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Madder Family

( Originally Published 1922 )



Partridge Vine, Twin-berry; Mitchella Vine; Squawberry Mitchella repens

Flowers—Waxy, white (pink in bud), fragrant, growing in pairs at ends of the branches. Calyx usually 4-lobed; corolla funnel form, about 1/2 in. long, the 4 spreading lobes bearded within; 4 stamens inserted on corolla throat; 1 style with 4 stigmas; the ovaries of the twin flowers united (The style is long when the stamens are short, or vice versa.) Stem: Slender, trailing, rooting at joints, 6 to 12 in. long, with numerous erect branches. Leaves: Opposite, entire, short petioled, oval or rounded, evergreen, dark, sometimes white veined. Fruit: A small, red, edible, double berry-like drupe.

Preferred Habitat—Woods; usually, but not always, dry ones.

Flowering Season—April—June. Sometimes again in autumn.

Distribution—Nova Scotia to the Gulf states, westward to Minnesota and Texas.

A carpet of these dark, shining, little evergreen leaves, spread at the foot of forest trees, whether sprinkled over in June with pairs of waxy, cream-white, pink-tipped, velvety, lilac-scented flowers that suggest attenuated arbutus blossoms, or with coral-red "berries" in autumn and winter, is surely one of the loveliest sights in the woods. Transplanted to the home garden in closely packed, generous dumps, with plenty of leaf mould, or, better still, chopped sphagnum, about them, they soon spread into thick mats in the rockery, the hardy fernery, or about the roots of rhododendrons and the taller shrubs that permit some sunlight to reach them. No woodland creeper re-wards our care with greater luxuriance of growth. Growing near our homes, the Partridge Vine offers an excellent opportunity for study.

What endless confusion arises through giving the same popular folk-names to different species! The Bob White, which is called quail in New England or wherever the ruffed grouse is known as partridge, is called partridge in the Middle and Southern states, where the ruffed grouse is known as pheasant. But as both these distributing agents, like most winter rovers, whether bird or beast, are inordinately fond of this tasteless partridge berry, as well as of the spicy fruit of quite another species, the aromatic wintergreen, which shares with it a number of common names, every one may associate whatever bird and berry best suit him. The delicious little twin-flower beloved of Linnaeus also comes in for a share of lost identity through confusion with the Partridge Vine.

Button-bush; Honey-balls; Globe-flower; Button-ball

Shrub; River-bush

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Flowers—Fragrant, white, small, tubular, hairy within, 4-parted, the long, yellow-tipped style far protruding; the florets clustered on a fleshy receptacle, in round heads (about 1 in. across), elevated on long peduncles from leaf axils or ends of branches. Stem: A shrub 3 to 12 ft. high. Leaves: Opposite or in small whorls, petioled, oval, tapering at the tip, entire.

Preferred Habitat—Beside streams and ponds; swamps, low ground.

Flowering Season—June—September.

Distribution—New Brunswick to Florida and Cuba, west-ward to Arizona and California.

Delicious fragrance, faintly suggesting jessamine, leads one over marshy ground to where the button-bush displays dense, creamy-white globes of bloom, heads that Miss Lounsberry aptly likens to "little cushions full of pins." Not far away the sweet breath of the white-spiked Clethra comes at the same season, and one cannot but wonder why these two bushes, which are so beautiful when most garden shrubbery is out of flower, should be left to waste their sweetness, if not on desert air exactly, on air that blows far from the homes of men. Partially shaded and sheltered positions near a house, if possible, suit these water-lovers admirably. Cultivation only increases their charms. We have not so many fragrant wild flowers that any can be neglected. John Burroughs, who included the blossoms of several trees in his list of fragrant ones, found only thirty-odd species in New England and New York.

Bluets; Innocence; Houstonia; Quaker Ladies; Quaker Bonnets; Venus' Pride Houstonia caerulea

Flowers—Very small, light to purplish blue or white, with yellow centre, and borne at end of each erect slender tern that rises from 3 to 7 in. high. Corolla funnel-shaped, with 4 oval, pointed, spreading lobes that equal the slender tube in length; rarely the corolla has more divisions; 4 stamens inserted on tube of corolla; 2 stigmas; calyx 4-lobed. Leaves: Opposite, seated on stem, oblong, tiny; the lower ones spatulate. Fruit: A 2-lobed pod, broader than long, its upper half free from calyx; seeds deeply concave. Rootstalk: Slender, spreading, forming dense tufts.

Preferred Habitat—Moist meadows, wet rocks and banks. Flowering Season—April—July, or sparsely through summer.

Distribution—Eastern Canada and United States west to Michigan, south to Georgia and Alabama.

Millions of these dainty wee flowers, scattered through the grass of moist meadows and by the wayside, reflect the blue and the serenity of heaven in their pure, upturned faces. Where the white variety grows, one might think a light snowfall had powdered the grass, or a milky way of tiny floral stars had streaked a terrestrial path. Linnaeus named the flower for Doctor Houston, a young English physician, botanist, and collector, who died in South America in 1733, after an exhausting tramp about the Gulf of Mexico. Flies, beetles, and the common little meadow fritillary butterfly visit these flowers. But small bees are best adapted to it.

John Burroughs found a single bluet in blossom one January, near Washington, when the clump of earth on which it grew was frozen solid. A pot of roots gathered in autumn and placed in a sunny window has sent up a little colony of star-like flowers throughout a winter.



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