( Originally Published 1922 )
Pipsissewa; Prince's Pine
Flowers—Flesh-colored, or pinkish, fragrant, waxy, usually with deep pink ring around centre, and the anthers colored; about 2 in. across; several flowers in loose, terminal cluster. Calyx 5-cleft; corolla of 5 concave, rounded, spreading petals; 10 stamens, the filaments hairy; style short, conical, with a round stigma. Stem: Trailing far along ground, creeping, or partly subterranean, sending up sterile and flowering branches 3 to 10 in. high. Leaves: Opposite or in whorls, evergreen, bright, shining, spatulate to lance-shaped, sharply saw-edged.
Preferred Habitat—Dry woods, sandy leaf mould. Flowering Season—June—August.
Distribution—British Possessions and the United States north of Georgia from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Also Mexico, Europe, and Asia.
A lover of winter indeed (cheima = winter and phileo = to love) is the Prince's Pine, whose beautiful dark leaves keep their color and gloss in spite of snow and intense cold. A few yards of the trailing stem, easily ripped from the light soil of its woodland home, make a charming in-door decoration, especially when the little brown seed-cases remain. Few flowers are more suggestive of the woods than these shy, dainty, deliciously fragrant little blossoms.
The Spotted Wintergreen, or Pipsissewa (C. maculata), closely resembles the Prince's Pine, except that its slightly larger white or pinkish flowers lack the deep pink ring; and the lance-shaped leaves, with rather distant saw-teeth. are beautifully mottled with white along the veins. When we see short-lipped bees and flies about these flowers, we may be sure their pollen-covered mouths come in contact with the moist stigma on the summit of the little top-shaped style, and so effect cross-fertilization.
Indian Pipe; Ice-plant; Ghost-flower; Corpse-plant
Flowers-Solitary, smooth, waxy, white (rarely pink), oblong bell-shaped, nodding from the tip of a fleshy, white, scaly scape 4 to 10 in. tall. Calyx of 2 to 4r early-falling white sepals; 4 or 5 oblong, scale-like petals; 8 or 10 tawny, hairy stamens; a 5-celled, egg-shaped ovary, narrowed into the short, thick style. Leaves: None. Roots: A mass of brittle fibres, from which usually a cluster of several white scapcs arises. Fruit: A 5-valved, many-seeded, erect capsule.
Preferred Habitat—Heavily shaded, moist, rich woods, especially under oak and pine trees.
Distribution—Almost throughout temperate North America.
Colorless in every part, waxy, cold, and clammy, Indian pipes rise like a company of wraiths in the dim forest that suits them well. Ghoulish parasites, uncanny saprophytes, for their matted roots prey either on the juices of living plants or on the decaying matter of dead ones, how weirdly beautiful and decorative they are! The strange plant grows also in Japan, and one can readily imagine how fascinated the native artists must be by its chaste-charms.
Yet to one who can read the faces of flowers, as it were, it stands a branded sinner. Doubtless its ancestors were industrious, honest creatures, seeking their food in the soil, and digesting it with the help of leaves filled with good green matter (chlorophyll) on which virtuous vegetable life depends; but some ancestral knave elected to live by piracy, to drain the already digested food of its neigh_ bors; so the Indian Pipe gradually lost the use of parts for which it has need no longer, until we find it to-day without color and its leaves degenerated into mere scaly bracts. Nature had manifold ways of illustrating the parable of the ten pieces of money. Spiritual law is natural law: "From him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away." Among plants as among souls, there are all degrees of backsliders. The foxglove, which is guilty of only sly, petty larceny, wears not the equivalent of the striped suit and the shaved head; nor does the mistletoe, which steals crude food from the tree, but still digests it itself, and is therefore only a dingy yellowish green. Such plants, however, as the broom-rape, Pine Sap, beech-drops, the Indian Pipe, and the dodder—which marks the lowest stage of degradation of them all—appear among their race branded with the mark of crime as surely as was Cain.
No wonder this degenerate hangs its head; no wonder it grows black with shame on being picked, as if its wickedness were only just then discovered! To think that a plant related on one side to many of the loveliest flowers in Nature's garden—the azaleas, laurels, rhododendrons, and the bonny heather—and on the other side to the modest but no less charming wintergreen tribe, should have fallen from grace to such a depth! Its scientific name, meaning a flower once turned, describes it during only a part of its career. When the- minute, innumerable seeds begin to form, it proudly raises its head erect, as if conscious that it had-performed the one righteous act of its life.
