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A Group Of Wild Flowers
Wildflower Families:
 Mustard Barberry, Spiderwort And Phlox Families

 Lily Family

 Lily-of-the-valley Family

 Madder Family

 Violet Family

 Iris Family Iridaceae

 Geranium Family

 Birthwort Family

 Primrose Family

 Milkwort Family

 Read More Articles About: Wildflower Families

Lily of the Valley Family

( Originally Published 1908 )


SOME of the most beautiful of the spring wild flowers belong to the Lily-of-the-Valley family, which is named from the Lily-of-the-Valley so highly prized in our flower gardens. The flowers belonging to this family have a general resemblance to the Lilies, to which they are closely related, but instead of having bulbs or corms, as do the Lilies, they have more or less thickened rootstocks which may be simple or branched. The leaves are generally parallel veined and there are commonly three sepals and three petals, although in their appearance these sometimes resemble each other, as do those of the Lilies. There are six stamens and the pistil commonly has a three-lobed stigma. The fruit is a berry which is more or less fleshy in its structure.

YELLOW CLINTONIA. Toward the middle of the spring season you may often come across in damp, cool woods in the Northern States good-sized beds which Nature has thickly planted with the Yellow Clintonia—a member of the Lily-of-the-Valley family that always reminds me of an orchid. I suppose this is because the large, smooth, shiny leaves so closely resemble those of the Showy Orchis, which is found in bloom on wooded slopes at the same season. Each plant sends up from the leaves a single flower stalk which bears the drooping, bell-like blossoms. These flowers are freely visited by such bees as penetrate the shady vistas where they grow, and the visitors appear to get both nectar and pollen in exchange for their services in carrying the pollen from flower to flower. The species is a northern form, as its technical name, Clintonia borealis, indicates : it extends southward as far as North Carolina and Wisconsin.

The White Clintonia is a less widely distributed species, with smaller erect flowers and black berries, which is found as far north as New Jersey and New York and as far south as Georgia and Tennessee. It blossoms during May and June and commonly has more flowers upon a single central stalk than does the Yellow Clintonia.

FALSE SOLOMON'S SEAL. The Wild Spikenard or False Solomon's Seal differs strikingly in appearance from the true Solomon's Seal. It has a conspicuous panicle of many small white blossoms on the end of the main stalk beyond the leaves. It grows in the same shrubby thickets or woodland borders where the Solomon's Seal is found and is distributed over much the same geographical regions. It is pollenized by small bees that gather some of the abundant pollen. This is a widely distributed species, extending over practically the whole of eastern North America.

The Star-flowered Solomon's Seal is a some-what similar plant which in some of the eastern states is found in great abundance along the borders of woods and along the embankments of railways. It is distinguished from the Wild Spikenard by the fact that the flowers are arranged along a central stalk in the form of a raceme rather than on many stalks in the form of a panicle. The flowers are not so numerous but individually they are somewhat larger. They blossom in May and June and frequently occur in thick beds of considerable beauty. The plants reach a height of ten to twenty inches, each stalk bearing numerous sessile and slightly clasping leaves.

WILD LILY-OF-THE-VALLEY. The Wild Lily-of-the-Valley is a beautiful little plant with two or three broad and shining leaves and many small, fragrant, pure white flowers above them on the central stalk. Each tiny flower consists of the perianth—or the petal-like part—with four lobes, four stamens and one pistil, the stigma of the latter being two-lobed. After the flowers have passed the pretty pale red berries ripen. The plant grows abundantly in sparse woods—especially pine woods—and is found in the north from Newfoundland to the Northwest Territory, extending southward to North Carolina and South Dakota. This flower is sometimes called the Two-leaved Solomon's Seal and occasionally the Canada Mayflower.

TWISTED-STALK. The Twisted-stalk or Streptopus is one of the most interesting of the early summer wild flowers. There are two species of these plants, one with leaves that completely clasp the main stem at their base, which is called the Clasping-leaved Twisted-stalk, and the other with leaves which are simply sessile, which is called the Sessile-leaved Twisted-stalk. The flowers of the former are greenish white while those of the latter are rosy or rosy purple. In both species they are rather small and of a bell-like form, hanging downward from rather short stalks. In both the fruit is a round or oval red berry about half an inch in longest diameter.

SOLOMON'S SEAL. There are also two species of the curious plant known as the Solomon's Seal, both of which are widely distributed in the eastern region of North America. One is called the Hairy Solomon's Seal on account of the pubescence on the under side of the leaves, while the other is called the Smooth Solomon's Seal on account of the absence of such pubescence. The flowers of the two kinds are quite similar, being rather small greenish or greenish white blossoms which commonly hang in pairs from drooping stalks. To us these blossoms seem neither particularly beautiful in color nor attractive in odor, but many insects, especially small bees, visit them freely and carry the pollen from blossom to blossom. The common name of these plants is due to the curiously thickened rootstock which has interesting scars upon its surface that doubtless suggested its name. The plant comes into bloom about the middle of the spring season and continues in blossom for some time.

CUCUMBER-ROOT. The Indian Cucumber-root is a curious plant which one would hesitate to put in the same family with the Lily-of-the-Valley. In its habit of growth it is very different from the garden flower, the erect plant commonly reaching a height of two or more feet and having its parallel-veined leaves arranged in whorls around the central stalk. Above the upper whorl of leaves the flowers are borne in a curious umbel, being held nearly erect upon slender pedicels. The plant is found in blossom in early summer in moist woods and ranges from Nova Scotia west to Minnesota and south to Tennessee and Florida.

