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A Group Of Wild Flowers
Wildflower Families:

 Wild Flower Families

 Poppy Family

 Arum Family

 Saxifrage Family

 Purslane Family

 Heath Family

 Wintergreen Family

 Indian Pipe Family

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Wildflowers - Introduction

( Originally Published 1908 )

ONE of the most delightful pastimes of the happy season of spring and summer is to find the wild flowers blossoming here and there in the fields and woods. Almost as soon as the snow has melted one can begin the search, for in sunny nooks the Swamp Cabbage sends up its strange flower-heads while the winter's ice still lingers in near-by pools. This is not a very attractive blossom, it is true, except to the small flies that find shelter within its protecting hood. But it is soon followed by the Hepatica, Bloodroot and Arbutus, which surely are attractive to every one who finds them. And after these come the anemones, violets, dandelions and a host of other lovely flowers to make us glad that spring is here again.

I would recommend that each of you who read these pages make a booklet of the wild flowers in your own locality. Go into the fields and woods as often as you can, and find out the answers to the questions suggested in connection with the various flowers. It is not necessary that you go every day, though you are fortunate if you can do so; even once a week is better than not at all. Learn the names of as many flowers as you can find, and notice in what sorts of places they grow. For before you have been hunting wild flowers long you will find that some kind of blossoms are to be found only in wet places in the woods, while others are to be found only in dry places. And some are to be found in deep shade while others are to be found in open sunlight. So you will find all sorts of variations in the haunts of the wild flowers.

As you watch the flowers week by week you will probably notice that insects are often to be seen about them, getting nectar and pollen. And you will soon see that different sorts of insects occur on different sorts of flowers. This should open to you the fascinating study of the relations of flowers and insects, one of the most interesting subjects for study in the outdoor world.

Another thing that you will be likely to notice is that some flowers remain in blossom much longer than others. By making records in your booklets you will be surprised to see what differences there are in the periods of blooming of the different flowers.

Most of my readers know the Poison Ivy: if not, they should find out what it looks like. Some persons are easily poisoned by touching this plant while others are not. If you are not sure whether it may poison you, be very careful not to touch it and always be on the lookout for it. It has three leaflets to each leaf while the common. woodbine or Virginia Creeper, which is riot a poisonous plant, has five leaflets.

And one more point all should bear in mind. Many of these wild flowers are much scarcer now than they used to be, because people have pulled them up so ruthlessly, forgetting that others who were to some later would care to see them and love them. So let us all be careful to pick but few of them, learning to enjoy their beauty as they grow and leaving them to develop seed for the next year's plants.

You will want to illustrate your wild flower booklets by careful drawings of the flowers.. In general these drawings may be made by means of a well-sharpened lead pencil, interpreting through the pencil point the delicate lines of growth shown in stem, leaf, and flower. See how carefully you can make these drawings and try to get the proportions of the various parts as nearly like those of the plants as possible. In-stead of the black lead pencil, colored crayons may often be used to advantage, and if you have sets of water colors you can get very attractive illustrations by making careful outline drawings with a lead pencil and then filling in with water colors. Good drawings may also be made by means of pen and ink.

These wild flower booklets may of course be made upon almost any kind of paper and of almost any size. One of the most satisfactory sizes is six by nine inches. It would be very desirable to bind the books up by means of raffia in covers of thicker paper and of attractive colors, having covers about twelve and a half inches long by six and a quarter inches wide and then folding them in the middle.

You can get some interesting illustrations for your wild flower booklets, especially of the leaves of the wild flowers, by making prints on blue-print paper, or better on van Dyke Solar paper. Such prints are very attractive and will add much to the interest of your booklets.

It will also be worth while to press some of the smaller and more attractive of the common flowers and mount them upon the sheets of which your booklets are made, so that these pressed specimens will be a part of the completed book-let. For pressing such flowers very likely it will be possible to obtain some of the thick botanical drying paper, which can be purchased', of any dealer in school supplies, but if this is not available blotting paper or even newspapers will answer very well, and many of the smaller specimens may be readily pressed between the leaves of a book, choosing some old book in which the paper is porous. Your success in drying these specimens so that the colors do not fade will depend very largely upon how often you change the dryers. You can get especially good results by using dryers which have been heated near a radiator or stove or else in the warm sunshine. The specimens may be mounted upon the sheets of paper either directly by means of glue or held in place by bits of gummed paper. Before mounting the specimen lay it upon the sheet and see just where you can place it to best advantage and then print carefully its name' beside it.

