St. John's-wort And Wild Carrot Families
Read More Articles About: Wildflower Families
( Originally Published 1908 )
THE members of the Gentian family have the petals united into a corolla with as many stamens as there are lobes of the corolla and with simple, opposite leaves which are sessile and without stipules. The ovary is free and it develops into a pod with many small seeds. The typical members of this group are the Gentians, of which several species are found in the United States. Only two of these, however, are so abundant and widely distributed as to require special mention in this connection.
CLOSED GENTIAN. The Closed Gentian, which is also often called the Bottle Gentian, is one of the most interesting blossoms of the late summer and early autumn season. Its general appearance is well shown in the picture, the tubular corollas being blue, although the precise color tone varies largely in different flowers and in different ages of the same flower. These blossoms are freely visited by worker bumble-bees, which pry open the corolla lobes and enter the flower bodily.
FRINGED GENTIAN. As the dainty Mayflower is the most prized of the early blossoms, full of promise for the coming days, so the Fringed Gentian is the most precious of the late flowers, full of the glory of the perfected season. In structure this plant is very similar to the nearly related Closed Gentian, but in the latter the fringed petals that give so much beauty when unfolded are crowded together to close the mouth of the blossom. Many who have never seen the flower growing in its native haunts have learned to love it through those exquisite lines by Bryant:
Thou waitest late and com'st alone,
These lines are beautiful even though their entire accuracy as to time of the flower's appearance has been questioned by the naturalist, and their accuracy to its color has been questioned by the artist. We must allow the poet a little of his proverbial license, although we need not let him blind us to the facts of Nature.
Blue is a favorite color with all the bees, so one might easily guess that these violet-blue blossoms are visited by bumble-bees. The anthers shed their pollen before the stigmas mature, so that cross-pollination is easily brought about. And the delicate fingers which add so much beauty to the blossoms seem also to be of decided service to the plant in keeping out ants and other unwelcome crawling insects, thus preventing the robbery of nectar.
When we realize that the Fringed Gentian grows only from seed, requiring two seasons to develop, we can easily see how it happens that the plant is so often exterminated near villages. The flowers are so beautiful that people feel they must gather them, and so there is no chance for the seed to develop to start the next year's plants. If we are to enjoy the flowers year after year we must leave enough of them on their stalks to insure a crop of seed each season.