Flowers - Early Saxifrage
( Originally Published 1916 )
(Saxijraga Virginiensis) Saxifrage family
Flowers—White, small, numerous, perfect, spreading into a loose panicle. Calyx 5-lobed ; 5 petals ; 10 stamens; pistil with 2 styles. Scape: 4 to 12 in. high, naked, sticky-hairy. Leaves: Clustered at the base, rather thick, obovate, toothed, and narrowed into spatulate-margined petioles. Fruit: Widely spread, purplish-brown pods.
Preferred Habitat—Rocky woodlands, hillsides.
Distribution—New Brunswick to Georgia, and westward a thousand miles or more.
Rooted in clefts of rock that, therefore, appears to be broken by this vigorous plant, the saxifrage shows rosettes of fresh green leaves in earliest spring, and soon whitens with its blossoms the most forbidding niches. (Saxum = a rock ; frango = 1 break.) At first a small ball of green buds nestles in the leafy tuffet, then pushes upward on a bare scape, opening its tiny, white, five-pointed star flowers as it ascends, until, having reached the allotted height, it scatters them in spreading clusters that last a fortnight. Again we see that, however insignificantly small nectar-bearing flowers may be, they are somehow protected from crawling pilferers ; in this case by the commonly employed sticky hairs in which ants' feet become ensnared. As the anthers mature before the stigmas are ready to receive pollen, certainly the flowers can-not afford to send empty away the benefactors on whom the perpetuation of their race depends ; and must prevent it even with the most heroic measures.