TRILLIUMS. One of the best known groups of the Lily-of-the-Valley family is that of the Trilliums or Wakerobins. In their plan of structure these are very similar to one another. A thick stem rises straight out of the soil, tapering gradually toward the top. At some distance from the ground it sends off at right angles three broadly oval leaves, which may or may not have short stalks and which vary somewhat in their outline. Above the leaves is a single flower; in a few species there is no flower-stalk, the blossom nestling upon the leaves, but in most sorts there is such a stalk.

Seven species of Trilliums are commonly listed as growing in the eastern region of North America. Of these the first to blossom in the spring is the beautiful little Snowy Trillium or Early Wakerobin, which is one of the most interesting of all the early spring wild flowers. It is not a very widely distributed species, being found from " Pennsylvania to Ohio, south to Kentucky and Iowa." Within these limits, however, it is decidedly local, occurring only here and there in woods and along river banks. In appearance it seems much like a miniature reproduction of the common Large-flowered Wakerobin, from which it differs chiefly in its smaller size and in the presence of petioles upon its leaves. The plant rarely reaches a height of more than six inches. The petals are pure white; the blossom has a short stalk; the fruit is a three-lobed roundish berry. In Ohio I have found it blossoming in March, when it well deserved its Latin name, Trillium nivale—the Snowy Trillium—for it was in bloom before the snow had disappeared.

WHITE TRILLIUM. In my boyhood days in central Michigan the White Trillium or Large-flowered Wakerobin was the wild flower of May. The woods were full of the beautiful blossoms which we all loved to gather and to bring home, where they retained their freshness for several days. Since then, while living in other states where this flower does not grow, the name Wake-robin always carries me back to those Beech woods and it is only by an afterthought that I can connect the name with the other Trilliums to which it is applied.

In the White Trillium the flower-stalk is from one to two inches long. The flower consists of three green, sharply pointed sepals, three large white petals, six stamens with greenish white filaments and yellow anthers, and a central pistil having three well developed stigmas. The petals are quite long, so that the flower is deeper and more bell-like than those of the other species of the genus. Like the other Trilliums this one is a lover of rich moist woods. It ranges as far north as Quebec and Minnesota and as far south as Florida and Missouri. It seems to be seldom found in the more eastern states.

PAINTED TRILLIUM. Throughout its range the Painted Trillium often takes the place of the large White Wakerobin in the May woods. It delights in moist shady situations, where in many regions it is found in great abundance. It is a very bright blossom and one of the most conspicuous of the spring wild flowers. The white petals stand out from the background of green leaves and are made more striking by the blotches of brilliant crimson painted in a large V-shaped spot at the base of each petal. No other flower in its situation is so likely to catch the eye of the stroller through the woods. In New England it is one of the most characteristic of the May wild flowers, although in some regions it is rare or only locally abundant. It is also found in the north from Nova Scotia to Wisconsin and in the south from Georgia to Missouri,—a wide range, but one in which the species is by no means generally distributed. During much botanizing in Michigan and Ohio I never saw the flower.

BIRTHROOT. The Birthroot or Ill-scented Trillium, which is often called the Purple Trillium, resembles the Large-flowered Trillium in its leaves and flower-stalks but differs strikingly in the blossom, which is flat and shallow like that of the Painted Trillium. In the Northeastern States the petals are generally of a deep maroon color, often becoming redder as they wither, but in Ohio the petals are commonly white. This variation is a remarkable one; were it not for the gradations to be found between the two colors the plants bearing each would be likely to be considered as a distinct species.

The reddish color and peculiar disagreeable odor are believed to be for the purpose of attracting bluebottle flies and similar insects, which feed upon the dull yellow pollen.

The Birthroot is a widely distributed species. In the north it is found from Nova Scotia to Manitoba and in the south from North Carolina to Missouri. It is common throughout New England, occurring in damp, rich woods.

The Sessile-flowered Trillium is one of the least attractive of the Wakerobins. As the name indicates, the flower has no stalk, springing directly from the bases of the leaves. The petals stand up nearly vertically and are of a purplish or greenish color. Notwithstanding its appearance the flower has a rather pleasant odor. In the east the species is not distributed very far north, being found from Pennsylvania to Florida and extending west to Minnesota and Mississippi.

The interesting Nodding Wakerobin is distributed in woods from Nova Scotia to Minnesota and south to Missouri and Georgia. It bears a somewhat general resemblance to the Ill-scented Wakerobin, with which it is sometimes confused and from which it may be known by the shorter flower-stalk, which turns down beneath the leaves and the white or pinkish petals, which are re-curved. The Prairie Wakerobin is a species in which the flower is sessile and the leaves have rather long petioles. It is found in a limited region in the Mississippi Valley.

One may often find in the older settled regions of the United States two familiar members of the Lily-of-the-Valley family which have escaped from cultivation. One of these is the common Asparagus of the garden, which is frequently found growing in waste places, where perhaps some seed has been dropped by a bird or carried in some other way, while in the vicinity of deserted homesteads it is not uncommon to find some Lilies-of-the-Valley bravely struggling to keep alive in a contest with the weeds and grass. Neither of the plants, however, are likely to be-come so abundant that we would generally recognize them as belonging to our wild flora.

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