WILD LUPINE OLD MAID'S BONNETS WILD PEA SUN DIAL
(Lupinus perennis) Pea family
Flowers - Vivid blue, very rarely pink or white, butterfly-shaped
corolla consisting of standard, wings, and keel; about 1/2 in.
long, borne in a long raceme at end of stern; calyx 2-lipped,
deeply toothed. Stem: Erect, branching, leafy, to
2 ft. high.
Leaves: Palmnate, compounded of from 7 to 11 (usually 8)
leaflets. Fruit: A broad, flat, very hairy pod, 1 1/2 in. long,
and containing 4 or 5 seeds.
Preferred Habitat - Dry, sandy places, banks, and hillsides.
Flowering Season - May-June.
Distribution - United States east of Mississippi, and eastern
Farmers once thought that this plant preyed upon the fertility of
their soil, as we see in the derivation of its name, from lupus,
a wolf; whereas the lupine contents itself with sterile waste
land no one should grudge it - steep gravelly banks, railroad
tracks, exposed sunny hills, where even it must often burn out
under fierce sunshine did not its root penetrate to surprising
depths. It spreads far and wide in thrifty colonies, reflecting
the vivid color of June skies, until, as Thoreau says, "the earth
is blued with it."
What is the advantage gained in the pea-shaped blossom? As usual,
the insect that fertilizes the flower best knows the answer. The
corolla has five petals, the upper one called the standard,
chiefly a flaunted advertisement; two side wings, or platforms,
to alight on; and a keel like a miniature boat, formed by the two
lower petals, whose edges meet. In this the pistil, stamens, and
nectar are concealed and protected. The pressure of a bee's
weight as he alights on the wings, light as it must be, is
nevertheless sufficient to depress and open the keel, which is
elastically affected by their motion, and so to expose the pollen
just where the long-lipped bee must rub off some against his
underside as he sucks the nectar. He actually seems to pump the
pollen that has fallen into the forward part of the keel upon
himself, as he moves about. As soon as he leaves the flower, the
elastic wings resume their former position, thus closing the keel
to prevent waste of pollen. Take a sweet pea from the garden,
press down its wings with the thumb and forefinger to imitate the
action of the bee on them; note how the keel opens to display its
treasures, and resumes its customary shape when the pressure is
The lupine is another of those interesting plants which go to
sleep at night. Some members of the genus erect one half of the
leaf and droop the other half until it becomes a vertical instead
of the horizontal star it is by day. Frequently the leaflets
rotate as much as 90 degrees on their own axes. Some lupines fold
their leaflets, not at night only, but during the day also there
is more or less movement in the leaves. Sun dial, a popular name
for the wild lupine, has reference to this peculiarity. The leaf
of our species shuts downward around its stem, umbrella fashion,
or the leaflets are erected to prevent the chilling which comes
to horizontal surfaces by radiation, some scientists think. "That
the sleep movements of leaves are in some manner of high
importance to the plants which exhibit them," says Darwin, "few
will dispute who have observed how complex they sometimes are."
CANADIAN or SHOWY TICK-TREFOIL
(Meibomia Canadensis; Desmodium Canadense of Gray) Pea family
Flowers - Pinkish or bluish purple, butterfly-shaped, about 1/2
in. long, borne in dense, terminal, elongated racemes. Stem;
Erect, hairy, leafy, 2 to 8 ft. high. Leaves: Compounded of 3
oblong leaflets, the central one largest; upper leaves nearly
seated on stem; bracts, conspicuous before flowering, early
falling off. Fruit: A flat pod, about 1 in. long, jointed, and
covered with minute hooked bristles, the lower edge of pod
scalloped; almost seated in calyx.
Preferred Habitat - Thickets, woods, riverbanks, bogs. Flowering
Season - July-September.
Distribution - New Brunswick to Northwest Territory, south to
North Carolina, westward to Indian Territory and Dakota.