Pine Sap; False Beech-drops; Yellow Bird's-nest
Flowers—Tawny, yellow, ecru, brownish pink, reddish, or bright crimson, fragrant, about 2 in. long; oblong bell-shaped; borne in a one-sided, terminal, slightly drooping raceme, becoming erect after maturity. &apes: Clustered from a dense mass of fleshy, fibrous roots; 4 to 12 in. tall, scaly bracted, the bractlets resembling the sepals. Leaves: None.
Preferred Habitat—Dry woods, especially under fir, beech, and oak trees.
Distribution—Florida and Arizona, far northward into British Possessions. Europe and Asia.
Branded a sinner, through its loss of leaves and honest green coloring matter (chlorophyll), the Pine Sap stands among the disreputable gang of thieves that includes its next of kin the Indian Pipe, the broom-rape, dodder, coral-root, and beech-drops. Degenerates like these, although members of highly respectable, industrious, virtuous fain. ilies, would appear to be as low in the vegetable kingdom as any fungus, were it not for the flowers they still bear. Petty larceny, no greater than the foxglove's at first, then greater and greater thefts, finally lead to ruin, until the pine-sap parasite either sucks its food from the roots of the trees under which it takes up its abode, or absorbs, like a ghoulish saprophyte, the products of vegetable decay. A plant that does not manufacture its own dinner has no need of chlorophyll and leaves, for assimilation of crude food can take place only in those cells which contain the vital green. This substance, universally found in plants that grub in the soil and literally sweat for their daily bread, acts also as a moderator of respiration by its absorptive influence on light, and hence allows the elimination of carbon dioxide to go on in the cells which contain it. Fungi and these degenerates which lack chlorophyll usually grow in dark, shady woods.
Wild Honeysuckle; Pink, Purple, or Wild Azalea;
Flowers—Crimson pink, purplish or rose pink, to nearly white, 1 1/2 to 2 in. across, faintly fragrant, clustered, opening before or with the leaves, and developed from cone-like, scaly brown buds. Calyx minute, 5-parted; corolla funnel-shaped, the tube narrow, hairy, with 5 regular, spreading lobes; 5 long red stamens; 1 pistil, declined, protruding. Stem: Shrubby, usually simple below, but branching above, 2 to 6 ft. high. Leaves: Usually clustered, deciduous, oblong, acute at both ends, hairy on midrib.
Preferred Habitat—Moist, rocky woods, or dry woods and thickets.
Distribution—Maine to Illinois, and southward to the Gulf.
Woods and hillsides are glowing with fragrant, rosy masses of this lovely azalea, the Pinxter-bloem or White sunday flower of the Dutch colonists, long before the seventh Sunday after Easter. Among our earliest ex-ports, this hardy shrub, the Swamp Azalea, and the superb flame-colored species of the Alleghanies, were sent early in the eighteenth century to the old country, and there crossed with A. Pontica of southern Europe by the Belgian horticulturists, to whom we owe the Ghent azaleas, the final triumphs of the hybridizer, that glorify the shrubberies on our own lawns to-day. The azalea became the national flower of Flanders. These hardy species lose their leaves in winter, whereas the hothouse varieties of A. Indica, a native of China and Japan, have thickish leaves, almost if not quite evergreen. A few of the latter stand our northern winters, especially the pure white variety now quite commonly planted in cemetery lots. In that delightfully enthusiastic little book, "The Garden's Story," Mr. Ellwanger says of the Ghent Azalea: "In it I find a charm presented by no other flower. Its soft tints of buff, sulphur, and primrose; its dazzling shades of apricot, salmon, orange, and vermilion are always a fresh revelation of color. They have no parallel among flowers, and exist only in opals, sunset skies, and the flush of autumn woods." Certainly American horticulturists were not clever in allowing the industry of raising these plants from our native stock to thrive on foreign soil.