Most of those who use this book have probably had some instruction upon the structure of flowers and know the names of the parts of the flower. For those who have not had the benefit of such instruction the following brief discussion should be helpful. It will be all the better if the readers, in studying it, have at hand a few butter-cup blossoms, so that they can see for themselves just what is meant.


The Buttercup is an excellent blossom to illustrate the structure of a simple flower. If we have in hand a newly opened Buttercup blossom we will readily find five greenish sepals at the base of the flower, which serve to cover it in the bud. When these sepals are to be considered as a whole we call them the calyx. In many flowers they appear to be united, forming what is called the calyx-tube. Such a calyx generally has projections along the outer margin which are called calyx-lobes and which usually represent the individual sepals.

Just above the calyx in the blossom of the Buttercup are five yellow petals. These form the chief part of the flower so far as conspicuousness is concerned and their special function is to attract insects to the blossom. If one of them is removed there will be found at its base a tiny nectar pocket in which nectar is secreted for the visiting bee. As the sepals when taken together are called the calyx, so the petals when taken together are called the corolla. In a large proportion of the wild flowers the petals seem to be more or less united to form the corolla, which commonly has lobes, each lobe representing a single petal.

In the case of many flowers one set of these floral envelopes, as the calyx and corolla are sometimes called, is absent. The botanists generally assume that it is the corolla which is absent and call the part present the calyx. If these so-called sepals look like petals they are said to be petaloid sepals.

In the case of the Lilies and many related flowers there are three outer sepals and three inner petals which are very similar to one another. The six together are said to form the perianth and any one of them is called a perianth segment. This seems a rather technical term and it is perhaps allowable to call these perianth segments petals.

Within the circle of the petals in the Buttercup flower there are large numbers of stamens. Each stamen consists of a thread-like filament with a more or less bag-like anther on its end in which is held the powdery pollen.

Within the circle of the stamens there are several small pistils. The structure of a typical pistil may be well seen in that of a Lily, in which the parts are much more distinct than in the case of the Buttercup. As may be seen in the Lily, a typical pistil consists of an ovary at the base, a style in the middle and a stigma at the end : within the ovary, as may readily be seen in a cross-section, are the ovules which will develop into seeds. In order that this development may take place it is necessary that a grain of pollen should reach the stigma and send a pollen-tube down through the style to fertilize the ovules : this process is called fertilization. The process by which the pollen gets from the anther to the stigma is called pollination. In case the pollen comes from the same flower it is said to be a case of self-pollination; in case it comes from another flower, perhaps upon the same plant but preferably upon another plant of the same species, it is said to be a case of cross-pollination. In general we know that flowers exist chiefly in order that they may attract insects to bring about cross-pollination and the consequent cross-fertilization that results. As Darwin said, " nature abhors perpetual self-fertilization."

Cross-pollination may take place through the agency of winds, of birds like the humming-bird, and of insects. The great majority of our common flowers have the pollen carried by insects. Such flowers are said to be entomophilous or insect-loving flowers, while those which depend upon the wind for the carrying of their pollen are said to be entomophilous or wind-loving flowers.

It not infrequently happens that the nectar in the flower is protected from the visits of ants and other wingless insects, which would not make effective pollen carriers, by some such special device as a fringe of hairs within the corolla or sets of viscid hairs upon the outside of the flower.

From the point of view of the life relations of the plant three questions may be asked in regard to any flower, namely :

(1) How does this flower prevent self-fertilization?

(2) How does this flower bring about cross-fertilization?

(3) How does this flower prevent robbery of nectar or pollen by ants and other wingless insects?

While the blossom of the Buttercup is very simple in structure, none of the floral elements being united to one another, the Evening Prim-rose may well serve to illustrate the structure of a flower in which the parts of the calyx seem to be grown together, although it is now thought that this tube represents not the united sepals but a band of leaf tissue. The long, light yellow blossoms are borne on plants varying from one to three or four feet in height. The individual flower is frequently almost two inches long.

