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Mint Family

( Originally Published 1922 )



Mad-dog Skullcap or Helmet-flower; Madweed; Hood-wort

Scutellaria lateriflora

Flowers—Blue, varying to whitish; several or many, 1/4 in. long, growing in axils of upper leaves or in 1-sided spike-like racemes. Calyx 2-lipped, the upper lip with a helmet-like protuberance; corolla 2-lipped; the lower, 3-lobed lip spreading; the middle lobe larger than the side ones. Stamens, 4, in pairs, under the upper lip; upper pair the shorter; 1 pistil, the style unequally cleft in two. Stem: Square, smooth, leafy, branched, 8 in. to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Opposite, oblong to lance-shaped, thin, toothed, on slender pedicles, 1 to 3 in. long, growing gradually smaller toward top of stem. Fruit: 4 nutlets.

Preferred Habitat—Wet; shady ground.

Flowering Season—July--September. Distribution—Uneven throughout United States and the British Possessions.

By the helmet-like appendage on the upper lip of the calyx, which to the imaginative mind of Linnaeus suggested Scutellum (a little dish), which children delight to spring open for a view of the four tiny seeds attached at the base when in fruit, one knows this to be a member of the skullcap tribe, a widely scattered genus of blue and violet two-lipped flowers, some small to the point of insignificance, like the present species, others showy enough for the garden, but all rich in nectar, and eagerly sought by their good friends, the bees.

The Larger or Hyssop Skullcap (S. inlegrifolia) rarely has a dent in its rounded oblong leaves, which, like the stem, are covered with fine down. Its lovely, bright blue flowers, an inch long, the lips of about equal length, are grouped opposite each other at the top of a stem that never lifts them higher than two feet; and so their beauty is often concealed in the tall grass of roadsides and meadows and the under-growth of woods and thickets, where they bloom from May to August, from southern New England to the Gulf of Mexico, westward to Texas.

Self-heal; Heal-all; Blue Curls; Heart-of-the-Earth;

Brunella; Carpenter-weed

Prunella vulgaris

Flowers—Purple and violet, in dense spikes, somewhat resembling a clover head; from 1/2 to 1 in. long in flower, be-coming 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 of the 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 nut-lets, 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.

Motherwort

Leonurus Cardiaca

Flowers—Dull purple pink, pale purple, or white, small, clustered in.axils of upper leaves. Calyx tubular, bell-shaped, with 5 rigid awl-like teeth; corolla 2-lipped, members of the mint family cater to bees by wearing their favorite color; the bergamot charms butterflies with magenta, and tubes so deep the short-tongued mob cannot pilfer their sweets; and from the frequency of the humming bird's visits, from the greater depth of the Bee Balm's tubes and their brilliant, flaring red—an irresistibly attractive color to the ruby-throat—it would appear that this is a bird flower. Certainly its adaptation is quite as perfect as the salvia's. Mischievous bees and wasps steal nectar they cannot reach legitimately through bungholes of their own making in the bottom of the slender casks.

Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa

Flowers—Extremely variable, purplish lavender, magenta, rose, pink, yellowish pink, or whitish, dotted; clustered in a solitary, nearly flat terminal head. Calyx tubular, narrow, 5-toothed, very hairy within. Corolla 1 to 1 1/2 in. long, tubular, 2-lipped, upper lip erect, toothed; lower lip spreading, 3-lobed, middle lobe longest; 2 anther-bearing stamens protruding; 1 pistil; the style 2-lobed. Stem: 2 to 3 ft. high, rough, branched. Leaves: Opposite, lance-shaped, saw-edged, on slender petioles; aromatic; bracts and upper leaves whitish or the color of flower.

Preferred Habitat—Open woods, thickets, dry rocky hills. Flowering Season—June—September. Distribution—Eastern Canada and Maine, westward to Minnesota, south to Gulf of Mexico.

Only a few bergamot flowers open at a time; the rest of the slightly rounded head, thickly set with hairy calices, looks as if it might be placed in a glass cup and make an excellent penwiper. If the cultivated human eye (and stomach) revolt at magenta, it is ever a favorite shade with butterflies. They flutter in ecstasy over the gay flowers; indeed, they are the principal visitors and benefactors, for the erect corollas, exposed organs, and level-topped heads are well adapted to their requirements.



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