From Maine to Florida and westward to Texas, chiefly near the coast, in low, wet places only need we look for the Swamp Pink or Honeysuckle, White or Clammy Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum a more hairy species than the Pinxter-flower, with a very sticky, glandular corolla tube, and deliciously fragrant blossoms, by no means invariably white. John Burroughs is not the only one who has passed "several patches of swamp honey-suckles, red with blossoms" ("Wake-Robin"). But as this species does not bloom until June and July, when the sun quickly bleaches the delicate flowers, it is true we most frequently find them white, merely tinged with pink. The leaves are well developed before the blossoms appear.
American or Great Rhododendron; Great Laurel; Rose
Tree, or Bay
Flowers—Rose pink, varying to white, greenish in the throat, spotted with yellow or orange, in broad clusters set like a bouquet among leaves, and developed from scaly, cone-like buds; pedicels sticky-hairy. Calyx 5-parted minute; corolla 5-lobed, broadly bell-shaped, 2 in. broad or less; usually 10 stamens, equally spreading; 1 pistil. Stem: Sometimes a tree attaining a height of 40 ft., usually 6 to 20 ft., shrubby, woody. Leaves: Evergreen, drooping in winter, leathery, dark green on both sides, lance-oblong, 4 to 10 in. long, entire edged, narrowing into stout petioles.
Preferred Habitat—Mountainous woodland, hillsides near streams.
Distribution—Uncommon from Ohio and New England to Nova Scotia; abundant through the Alleghanies to Georgia.
When this most magnificent of our native shrubs covers whole mountainsides throughout the Alleghany region with bloom, one stands awed in the presence of such overwhelming beauty. Nowhere else does the rhododendron attain such size or luxuriance. There it produces a tall trunk, and towers among the trees; it spreads its branches far and wide until they interlock and form almost impenetrable thickets locally called "hells" where pioneer explorers wandered, lost themselves and perished; it glorifies the loneliest mountain road with superb bouquets of its delicate flowers set among dark, glossy foliage scarcely less attractive. The mountain in bloom is worth travelling a thousand miles to see.
Rhododendrons, azaleas, and laurels fall under a common ban pronounced by bee-keepers. The bees which transfer pollen from blossom to blossom while gathering nectar, manufacture honey said to be poisonous. Cattle know enough to let all this foliage alone. Apparently the ants fear no more evil results from the nectar than the bees themselves; and were it not for the sticky parts nearest the flowers, on which they crawl to meet their death, the blossom's true benefactors would find little refreshment left.
Mountain or American Laurel; Calico Bush; Spoon-wood; Calmoun; Broad-leaved Kalmia Kalmia latifolia
Flowers—Buds and new flowers bright rose pink, after-ward fading white, and only lined with pink, 1 in. across or less, numerous, in terminal clusters. Calyx small, 5-parted, sticky; corolla like a 5-pointed saucer, with 10 projections on outside; 10 arching stamens, an anther lodged in each projection; 1 pistil. Stem: Shrubby, woody, stiffly branched, 2 to 20 ft. high. Leaves: Evergreen, entire, oval to elliptic, pointed at both ends, tapering into petioles. Fruit: A round, brown capsule, with the style long remaining on it.
Preferred Habitat—Sandy or rocky woods, especially in hilly or mountainous country. ,
Distribution—New Brunswick and Ontario, southward to the Gulf of Mexico, and westward to Ohio.
It would be well if Americans, imitating the Japanese in making pilgrimages to scenes of supreme natural beauty, visited the mountains, rocky, woody hillsides, ravines, and tree-girt uplands when the laurel is in its glory; when masses of its pink and white blossoms, set among the dark evergreen leaves, flush the landscape like Aurora, and are reflected from the pools of streams and the serene depths of mountain lakes. Peter Kalm, a Swedish pupil of Linnaeus, who travelled here early in the eighteenth century, was more impressed by its beauty than that of any other flower. He introduced the plant to Europe, where it is known as kalmia, and extensively cultivated on fine estates that are thrown open to the public during the flowering season. Even a flower is not without honor, save in its own country. We have only to prepare a border of leaf mould, take up the young plant without injuring the roots or allowing them to dry, hurry them into the ground, and prune back the bush a little, to establish it in our gardens, where it will bloom freely after the second year. Lime in the soil and manure are fatal to it as well as to rhododendrons and azaleas. All they require is a mulch of leaves kept on winter and summer that their fine fibrous roots may never dry out.