The bud is protected by the greenish lobes of the calyx which separate and curl backward as the blossom opens : each lobe is nearly the shape of a long triangle; most of them fall off after the flower is fully open, in which case they are said to be caducous. There are generally four light yellow petals, delicate in texture, showing the slender veins and having the margin divided into shallow lobes. Within the petals are eight stamens with long filaments attached to the middle of the slender anthers. The pistil has a long and slender style on the end of which the stigma with its flattened lobes is borne; the latter is covered in a fresh flower with a viscid liquid to which the pollen grains readily adhere.

The blossoms of this plant generally first open in the evening. The process may be readily seen by a little patient watching: the tips of the sepal-lobes spread apart and soon afterward the petals expand. At this time the flower is fully open with the petals spread widely out. The next morning, however, the flowers appear to wilt; if the day is cool and cloudy they will only partially roll up, but if the day is cloudless and hot they seem completely to collapse.

The odor of the Evening Primrose is given off to the greatest extent in the evening, when various long-tongued moths are abroad in search of the nectar which is secreted in the long calyx-tubes of the blossoms. Attracted by the odor the moths easily find the bright yellow flowers. They thrust their tongues behind the stamens and stigma to reach the nectar. Some of the stringy, adhesive pollen is thus dusted upon their mouth parts and carried from flower to flower; when it comes in contact with a viscid stigma it adheres to it.

In this way the moths perform the useful office of cross-pollination, the carrying of pollen from the anthers of one blossom to the stigmas of another.

Besicles the moths which thus visit the blossoms in the evening there are a number of bees and flies that may be found upon the flowers in the daytime; some of these come for nectar and some for pollen. They probably assist in cross-pollination to a considerable extent.

There are certain bumble-bees, however, which are not useful as visitors to the Evening Prim-rose, for, instead of entering at the mouth of the blossom in the legitimate way they alight upon the outside of the flower along the middle of the calyx-tube, biting a hole through it and stealing the nectar.

The Dandelion, the White Daisy and the Thistle are examples of still another type of flower structure. These are typical representatives of the great family of composite flowers, in which a large number of tiny flowers, called florets, are crowded together upon a single head. In the Thistle and in the flowers in the central part of the White Daisy we have illustrations of these florets in which the petals are united into a tubular corolla, as is shown in the right-hand drawing of the figure above. In the case of the Dandelion the petals are united into a corolla which is tongue-like or strap-like and which is said to be ligulate. This is shown in the left-hand drawing of the figure above. If you will look through a simple lens at some of these florets from almost any good-sized composite flower and compare what you see with these drawings you will be able to make out the structure of the parts of these tiny flowers.

In the case of the Daisy, the Wild Sunflower and similar plants the petals of the florets around the outside of the head have been greatly enlarged and modified to serve in attracting insects to visit the blossom. Their importance in this respect you can readily show by pulling off the ray florets of a white Daisy and comparing the conspicuousness of the flower-head that is left with that of another in which the ray florets have not been removed.


In the study of any subject it is generally desirable that the student should read more than one book in order that he may obtain a fuller knowledge and get a varying point of view. In the following pages there will be found frequent references to the special treatment of various wild flowers which occurs in the books in the list below. It is desirable that these books be available for reference by the students, so that they may follow out the suggestions for study given in these pages.

Blanchan. Nature's Garden. Doubleday, Page & Co. Dana. According to Season. Charles Scribner's Sons. Gibson. Blossom Hosts and Insect Guests. Newson and Co.

Higginson. The Procession of the Flowers. Hough-ton, Mifflin and Co.

Weed. Ten New England Blossoms and their Insect Visitors. Houghton, Mifflin and Co.

For keeping records of the dates of flowering, and of the insect visitors to the various species, the inexpensive Wild Flower Calendars designed by the present writer and published by Rand, McNally and Co. will be found helpful.

It has not seemed desirable to burden these pages with scientific names. A list of these, however, will be found on pages 233 to 240. The names there given follow Gray's Manual, and in a few cases they are not generally accepted by botanists. A reference to Britton and Brown's Flora of the Northern States and Canada will enable one to learn the accepted names in such cases.

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