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Primrose Family

( Originally Published 1922 )



Four-leaved or Whorled Loosestrife; Crosswort

Lysimachia quadrifolia

Flowers—Yellow, streaked with dark red, 2 in. across or less; each on a thread-like, spreading footstem from a leaf axil. Calyx, 5 to 7 parted; corolla of 5 to 7 spreading lobes, and as many stamens inserted on the throat; 1 pistil. Stem: Slender, erect, 1 to 3 ft. tall, leafy. Leaves: In whorls of 4 (rarely in 3's to 7's), lance-shaped or oblong, entire, black dotted.

Preferred Habitat—Open woodland, thickets, roadsides; moist, sandy soil.

Flowering Season—June—August.

Distribution—Georgia and Illinois, north to New Brunswick.

Medieval herbalists usually recorded anything that "Plinie saieth" with profoundest respect; not always so, quaint old Parkinson. Speaking of the common (vulgaris) Wild Loosestrife of Europe, a rather stout, downy species with terminal clusters of good-sized, yellow flowers, that was once cultivated in our Eastern states, and has sparingly escaped from gardens, he thus refers to the reputation given it by the Roman naturalist: "It is believed to take away strife, or debate between ye beasts, not onely those that are yoked together, but even those that are wild also, by making them tame and quiet if it be either put about their yokes or their necks," significantly adding, "which how true, I leave to them shall try and find it soe." Our slender, symmetrical, common loosestrife, with its whorls of leaves and little star-shaped blossoms on thread-like pedicels at regular intervals up the stem, is not even distantly related to the wonderful Purple Loosestrife.

Another common, lower-growing species, the Bulb-bearing Loosestrife (L. terrestris), blooms from July to September and shows a decided preference for swamps and ditches throughout a range which extends from Manitoba and Arkansas to the Atlantic Ocean.

Star-flower; Chickweed Wintergreen; Star Anemone

Trientalis americana

Flowers—White, solitary, or a few rising on slender, wiry footstalks above a whorl of leaves. Calyx of 5 to 9 (usually 7) narrow sepals. Corolla wheel-shaped, 1/2 in. across or less, deeply cut into (usually) 7 tapering, spreading, petal-like segments. Stem: A long horizontal rootstock, sending up smooth stem-like branches 3 to 9 in. high, usually with a scale or two below. (Trientalis =one third of a foot, the usual height of a plant.) Leaves: 5 to 10, in a whorl at summit; thin, tapering at both ends, of unequal size, 1 1/2 to 4 in. long.

Preferred Habitat—Moist shade of woods and thickets. Flowering Season—May—June.

Distribution—From Virginia and Illinois far north.

Is any other blossom poised quite so airily above its whorl of leaves as the delicate, frosty-white little star-flower? It is none of the anemone kin, of course, in spite of one of its misleading folk-names; but only the wind-flower has a similar lightness and grace.

Scarlet Pimpernel; Poor Man's or Shepherd's Weather-glass; Red Chickweed; Burnet Rose; Shepherd's Clock

Anagallis arvensis

Flower—Variable, scarlet, deep salmon, copper red, flesh colored, or rarely white; usually darker in the centre; about 1/4 in. across; wheel-shaped; 5-parted; solitary, on thread-like peduncles from the leaf axils. Stem: Delicate; 4-sided, 4 to 12 in. long, much branched, the sprays weak and long. Leaves: Oval, opposite, sessile, black dotted beneath.

Preferred Habitat—Waste places, dry fields and roadsides, sandy soil.

Flowering Season—May—August. Distribution—Newfoundland to Florida, westward to Minnesota and Mexico.

Tiny pimpernel flowers of a reddish copper or terra cotta Color have only to be seen to be named, for no other blossoms on our continent are of the same peculiar shade.

Before a storm, when the sun goes under a cloud, or on a dull day, each little weather prophet closes. A score of pretty folk-names given it in every land it adopts testifies to its sensitiveness as a barometer. Under bright skies the flower may be said to open out flat at about nine in the morning and to begin to close at three in the afternoon.

Shooting Star; American Cowslip; Pride of Ohio Dodecatheon Meadia

Flowers—Purplish pink or yellowish white, the cone tipped with yellow; few or numerous, hanging on slender, recurved pedicels in an umbel at top of a simple scape 6 in. to 2 ft. high. Calyx deeply 5-parted; corolla of 5 narrow lobes bent backward and upward; the tube very short, thickened at throat, and marked with dark red-dish purple dots; 5 stamens united into a protruding cone; 1 pistil, protruding beyond them. Leaves: Oblong or spatulate, 3 to 12 in. long, narrowed into petioles, all from fibrous roots. Fruit: A 5-valved capsule on erect pedicels.

Preferred Habitat—Prairies, open woods, moist cliffs. Flowering Season—April—May. Distribution—Pennsylvania southward and westward, and from Texas to Manitoba.

Ages ago Theophrastus called an entirely different plant by this same scientific name, derived from dodeka =twelve, and theos = gods; and although our plant is native of a land unknown to the ancients, the fanciful Linnaeus imagined he saw in the flowers of its umbel a little congress of their divinities seated around a miniature Olympus! Who has said science kills imagination? These handsome, interesting flowers, so familiar in the Middle West and South-west, especially, somewhat resemble the cyclamen in oddity of form. Indeed, these prairie wild flowers are not unknown in florists' shops in Eastern cities.

Few bee workers are abroad at the shooting star's season. The female bumblebees, which, by striking the protruding stigma before they jar out any pollen, cross-fertilize it, are the flower's chief benefactors, but one often sees the little yellow puddle butterfly about it. Very different from the bright yellow cowslip of Europe is our odd, misnamed blossom.



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