All the kalmias resort to a most ingenious device for compelling insect visitors to carry their pollen from blossom to blossom. A newly-opened flower has its stigma erected where the incoming bee must leave on its sticky surface the four minute orange-like grains carried from the anther of another flower on the hairy underside of her body. Now, each anther is tucked away in one of the ten little pockets of the saucer-shaped blossom, and the elastic filaments are strained upward like a bow. After hovering above the nectary, the bee has only to descend toward it, when her leg, touching against one of the hair-triggers of the spring trap, pop! goes the little anther-gun, discharging pollen from its bores as it flies upward. So delicately is the mechanism adjusted, the slightest jar or rough handling releases the anthers; but, on the other hand, should insects be excluded by a net stretched over the plant, the flowers will fall off and wither without firing off their pollen-charged guns. At least, this is true in the great majority of tests. As in the case of hothouse flowers, no fertile seed is set when nets keep away the laurel's benefactors. One has only to touch the hair-trigger with the end of a pin to see how exquisitely delicate is this provision for cross-fertilization.
However much we may be cautioned by the apiculturists against honey made from laurel nectar, the bees themselves ignore all warnings and apparently without evil results—happily for the flowers dependent upon them and their kin. Mr. Frank R. Cheshire, in "Bees and Bee-keeping," the standard English work on the subject, writes: "During the celebrated Retreat of the Ten Thousand, as recorded by Xenophon in his `Anabasis,' the soldiers regaled themselves upon some honey found near Trebizonde, where were many bee-hives. Intoxication with vomiting was the result. Some were so over-come, he states, as to be incapable of standing. Not a soldier died, but very many were greatly weakened for several days. Tournefort endeavored to ascertain whether this account was corroborated by anything ascertainable in the locality, and had good reason to be satisfied respecting it. He concluded that the honey had been gathered from a shrub growing in the neighborhood of Trebizonde, which is well known there as producing the before-mentioned effects. It is now agreed that the plants were species of rhododendron and azaleas. Lamberti confirms Xenophon's account by stating that similar effects are produced by honey of Colchis, where the same shrubs are common. In 1790, even, fatal cases occurred in America in consequence of eating wild honey, which was traced to Kalmia latifolia by an inquiry instituted under direction of the American government.
Sheep-laurel, Lamb-kill, Wicky, Calf-kill, Sheep-poison, Narrow-leaved Laurel (K. angustifolia), and so on through a list of folk-names testifying chiefly to the plant's wickedness in the pasture, may be especially deadly food for cattle, but it certainly is a feast to the eyes. However much we may admire the small, deep crimson-pink flowers that we find in June and July in moist fields or swampy ground or on the hillsides, few of us will agree with Thoreau, who claimed that it is "handsomer than the Mountain Laurel." The low shrub may be only six inches high, or it may attain three feet. The narrow evergreen leaves, pale on the underside, have a tendency to form groups of threes, standing upright when newly put forth, but bent down-ward with the weight of age. A peculiarity of the plant is that clusters of leaves usually terminate the woody stem, for the flowers grow in whorls or in clusters at the side of it below.
Trailing Arbutus; Mayflower; Ground Laurel
Flowers—Pink, fading to nearly white, very fragrant, about 1/2 in. across when expanded, few or many in clusters at ends of branches. Calyx of 5 dry overlapping sepals; corolla salver-shaped, the slender, hairy tube spreading into 5 equal lobes; 10 stamens; 1 pistil with a column-like style and a 5-lobed stigma. Stem: Spreading over the ground (Epigaea = on the earth) ; woody, the leafy twigs covered with rusty hairs. Leaves: Alternate, oval, rounded at the base, smooth above, more or less hairy below, evergreen, weather-worn, on short, rusty, hairy petioles.
Preferred Habitat—Light sandy loam in woods, especially
under evergreen trees, or in mossy, rocky places. Flowering Season—March—May. Distribution—Newfoundland to Florida, west to Kentucky
and the Northwest Territory.