As one travels hundreds or even thousands of miles in a
comfortable railway carriage and sees the same flowers growing
throughout the length and breadth of the area, one cannot but
wonder however the plants manage to make the journey. We know
some creep along the ground, or under it, a tortoise pace, but a
winning one; that some send their offspring flying away from
home, like dandelions and thistles; and many others with wings
and darts are blown by the wind. Berries have their seeds dropped
afar by birds. Aquatic plants and those that grow beside running
water travel by river and flood. European species reach our
shores among the ballast. Darwin raised over sixty wild plants
from seed carried in a pellet of mud taken from the leg of a
partridge. So on and so on. The imagination delights to picture
these floral vagabonds, each with its own clever method of
getting a fresh start in the world. But by none of these methods
just mentioned do the tick-trefoils spread abroad. Theirs is
indeed a by hook or by crook system. The scalloped, jointed pod,
where the seeds lie concealed, has minute crooked bristles, which
catch in the clothing of man or beast, so that every herd of
sheep, every dog, every man, woman, or child who passes through a
patch of trefoils gives them a lift. After a walk through the
woods and lanes of late summer and autumn, one's clothes reveal
scores of tramps that have stolen a ride in the hope of being
picked off and dropped amid better conditions in which to rear a
Only the largest bees can easily "explode" the showy
tick-trefoil. A bumblebee alights upon a flower, thrusts his head
under the base of the standard petal, and forces apart the wing
petals with his legs, in order to dislodge them from the
standard. This motion causes the keel, also connected with the
standard, to snap down violently, thus releasing the column
within and sending upward an explosion of pollen on the under
surface of the bee. Here we see the wing petals acting as
triggers to discharge the flower. Depress them and up flies the
fertilizing dust - once. The little gun will not "go off" twice.
No nectar rewards the visitor, which usually is a
pollen-collecting bee. The highly intelligent and important
bumblebee has the advantage over his smaller kin in being able to
discharge the pollen from both large and smaller flowers.
The NAKED-FLOWERED TICK-TREFOIL (M. nudiflora; D. nudiflorum of
Gray) lifts narrow, few-flowered panicles of rose-purple blooms
during July and August. The flowers are much smaller than those
of the showy trefoil; however, when seen in masses, they form
conspicuous patches of color in dry woods. Note that there is a
flower stalk which is usually leafless and also a leaf-bearing
stem rising from the base of the plant, the latter with its
leaves all crowded at the top, if you would distinguish this very
common species from its multitudinous kin. The trefoliate leaves
are pale beneath. The two or three jointed pod rises far above
the calyx on its own stalk, as in the next species.
The POINTED-LEAVED TICK-TREFOIL (M. grandifiora; D. acuminatum of
Gray) has for its distinguishing feature a cluster of leaves high
up on the same stem from which rises a stalk bearing a quantity
of purple flowers that are large by comparison only. The leaves
have leaflets from two to six inches long, rounded on the sides,
but acutely pointed, and with scattered hairs above and below.
This trefoil is found blooming in dry or rocky woods, throughout
a wide range, from June to September.
Lying outstretched for two to six feet on the dry ground of open
woods and copses east of the Mississippi, the PROSTRATE
TICK-TREFOIL (M. Michauxii; D. rotundifoliurn of Gray) can
certainly be named by its soft hairiness, the almost perfect
roundness of its trefoliate leaves, its rather loose racemes of
deep purple flowers that spring both from the leaf axils and from
the ends of the sometimes branching stem; and by its three to
five jointed pod, which is deeply scalloped on its lower edge and
somewhat indented above, as well.
BLUE, TUFTED, or COW VETCH or TARE; CAT PEAS; TINEGRASS
(Vicia Cracca) Pea family
Flowers - Blue, later purple; 1/2 in. long, growing downward in
1-sided spike, 15 to 40 flowered; calyx oblique, small, with
unequal teeth; corolla butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard,
wings, and keel, all oblong; the first clawed, the second
oblique, and adhering to the shorter keel; 10 stamens, 1 detached
from other 9. Stem: Slender, weak, climbing or trailing, downy, 2
to 4 ft. long. Leaves: Tendril bearing, divided into 18 to 24
thin, narrow, oblong leaflets. Fruit: A smooth pod 1 in. long or
less, 5 to 8 seeded.
Preferred Habitat - Dry soil, fields, wastelands.
Flowering Season - June-August.
Distribution - United States from New Jersey, Kentucky, and Iowa
northward and northwestward. Europe and Asia.
