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A Group Of Wild Flowers
Wildflower Families:
 Introduction

 Wild Flower Families

 Poppy Family

 Arum Family

 Saxifrage Family

 Purslane Family

 Heath Family

 Wintergreen Family

 Indian Pipe Family

 Rose Family

 Read More Articles About: Wildflower Families

Poppy Family

( Originally Published 1908 )

PAPAVERACEAE

EVERYONE who has seen the Poppies of our gar-dens in blossom has had an excellent opportunity to note the chief characteristics of the Poppy family. As the blossom buds appear each flower is covered by two large sepals, which generally fall off when the petals open. There are commonly four to six or more petals, which also fall off rather early in the development of the flower, being succeeded by the capsule-like fruit in which the numerous tiny seeds are produced. All members of the family are herbaceous plants and have a sap which is milky or colored in appearance. The group contains comparatively few of our wild flowers, although some of them are very beautiful.

BLOODROOT. The Bloodroot is one of the earliest, as it is one of the most evanescent, of the spring blossoms. In the south it " takes the winds of March with beauty " while farther north it comes with the April showers. When the leaf first appears it is curled over the blossom, enclosing its delicate tissue until both leaf and flower are well above the soil surface. Then, even before the leaf has time to flatten out, the bud shoots upward to unfold its linear petals of glowing and spotless white. As it appears above the leaf the young flower shows two large sepals that remind one of the Poppy relationship of the species. These greenish white sepals, however, are caducous, being attached to the stalk just below the flower in such a fragile manner that the mere opening of the petals breaks them off.

Even the petals remain for but a little season: they soon fall away and leave the tiny fruits on the end of the flower stalk. When the sun shines brightly the petals project horizontally, but when it is near the horizon or hidden by rain clouds they become vertical.

The Bloodroot blossoms are freely visited for pollen by small bees and certain flies. Cross-pollination generally results because in the newly opened flowers the stigmas mature before the anthers shed their pollen. There seems to be no nectar and the musky odor of the blossom, at least to human smell, is not noticeable out of doors. The way in which the plants grow in clusters renders the flowers much more conspicuous than they would be singly; while by blossoming so early, before the leaves appear upon the trees above them, they are sure to get the benefit of all the sunshine that comes to earth during the uncertain April weather.

After the petals have fallen the fruit ripens and splits apart and the leaves continue to grow vigorously throughout the season. They are large and flat, well adapted to getting the most benefit from the light that reaches the shady surface on which they live; and they are continually storing up, in the large, fleshy rootstocks below, material for future growth. It is on account of this preparation that the plant is able to push up its blossoms so quickly in the spring.

The origin of the common as well as of the generic name—Sanguinaria—of the Bloodroot is easily appreciated when one digs up the blood-red root that sends its ensanguined juices through the stalks to be transformed to snowy whiteness in the petals.

DICENTRA. The beautiful little White Dicentra which bears the common name of Dutchman's Breeches, is one of the most attractive wild flowers of early spring. Its foliage is cut into many fine divisions that give it a fern-like effect, while its exquisite waxy blossoms form a graceful raceme along the flower-stalk. These blossoms are visited by the early-flying, long-tongued bees which gather the nectar secreted within the flowers. This species is quite generally distributed over the northern states in rich, moist woods. It is sometimes called the Soldier's Cap and occasion-ally White Hearts.

SQUIRREL CORN. The closely related Squirrel Corn is at once distinguished from the White Dicentra by the shape of the flower. In the Squirrel Corn the posterior lobes of the greenish white blossom, often flushed with pink, are not prominent and do not diverge from each other, as they do in the Dutchman's Breeches. The flowers have a delicate fragrance, suggestive of that of the Hyacinth. The leaves are very similar in the two species and the geographical range is much the same. If you dig up the curious little tubers, in their shape and color so suggestive of kernels of Indian corn, you will see the appropriateness of the common name of this plant.

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