(Viola) Violet family
Fine hairs on the erect, leafy, usually single stem of the DOWNY
YELLOW VIOLET (V. pubescens), whose dark veined, bright yellow
petals gleam in dry woods in April and May, easily distinguish it
from the SMOOTH YELLOW VIOLET (V. scabriuscula),
considered a mere variety in spite of its being an earlier
bloomer, a lover of moisture, and well equipped with basal leaves
at flowering time, which the downy species is not. Moreover, it
bears a paler blossom, more coarsely dentate leaves, often
decidedly taper-pointed, and usually several stems together.
Our other common yellow species, the ROUND-LEAVED VIOLET (V.
rotundifolia), lifts smaller, pale, brown-veined, and bearded
blossoms above a tuffet of broad, shining leaves close to the
ground. The veins on the petals serve as pathfinders to the
nectary for the bee, and the beard as footholds, while she probes
the inverted blossoms. Such violets as have their side petals
bearded are most frequently visited by small greenish mason bees
(Osmia), with collecting brushes on their abdomen that receive
the pollen as it falls. Abundant cleistogamous flowers (see blue
violets and white wood sorrel) are borne on the runners late in
the season. Bryant, whose botanical lore did not always keep step
with his Muse, wrote of the yellow violet as the first spring
flower, because he found it "by the snowbank's edges cold," one
April day, when the hepaticas about his home at Roslyn, Long
Island, had doubtless been in bloom a month.
"Of all her train the hands of Spring
First plant thee in the watery mould,"
he wrote, regardless of the fact that the round-leaved violet's
preferences are for dry, wooded, or rocky hillsides. Muller
believed that all violets were originally yellow, not white,
after they evoluted from the green stage.
Next: EASTERN CACTUS PRICKLY PEAR INDIAN FIG
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