(Prunella vulgaris) Mint family Flowers - Purple and violet, in dense spikes, somewhat resembling a clover head; from 1/2 to 1 in. long in flower, becoming 4 times the length in fruit. Corolla tubular, irregularly 2-lipped, the upper lip darker and hood-like; the lower

one 3-lobed, spreading, the middle and largest lobe fringed; 4 twin-like stamens ascending under upper lip; filaments ofthe lower and longer pair 2-toothed at summit, one of the teeth bearing an anther, the other tooth sterile; style thread-like, shorter than stamens, and terminating in a 2-cleft stigma. Calyx 2-parted, half the length of corolla, its teeth often hairy on edges. Stem: 2 in. to 2 ft. high, erect or reclining, simple or branched. Leaves: Opposite, oblong. Fruit: 4 nutlets, round and smooth. Preferred Habitat - Fields, roadsides, waste places. Flowering Season - May-October. Distribution - North America, Europe, Asia. This humble, rusty green plant, weakly lopping over the surrounding grass, so that often only its insignificant purple, clover-like flower heads are visible, is another of those immigrants from the old countries which, having proved fittest in the fiercer struggle for existence there, has soon after its introduction here exceeded most of our more favored native flowers in numbers. Everywhere we find the heal-all, sometimes dusty and stunted by the roadside, sometimes truly beautiful in its fresh purple, violet, and white when perfectly developed under happy conditions. In England, where most flowers are deeper hued than with us, the heal-all is rich purple. What is the secret of this flower's successful march across three continents? As usual, the chief reason is to be found in the facility it offers insects to secure food; and the quantity of fertile seed it is therefore able to ripen as the result of their visits is its reward. Also, its flowering season is unusually long, and it is a tireless bloomer. It is finical in no respect; its sprawling stems root easily at the joints, and it is very hardy. Several species of bumblebees enter the flower, which being set in dense clusters enables them to suck the nectar from each with the minimum loss of time, the smaller bee spending about two seconds to each. After allowing for the fraction of time it takes him to sweep his eyes and the top of his head with his forelegs to free them from the pollen which must inevitably be shaken from the stamen in the arch of the corolla as he dives deeply after the nectar in the bottom of the throat, and to pass the pollen, just as honeybees do, with the most amazing quickness, from the forelegs to the middle ones, and thence to the hairy "basket" on the hind ones - after making all allowances for such delays, this small worker is able to fertilize all the flowers in the fullest cluster in half a minute! When the contents of the baskets of two different species of bumblebees caught on this blossom were examined under the microscope, the pollen in one case proved to be heal-all, with some from the goldenrod, and a few grains of a third kind not identified; and in the other case; heal-all pollen and a small proportion of some unknown kind. Bees that are evidently out for both nectar and pollen on the same trip have been detected visiting white and yellow flowers on their way from one heal-all cluster to another; and this fact, together with the presence of more than one kind of pollen in the basket, shows that the generally accepted statement that bees confine themselves to flowers of one kind or color during a trip is not always according to fact. The older name of the plant, Brunella, and the significant one, altered by Linnaeus into the softer sound it now bears, is doubtless derived from the German word, braune, the quinsy. Quaint old Parkinson reads: "This is generally called prunella and brunella from the Germans who called it brunellen, because it cureth that disease which they call die bruen, common to soldiers in campe, but especially in garrison, which is an inflammation of the mouth, throat, and tongue." Among the old herbalists who pretended to cure every ill that flesh is heir to with it, it was variously known as carpenter's herb, sicklewort, hook-heal, slough-heal, and brownwort. AMERICAN or MOCK PENNYROYAL; TICKWEED; SQUAW MINT (Hedeoma pulegioides) Mint family Flowers - Very small, bluish purple, clustered in axils of upper leaves. Calyx tubular, unequally 5-cleft; teeth of upper lip triangular, hairy in throat. Corolla 2-lipped, upper lip erect, notched; lower one 3-cleft, spreading; 2 anther-bearing stamens under upper lip; 2 sterile but apparent; 1 pistil with 2-cleft style. Stem: Low, erect, branched, square, hairy, 6 to 18 in. high. Leaves: Small, opposite, ovate to oblong, scantily toothed, strongly aromatic, pungent. Preferred Habitat - Dry fields, open woodland. Flowering Season - July-September. Distribution - Cape Breton Island westward to Nebraska, south to Florida. However insignificant its flower, this common little plant unmistakably proclaims its presence throughout the neighborhood. So powerful is the pungent aroma of its leaves that dog doctors sprinkle them about freely in the kennels to kill fleas, a pest by no means exterminated in Southern Europe, however, where the true pennyroyal of commerce (Mentha Pulegium) is native. Herb gatherers who collect our pennyroyal, that is so similar to the European species it is similarly employed in medicine, say they can scent it from a greater distance than any other plant. BASTARD PENNYROYAL, which, like the Self-heal, is sometimes called BLUE CURLS (Trichostema dichotomum), chooses dry fields, but preferably sandy ones, where we find its abundant, tiny blue flowers, that later change to purple, from July to October. Its balsam-like odor is not agreeable, neither has the plant beauty to recommend it; yet where it grows, from Maine to Florida, and west to Texas, it is likely to be so common we cannot well pass it unnoticed. The low, stiff, slender, much-branched, and rather clammy stem bears opposite, oblong, smooth-edged leaves narrowed into petioles. One, two, or three flowers, borne at the tips of the branches, soon fall off, leaving the 5-cleft calyx to cradle four exposed nutlets. >From the five-lobed tubular corolla protrude four very long, curling, blue or violet stamens - hair stamens the Greek generic title signifies - and the