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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

 Rose Family

 Read More Articles About: Wildflower Families

Saxifrage Family

( Originally Published 1908 )


THE Saxifrage family is a large group closely related to the Rose family. It contains many species, both of herbaceous and shrubby plants, but definite distinguishing characters are not readily named. It includes a few of our commonest spring wild flowers like the Early Saxifrage, the Bishop's-cap, and the Foam-flower, as well as a number of wild and cultivated shrubs like the Currant and the Gooseberry, the Mock Orange and the Hydrangea.

EARLY SAXIFRAGE. The rock-loving Early Saxifrage is an abundant plant in the eastern states, especially in hilly or mountainous regions. It will flourish where there is very little soil to hold it in place and is one of the flowers most likely to be found in early summer toward the tops of rocky hills and mountains. It prevents nectar robbery by ants and other wingless insects by the sticky hairs upon the main stems. Its flowers are adapted to the visits of short-tongued winged insects of many kinds and cross-pollination is insured by the fact that the pollen is shed before the stigmas mature.

SWAMP SAXIFRAGE. The Swamp Saxifrage differs strikingly from the Early Saxifrage in its choice of habitation, being found along the borders of swamps and in other wet places and having rather long, narrow, obtusely pointed leaves from between which the flower stalk rises to a height of one or two feet and bears an abundance of small greenish flowers. This species is rather widely distributed, being found from Maine to Minnesota on the north and from Virginia to Missouri on the south.

FOAM-FLOWER. An example of a peculiarly fitting name is found in Tiarella, the Foam-flower, which is also often called the False Mitrewort. To appreciate the former name you should see it growing in great masses in damp places in the woods, when the hundreds of thousands of tiny white flowers give the appearance of a sheet of foam. Such a sight is one of the most beautiful and characteristic of those to be seen in the May woods. The flowers are borne in masses on the end of a stalk about eight inches high, while the round or heart-shaped leaves, with many points, are borne on stems of about the same length. The species is found from Nova Scotia to Georgia, west to the Mississippi Valley.

MITREWORT. The tiny flowers of the Mitre-wort, or Bishop's-cap, have well been likened to minute white crystals. They are strung singly on short stems, along the main flower-stalk, making much less show than do the Foam-flowers. The two plants are found in the same sort of situation, however, being especially common in wet places in rich woods, from Canada to Kentucky. When the petals drop off the tiny fruit pods form miniature mitres or bishop's-caps, from which the plant gets its names. The time of blossoming of these flowers is indicated by Longfellow in this verse :

There are two species of Mitreworts : the Two-leaved Mitrewort has two opposite leaves upon the flower stalk ; the Smaller Mitrewort lacks these.

At Pentecost, which brings
The Spring, clothed like a bride,
When nestling buds unfold their wings,
And bishop's caps have golden rings,
Musing upon many things,
I sought the woodlands wide.

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