Can words describe the fragrance of the very breath of spring—that delicious commingling of the perfume of arbutus, the odor of- pines, and the snow-soaked soil just warming into life? Those who know the flower only as it is sold in the city streets, tied with wet, dirty string into tight bunches, withered and forlorn, can have little idea of the joy of finding the pink, pearly blossoms freshly opened among the withered leaves of oak and chestnut, moss and pine needles in which they nestle close to the cold earth in the leafless, windy northern forest. Even in Florida, where broad patches carpet the woods in February, one misses something of the arbutus's accustomed charm simply because there are no slushy remnants of snowdrifts, no reminders of winter hardships in the vicinity. There can be no glad surprise at finding dainty spring flowers in a land of perpetual summer. Little wonder that the Pilgrim Fathers, after the first awful winter on the "stern New England coast," loved this early messenger of hope and gladness above the frozen ground at Plymouth. In an introductory note to his poem "The Mayflowers," Whittier states that the name was familiar in England, as, the application of it to the historic vessel shows; but it was applied by the English, and still is, to the hawthorn. Its use in New England in connection with the Trailing Arbutus dates from a very early day, some claiming that the first Pilgrims so used it in affectionate memory of the vessel and its English flower association.
"Sad Mayflower! watched by winter stars, And nursed by winter gales, With petals of the sleeted spars, And leaves of frozen sails!
"But warmer suns ere long shall bring To life the frozen sod, And through dead leaves of hope shall spring Afresh the flowers of God!"
There is little use trying to coax this shyest of sylvan flowers into our gardens where other members of its family, rhododendrons, laurels, and azaleas make themselves delightfully at home. It is wild as a hawk, an untamable creature that slowly pines to death when brought into contact with civilization. Greedy street venders, who ruthlessly tear up the plant by the yard, and others with-out even the excuse of eking out a paltry income by its sale, have already exterminated it within a wide radius of our Eastern cities. How curious that the majority of people show their appreciation of a flower's beauty only by selfishly, ignorantly picking every specimen they can find!
Creeping Wintergreen; Checker-berry; Partridge-berry; Mountain Tea; Ground Tea, Deer, Box, or Spice Berry Gaultheria procumbens
Flowers—White, small, usually solitary, nodding from a leaf axil. Corolla rounded bell-shape, 5-toothed; calyx 5-parted, persistent; 10 included stamens, their anther-sacs opening by a pore at the top. Stun: Creeping above or below ground, its branches 2 to 6 in. high. Leaves: Mostly clustered at top of branches; alternate, glossy, leathery, evergreen, much darker above than underneath, oval to oblong, very finely saw-edged; the entire plant aromatic. Fruit: Bright red, mealy, spicy, berry-like; ripe in October.
Preferred Habitat—Cool woods, especially under ever-greens.
Flowering Season—June—September. Distribution—Newfoundland to Georgia, westward to Michigan and Manitoba.
"Where cornels arch their cool, dark boughs o'er beds of wintergreen," wrote Bryant; yet it is safe to say that nine colonies out of ten of this hardy little plant are under evergreens, not dogwood trees. Poets make us feel the spirit of Nature in a wonderful way, but—look out for their facts!
Omnivorous children who are addicted to birch-chewing prefer these tender yellow-green leaves tinged with red, when newly put forth in June—"Youngsters" rural New Englanders call them then. In some sections a kind of tea is steeped from the leaves, which also furnish the old-fashioned embrocation, wintergreen oil. Late in the year the glossy bronze carpet of old leaves dotted over with vivid red "berries" invites much trampling by hungry birds and beasts, especially deer and bears, not to mention well-fed humans. Coveys of Bob Whites and packs of grouse will plunge beneath the snow for fare so delicious as this spicy, mealy fruit that hangs on the plant till spring, of course for the benefit of just such colonizing agents as they. Quite a different species, belonging to an-other family, bears the true partridge-berry, albeit the wintergreen shares with it a number of popular names. In a strict sense neither of these plants produces a berry; for the fruit of the true Partridge Vine (Mitchella repens) is a double drupe, or stone bearer, each half containing four hard, seed-like nutlets; while the wintergreen's so-called berry is merely the calyx grown thick, fleshy, and gayly colored—only a coating for the five-celled ovary that contains the minute seeds. Little baskets of wintergreen berries bring none too high prices in the fancy fruit and grocery shops when we calculate how many charming plants such unnatural use of them sacrifices.