pretty popular name of blue curls also has reference to these conspicuous filaments that are spirally coiled in the bud. In general habit like the two preceding plants, the FALSE PENNYROYAL (Isanthus brachiatus) nevertheless prefers that its sandy home should be near streams. From Quebec to Georgia, westward to Minnesota and Texas, it blooms in midsummer, lifting its small, tubular, pale blue flowers from the axils of pointed, opposite leaves. An unusual characteristic in one of the mint tribe is that the five sharp lobes of its bell-shaped calyx, and the five rounded, spreading lobes of the corolla, are of equal length, hence its Greek name signifying an equal flower. WILD or CREEPING THYME (Thymus Serpyllum) Mint family Flowers - Very small purple or pink purple, fragrant, clustered at ends of branches or in leaf axils. Hairy calyx and corolla 2-lipped, the latter with lower lip 3-cleft; stamens 4; style 2-cleft. Leaves: Oblong, opposite, aromatic. Stem: 4 to 12 in. long) creeping, woody, branched, forming dense cushions. Preferred Habitat - Roadsides, dry banks, and waste places. Flowering Season - June-September. Distribution - Naturalized from Europe. Nova Scotia to Middle States. "I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows; Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine, With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine." - A Midsummer Night's Dream. According to Danish tradition, anyone waiting by an elder-bush on Midsummer Night at twelve o'clock will see the king of fairyland and all his retinue pass by and disport themselves in favorite haunts, among others the mounds of fragrant wild thyme. How well Shakespeare knew his folklore! Thyme is said to have been one of the three plants which made the Virgin Mary's bed. Indeed, the European peasants have as many myths as there are quotations from the poets about this classic plant. Its very name denotes that it was used as an incense in Greek temples. No doubt it was the Common Thyme (T. vulgaris), an erect, tall plant cultivated in gardens here as a savory, that Horace says the Romans used so extensively for bee culture. Dense cushions of creeping thyme usually contain two forms of blossoms on separate plants - hermaphrodite (male and female which are much the commoner; and pistillate, or only female, flowers, in which the stamens develop no pollen. The latter are more fertile; none can fertilize itself. But blossoms so rich in nectar naturally attract quantities of insects - bees and butterflies chiefly. A newly opened hermaphrodite flower, male on the first day, dusts its visitors as they pass the ripe stamens. This pollen they carry to a flower two days old, which, having reached the female stage, receives it on the mature two-cleft stigma, now erect and tall, whereas the stamens are past maturity. GARDEN, SPEAR, or MACKEREL MINT (Mentha spicata; M. viridis of Gray) Mint family Flowers - Small, pale bluish, or pinkish purple, in whorls, forming terminal, interrupted, narrow spikes, 2 to 4 in. long in fruit, the central one surpassing lateral ones. Calyx bell-shaped, toothed; corolla tubular, 4-cleft. Stamens 4; style 2-cleft. Stem: Smooth, 1 to 1 1/2 ft. high, branched. Leaves: Opposite, narrowly oblong, acute, saw-edged, aromatic. Preferred Habitat - Moist soil. Flowering Season - July-September. Distribution - Eastern half of Canada and United States. Also Europe and Asia. The poets tell us that Proserpine, Pluto's wife, in a fit of jealousy changed a hated rival into the mint plant, whose name Mentha, in its Latin form, or Minthe, the Greek equivalent, is still that of the metamorphosed beauty, a daughter of Cocytus, who was also Pluto's wife. Proserpine certainly contrived to keep her rival's memory fragrant. But how she must delight in seeing her under the chopping-knife and served up as sauce! It is a curious fact that among the Labiates, or two-lipped blossoms to which thymes and mints belong, there very frequently occur species bearing flowers that are male on the first day (staminate) and female, or pistillate, on the second day, and also smaller female flowers on distinct plants. Muller believed this plan was devised to attract insects, first by the more showy hermaphrodite flower, that they might carry its pollen to the less conspicuous female flower, which they would naturally visit last; but this interesting theory has yet to be proved. Nineteen species of flies, to which the mints are specially adapted, have been taken in the act of transferring pollen. Ten varieties of the lower hymenoptera (bees, wasps, and others) commonly resort to the fragrant spikes of bloom. PEPPERMINT (M. piiterita), similar in manner of growth to the preceding, is another importation from Europe now thoroughly at home here in wet soil. The volatile oil obtained by distilling its leaves has long been an important item of trade in Wayne County, New York. One has only to crush the leaves in one's hand to name the flower. Our native WILD MINT (M. Canadensis), common along brook-sides and in moist soil from New Brunswick to Virginia and far westward, has its whorls of small purplish flowers seated in the leaf axils. Its odor is like pennyroyal. The true PENNYROYAL, not to be confused with our spurious woodland annual, is M. Pulegium, a native of Europe, whence a number of its less valuable relatives, all perennials, have traveled to become naturalized Americans. In dry open woods and thickets and by the roadside, from late August throughout September, we find blooming the aromatic fragrant STONE MINT, SWEET HORSE-MINT, or AMERICAN DITTANY (Cunila origanoides; C. Mariana of Gray). Its small pink-purple, lilac, or whitish flowers, that are only about half as long as the protruding pair of stamens, are borne in loose terminal clusters at the ends of the stiff, branched, slender, sometimes reddish, stem. A pair of rudimentary, useless stamens remain within the two-lipped tube; the exserted pair, affording the most convenient alighting place for the visiting flies, dust their undersides with pollen the first day the flower opens; on the next, the stigma will be ready to receive pollen carried from young flowers. NIGHTSHADE; BLUE BINDWEED; FELONWORT; BITTERSWEET; SCARLET or

Previous: CHARLIE

Add to Add to Reddit Add to Digg Add to Add to Google Add to Twitter Add to Stumble Upon

Add to Informational Site Network