Wild Flower Families
Indian Pipe Family
Read More Articles About: Wildflower Families
( Originally Published 1908 )
THE Heath family, as now restricted by botanists, includes a number of shrubby plants having attractive flowers and for the most part blossoming in early spring. While technically the woody stems of the Mayflower or Trailing Arbutus cause it to be classed among the shrubs, rather than among the herbaceous plants, the blossoms are so generally prized as wild flowers that it seems desirable to include a discussion of it in these pages.
TRAILING ARBUTUS. The Mayflower or Trailing Arbutus is familiar to everyone in New England and many of the northern states. In regions where it is abundant it is the one blossom that is gathered by all, its delicate beauty charming the eye as its delightful fragrance appeals to the sense of smell. All winter the buds lie hidden beneath the snowdrifts waiting to unclose : soon after the white mantle on the southern slopes becomes spotted with brown these buds begin to open and become fully developed blossoms while the snow still lingers on the northern slopes. Then for a month the Arbutus is the Queen of Spring, a lovely and modest queen withal, serenely enduring many a storm of wind and rain.
The leaves of the Mayflower are leathery in texture, though not very thick. The leafstalks as well as the main stems are covered with rather long brown hairs, having curved tips. The blossoms are crowded together at the end of the prostrate stem, in bunches of three to eight or more, which are often hidden by the leaves. The blossoms are interesting because of the irregularity of the stamens and pistils : each set of these essential organs varies greatly in different flowers.
They are freely visited by queen bumble-bees which commonly bring about cross-pollination, although strangely enough seedlings of the May-flower are very rarely seen. The visits of ants and other unbidden guests are prevented by the hairs inside the corolla.
It is a pity that so many people greedily or thoughtlessly pull up these lovely blossoms by the armful, and thus soon exterminate the plant in regions where it should be abundant.