Dry fields blued with the bright blossoms of the tufted vetch,
and roadsides and thickets where the angular vine sends forth
vivid patches of color, resound with the music of happy bees.
Although the parts of the flower fit closely together, they are
elastic, and opening with the energetic visitor's weight and
movement give ready access to the nectary. On his departure they
resume their original position, to protect both nectar and pollen
from rain and pilferers whose bodies are not perfectly adapted to
further the flower's cross-fertilization. The common bumblebee
(Bombus terrestris) plays a mean trick, all too frequently, when
he bites a hole at the base of the blossom, not only gaining easy
access to the sweets for himself, but opening the way for others
less intelligent than he, but quite ready to profit by his
mischief, and so defeat nature's plan. Dr. Ogle observed that the
same bee always acts in the same manner, one sucking the nectar
legitimately, another always biting a hole to obtain it
surreptitiously, the natural inference, of course, being that
some bees, like small boys, are naturally depraved.
In cultivated fields and waste places farther south and westward
to the Pacific Coast roams the COMMON or PEBBLE VETCH OR TARE (V.
saliva), another domesticated weed that has come to us from
Europe, where it is extensively grown for fodder. Let no reproach
fall on these innocent plants that bear an opprobrious name: the
tare of Scripture is altogether different, the bearded darnel of
Mediterranean regions, whose leaves deceive one by simulating
those of wheat, and whose smaller seeds, instead of nourishing
man, poison him. Only one or two light blue-purple flowers grow
in the axils of the leaves of our common vetch. The leaf,
compounded of from eight to fourteen leaflets, indented at the
top, has a long terminal tendril, whose little sharp tip assists
the awkward vine, like a grappling hook.
The AMERICAN VETCH or TARE or PEA VINE (V. Americana) boasts
slightly larger bluish-purple flowers than the blue vetch, but
fewer of them; from three to nine only forming its loose raceme.
In moist soil throughout a very broad northerly and westerly
range it climbs and trails its graceful way, with the help of the
tendrils on the tips of leaves compounded of from eight to
fourteen oblong, blunt, and veiny leaflets.
BEACH, SEA, SEASIDE, or EVERLASTING PEA
(Lathyrus maritimus) Pea family
Flowers - Purple, butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard petal,
wings, and keel; 1 in. long or less, clustered in short raceme at
end of slender footstalk from leaf axils; calyx 5-toothed;
stamens 10 (9 and 1); style curved, flattened, bearded on inner
side. Stem: to 2 ft. long, stout, reclining, spreading, leafy.
Leaves: Compounded of 3 to 6 pairs of oblong leaflets somewhat
larger than halberd-shaped stipules at base of leaf; branched
tendrils at end of it. Fruit: A flat, 2-valved, veiny pod,
continuous between the seeds.
Preferred Habitat - Beaches of Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, also
of Great Lakes.
Flowering Season - May-August. Sometimes blooming again in
Distribution - New Jersey to Arctic Circle; also Northern Europe
Sturdy clumps of the beach pea, growing beyond reach of the tide
in the dunes and sandy wastelands back of the beach, afford the
bee the last restaurant where he may regale himself without fear
of drowning. From some members of the pea family, as from the
wild lupine, for example, his weight, as he moves about, actually
pumps the pollen that has fallen into the forward part of the
blossom's keel onto his body, that he may transfer it to another
flower. In some other members his weight so depresses the keel
that the stamens are forced out to dust him over, the flower
resuming its original position to protect its nectar and the
remaining pollen just as soon as the pressure is removed. Other
peas, again, burst at his pressure, and discharge their pollen on
him. Now, in the beach pea, and similarly in the vetches, the
style is hairy on its inner side, to brush out the pollen on the
visitor who sets the automatic sweeper in motion as he alights
and moves about. So perfectly have many members of this
interesting family adapted their structure to the requirements of
insects, and so implicitly do they rely on their automatic
mechanism, that they have actually lost the power to fertilize
In moist or wet ground throughout a northern range from ocean to
ocean, the MARSH VETCHLING (Lathyrus palustris) bears its purple,
butterfly-shaped flowers, that are the merest trifle over half
the size of those of the beach pea. From two to six of these
little blossoms are alternately set along the end of the stalk.
