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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

Madder Family

( Originally Published 1908 )


THE Madder family is a comparatively small group which includes a few herbaceous wild flow-ers common in the United States. These have small leaves which are arranged either opposite each other or in whorls around the stalk. In most cases the flowers are of two or three forms as regards the lengths of the stamens and pistils. The calyx tube is attached to' the ovary and the petals are united to form the corolla.

BLUETS. The familiar Bluets, or Quaker Ladies, are the most abundant of the spring wild flowers that belong to this family. These blossoms are especially well known by the people in New England and the eastern region of the United States. Although the plant has a rather wide range, being found in the east from Nova Scotia to Georgia and ex-tending westward as far as Michigan, it seems to be the most general and abundant in New England, where, in almost any locality, hillsides may be found tinted with it in May. The species is now called by many common names, although early in the nineteenth century it apparently had no such names. In his Plants of Boston, published in 1824, Professor Bigelow wrote of it as the Bluish Houstonia, evidently a translation of its botanical name. In 1827 Professor Nuttall wrote that he knew of no " common prevailing name " for it. A little later it was called by some of the botanists " Venus' Pride," scarcely a happy term for so demure a blossom. The flowers seem to have been first called Quaker Bonnets in Pennsylvania, and the name has since been corrupted to Quaker Ladies. Innocence is a charming and appropriate name but I can see no reason why the plant should ever have been called the Dwarf Pink or American Daisy, though the sweetness of its delicate perfume is well suggested by the name " Baby's Breath."

The Bluets are of as much interest to the botanist as to the lover of beautiful landscapes, for this is a dimorphous or two-formed flower: in one form the style of the pistil is long, bringing the stigma to the mouth of the corolla while the stamens are inserted towards the base of the tube; in the other form the pistil is short while the stamens are inserted near the mouth of the tube. The first is called the long-styled blossom and the second the short-styled.

Nectar is secreted in the base of the flower cup and the blossoms are freely visited by small bees and butterflies : cross-pollination is brought about by these visits because the pollen from the short-styled flower is carried to the stigma of the long-styled flower, while the pollen from the long-styled flower is carried to the stigma of the short-styled one. An examination of the stigmas of the short-styled flowers will show how this happens.

The Bluets are very sensitive to atmospheric conditions. At night and in rainy weather the blossoms turn down, to become erect again when sunshine appears.

To find the pure white blossoms of the Partridge Vine or Twin-berry you must seek the shade of the pine woods early in June, where the brown carpet of fallen needles is variegated with the dark green, oval leaves of this plant. The flowers are always borne in pairs, each terminating a s h o r t branch. Later they give place to the curious double f r u i t s which, when red and ripe, give the plant its common name. The flow-ers are tubular, with four flaring petal lobes. On the front of these, as well as inside the tube, are numerous fine white hairs, making a thicket that effectually prevents any wandering ant from crawling down the tube and stealing the nectar, which is thus reserved for the bees that bring about cross-pollination. This is insured by the fact that in some flowers the stigma projects in the mouth of the corolla and the stamens are low, while in others this condition is reversed.

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