue, purple, or white, 1 1/2 to 2 in. broad, or
about as broad as long; spurs stout and strongly incurved.
General characteristics of plant resembling wild columbine.
Preferred Habitat - Escaped from gardens to woods and fields in
Eastern and Middle States. Native of Europe.
Flowering Season - May-July.
A heavier, less graceful flower than either the wild red and
yellow columbine or the exquisite, long-spurred, blue and white
species (A. coerulea) of the Rocky Mountain region; nevertheless
this European immigrant, now making itself at home here, is a
charming addition to our flora. How are insects to reach the well
of nectar secreted in the tip of its incurved, hooked spur?
Certain of the long-lipped bees, large bumblebees, whose tongues
have developed as rapidly as the flower, are able to drain it.
Hummingbirds, partial to red flowers, fertilize the wild
columbine, but let this one alone. Muller watched a female
bumblebee making several vain attempts to sip this blue one. Soon
the brilliant idea of biting a hole through each spur flashed
through her little brain, and the first experiment proving
delightfully successful, she proceeded to bite holes through
other flowers without first trying to suck them. Apparently she
satisfied her feminine conscience with the reflection that the
flower which made dining so difficult for its benefactors
deserved no better treatment.
FIELD or BRANCHED LARKSPUR; KNIGHT'S-SPUR; LARK-HEEL
(Delphinium Consoilda) Crowfoot family
Flowers - Blue to pinkish and whitish, 1 to 1 1/2 in. long, hung
on slender stems and scattered along spreading branches; 5
petal-like sepals, the rear one prolonged into long, slender,
curving spur; 2 petals, united. Stem: 1 to 2 1/2 ft. high.
Leaves: Divided into very finely cut linear segments. Fruit:
Erect, smooth pod tipped with a short beak; open on one side.
Preferred Habitat - Roadsides and fields.
Flowering Season - June-August.
Distribution - Naturalized from Europe; from New Jersey
southward, occasionally escaped from gardens farther north.
Keats should certainly have extolled the larkspurs in his sonnet
on blue. No more beautiful group of plants contributes to the
charm of gardens, woods, and roadsides, where some have escaped
cultivation and become naturalized, than the delphinium, that
take their name from a fancied resemblance to a dolphin
(delphin), given them by Linnaeus in one of his wild flights of
imagination. Having lost the power to fertilize themselves,
according to Muller, they are pollenized by both bees and
butterflies, insects whose tongues have kept pace with the
development of certain flowers, such as the larkspur, columbine,
and violet, that they may reach into the deep recesses of the
spurs where the nectar is hidden from all but benefactors.
The TALL WILD LARKSPUR (D. urceolatum; D. exaltatum of Gray)
waves long, crowded, downy wands of intense purplish blue in the
rich woods of Western Pennsylvania, southward to the Carolinas
and Alabama, and westward to Nebraska. Its spur is nearly
straight, not to increase the difficulty a bee must have in
pressing his lips through the upper and lower petals to reach the
nectar at the end of it. First, the stamens successively raise
themselves in the passage back of the petals to dust his head;
then, when each has shed its pollen and bent down again, the
pistil takes its turn in occupying the place, so that a
pollen-laden bee, coming to visit the blossom from an earlier
flower; can scarcely help fertilizing it. It is said there are
but two insects in Europe with lips long enough to reach the
bottom of the long horn of plenty hung by the BEE LARKSPUR (D.
elatum), that we know only in gardens here. Its yellowish bearded
lower petals readily deceive one into thinking a bee has just
>From April to June the DWARF LARKSPUR or STAGGER-WEED (D.
tricorne), which, however, may sometimes grow three feet high,
lifts a loose raceme of blue, rarely white, flowers an inch or
more long, at the end of a stout stem rising from a tuberous
root. Its slightly ascending spur, its three widely spreading
seed vessels, and the deeply cut leaf of from five to seven
divisions are distinguishing characteristics. From Western
Pennsylvania and Georgia to Arkansas and Minnesota it is found in
rather stiff soil. Butterflies, which prefer erect flowers, have
some difficulty to cling while they drain the almost upright
spurs, especially the Papilios, which usually suck with their
wings in motion. But the bees, to which the delphinium are best
adapted, although butterflies visit them quite as frequently,
find a convenient landing place prepared for them, and fertilize
the flower while they sip with ease.
More slender, downy, and dwarf of stem than the preceding is the
CAROLINA LARKSPUR (D. Carolinianum), whose blue flowers, varying
to white, and its very finely cleft leaves, may be found in the
South, on prairies in the North and West, and in the Rocky
LIVER-LEAF; HEPATICA; LIVERWORT; ROUND-LOBED or KIDNEY
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