SELFHEAL HEALALL BLUE CURLS HEARTOFTHEEARTH BRUNELLA
(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
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
"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
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
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
NIGHTSHADE; BLUE BINDWEED; FELONWORT; BITTERSWEET; SCARLET or
Next: SNAKE BERRY POISONFLOWER WOODY NIGHTSHADE
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