The leaflets, which are narrowly oblong, and acute at the apex,
stand up opposite each other in pairs (from two to four) along
the main leafstalk, that splits at the end to form hooked
BUTTERFLY or BLUE PEA
(Clitoria Mariana) Pea family
Flowers - Bright lavender blue, showy, about 2 in. long; from 1
to 3 borne on a short peduncle. Calyx tubular, 5-toothed; corolla
butterfly-shaped, consisting of very large, erect standard petal,
notched at rounded apex; 2 oblong, curved wings, and shorter,
acute keel; 10 stamens; style incurved, and hairy along inner
side. Stem: Smooth, ascending or partly twining, 1 to 3 ft. high.
Leaves: Compounded of 3 oblong leaflets, paler beneath, each on
short stalk. Fruit: A few-seeded, acutely pointed pod about 1 in.
Preferred Habitat - Dry soil.
Flowering Season - June-July.
Distribution - New Jersey to Florida, westward to Missouri,
Texas, and Mexico.
A beautiful blossom, flaunting a large banner out of all
proportion to the size of its other parts, that it may arrest the
attention of its benefactors the bees. According to Henderson,
the plant, which is found in our Southern States and over the
Mexican border, grows also in the Khasia Mountains of India, but
in no intervening place. Several members of the tropic-loving
genus, that produce large, highly colored flowers, have been
introduced to American hothouses; but the blue butterfly pea is
our only native representative. The genus is thought to take its
name from kleio, to shut up, in reference to the habit these peas
have of seeding long before the flower drops off.
WILD or HOG PEANUT
(Falcata comosa; Amphicarpaea monoica of Gray) Pea family
Flowers - Numerous small, showy ones, borne in drooping clusters
from axils of upper leaves; lilac, pale purplish, or rarely
white, butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard petal partly
enfolding wings and keel. Calyx tubular, 4 or 5 toothed; 10
stamens (9 and 1); 1 pistil. (Also solitary fertile flowers,
lacking petals, on thread-like, creeping branches from lower
axils or underground). Stem: Twining wiry brownish-hairy, to 8
ft. long. Leaves: Compounded of 3 thin leaflets, egg-shaped at
base, acutely pointed at tip. Fruit: Hairy pod 1 in. long. Also
1-seeded, pale, rounded, underground peanut.
Preferred Habitat - Moist thickets, shady roadsides.
Flowering Season - August-September.
Distribution - New Brunswick westward to Nebraska, south to Gulf
Amphicarpaea ("seed at both ends"), the Greek name by which this
graceful vine was formerly known, emphasizes its most interesting
feature, that, nevertheless, seems to many a foolish duplication
of energy on Nature's part. Why should the same plant bear two
kinds of blossoms and seeds? Among the foliage of low shrubbery
and plants in shady lanes and woodside thickets, we see the
delicate, drooping clusters of lilac blossoms hanging where bees
can readily discover them and, in pilfering their sweets,
transfer their pollen from flower to flower. But in case of
failure to intercross these blossoms that are dependent upon
insect help to set fertile seed, what then? Must the plant run
the risk of extinction? Self-fertilization may be an evil, but
failure to produce seed at all is surely the greatest one. To
guard against such a calamity, insignificant looking flowers that
have no petals to open for the enticing of insects, but which
fertilize themselves with their own pollen, produce abundant seed
close to the ground or under it.Then what need of the showy
blossoms hanging in the thicket above? Close inbreeding in the
vegetable world, as in the animal, ultimately produces degenerate
offspring; and although the showy lilac blossoms of the wild
peanut yield comparatively few cross-fertilized seeds, these are
quite sufficient to enable the vine to maintain those desired
features which are the inheritance from ancestors that struggled
in their day and generation after perfection. No plant dares
depend upon its cleistogamous or blind flowers alone for
offspring; and in the sixty or more genera containing these
curious growths, that usually look like buds arrested in
development, every plant that bears them bears also showy flowers
dependent upon cross-pollination by insect aid.
The boy who
"Drives home the cows from the pasture
Up through the long shady lane"
knows how reluctantly they leave the feast afforded by the wild
peanut. Hogs, rooting about in the moist soil where it grows,
unearth the hairy pods that should produce next year's vines;
hence the poor excuse for branding a charming plant with a
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