death overtakes their erring feet as speedily as if they ventured on
sticky fly paper. How humane is the way to protect flowers from
crawling thieves that has been adopted by the high-bush cranberry
and the partridge pea (p. 308), among other plants ! These pro-
vide a free lunch of sweets in the glands of their leaves to satisfy
pilferers, which then seek no farther, leaving the flowers to winged
insects that are at once despoilers and benefactors.
(Aquilegia Canadensis) Crowfoot family
Flower Red outside, yellow within, irregular, I to 2 in. long,
solitary, nodding from a curved footstalk from the upper
leaf-axils. Petals 5, funnel-shaped, but quickly narrowing
into long, erect, very slender hollow spurs, rounded at the tip
and united below by the 5 spreading red sepals, between
which the straight spurs ascend; numerous stamens and 5
pistils projecting. Stem : i to 2 ft. high, branching, soft-hairy
or smooth. Leaves : More or less divided, the lobes with
rounded teeth ; large lower compound leaves on long
petioles. Fruit: An erect pod, each of the 5 divisions
tipped with a long, sharp beak.
Preferred Habitat Rocky places, rich woodland.
Flowering Season April July.
Distribution Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territory ; southward
to the Gulf States. Rocky Mountains.
Although under cultivation the columbine nearly doubles its
size, it never has the elfin charm in a conventional garden that it
possesses wild in Nature's. Dancing in red and yellow petticoats,
Red and Indefinites
to the rhythm of the breeze, along the ledge of overhanging
rocks, it coquettes with some Punchinello as if daring him to
reach her at his peril. Who is he ? Let us sit a while on the
rocky ledge and watch for her lovers.
Presently a big muscular bumblebee booms along. Owing to
his great strength, an inverted, pendent blossom, from which he
must cling upside down, has no more terrors for him than a
trapeze for the trained acrobat. His long tongue if he is one of
the largest of our sixty-two species of Bombus can suck almost
any flower unless it is especially adapted to night-flying sphinx
moths, but can he drain this ? He is the truest benefactor of the
European columbine (A. vulgar is, see p. 15), whose spurs sug-
gested the talons of an eagle (aquila) to imaginative Linnaeus
when he gave this group of plants its generic name. Smaller
bumblebees, unable through the shortness of their tongues to
feast in a legitimate manner, may be detected nipping holes in the
tips of all columbines, where the nectar is secreted, just as they do
in larkspurs, Dutchman's breeches, squirrel corn, butter and eggs,
and other flowers whose deeply hidden nectaries make dining too
difficult for the little rogues. Fragile butterflies, absolutely de-
pendent on nectar, hover near our showy wild columbine with
its five tempting horns of plenty, but sail away again, knowing
as they do that their weak legs are not calculated to stand the
strain of an inverted position from a pendent flower, nor are their
tongues adapted to slender tubes unless these may be entered from
above. The tongues of both butterflies and moths bend readily
only when directed beneath their bodies. It will be noticed that
our columbine's funnel-shaped tubes contract just below the point
where the nectar is secreted doubtless to protect it from small
bees. When we see the honey-bee or the little wild bees Halictus
chiefly on the flower, we may know they get pollen only.
Finally a ruby-throated humming bird whirs into sight. Pois-
ing before'a columbine, and moving around it to drain one spur
after another until the five are emptied, he flashes like thought to
another group of inverted red cornucopias, visits in turn every
flower in the colony, then whirs away quite as suddenly as he
came. Probably to him, and no longer to the outgrown bumble-
bee, has the flower adapted itself. The European species wears
blue, the bee's favorite color according to Sir John Lubbock ; the
nectar hidden in its spurs, which are shorter, stouter, and curved,
is accessible only to the largest humblebees. There are no hum-
ming birds in Europe. (See jewel-weed, p. 314.) Our native
columbine, on the contrary, has longer, contracted, straight, erect
spurs, most easily drained by the ruby-throat which, like Eugene
Field, ever delights in "any color at all so long as it's red."
To help make the columbine conspicuous, even the sepals
become red ; but the flower is yellow within, it is thought to guide
visitors to the nectaries. The stamens protrude like a golden tassel.
Red and Indefinites
After the anthers pass the still immature stigmas, the pollen of the
outer row ripens, ready for removal, while the inner row of un-
developed stamens still acts as a sheath for the stigmas. Owing
to the pendent position of the flower, no pollen could fall on the
latter in any case. The columbine is too highly organized to tolerate
self-fertilization. When all the stamens have discharged their
pollen, the styles then elongate ; and the feathery stigmas, opening
and curving sidewise, bring themselves at the entrance of each of
the five cornucopias, just the position the anthers previously
occupied. Probably even the small bees, collecting pollen only,
help carry some from flower to flower ; but perhaps the largest
bumblebees, and certainly the humming bird, must be regarded
as the columbine's legitimate benefactors. Caterpillars of one of
the dusky wings (Papilio lucilius) feed on the leaves.
Very rarely is the columbine white, and then its name, derived
from words meaning two doves, does not seem wholly mis-
" O Columbine, open your folded wrapper
Where two twin turtle-doves dwell,"
lisp thousands of children speaking the "Songs of Seven" as
a first " piece" at school. How Emerson loved the columbine !
Dr. Prior says the flower was given its name because "of the
resemblance of the nectaries to the heads of pigeons in a ring
around a dish a favorite device of ancient artists."
This exquisite plant was forwarded from the Virginia colony
to England for the gardens of Hampton Court by a young kins-
man of Tradescant, gardener and herbalist to Charles I.
Pitcher-plant; Side-saddle Flower; Hunts-
man's Cup; Indian Dipper
(Sarracenea purpurea) Pitcher-plant family
Flower Deep reddish purple, sometimes partly greenish, pink, or
red, 2 in. or more across, globose ; solitary, nodding from
scape I to 2 ft. tall. Calyx of 5 sepals, with 3 or 4 bracts at
base ; 5 overlapping petals, enclosing a yellowish, umbrella-
shaped dilation of the style, with 5 rays terminating in 5-
hooked stigmas; stamens indefinite. Leaves: Hollow, pitcher-
shaped through the folding together of their margins, leaving
a broad wing ; much inflated, hooded, yellowish green with
dark maroon or purple lines and veinings, 4 to 12 in. long,
curved, in a tuft from the root.
Preferred Habitat Peat-bogs ; spongy, mossy swamps.
Flowering Season May June.
Red and Indefinites
Distribution Labrador to the Rocky Mountains, south to Florida,
Kentucky, and Minnesota.
"What's this I hear
About the new carnivora ?
Can little plants
Eat bugs and ants
And gnats and flies ?
A sort of retrograding ;
Surely the fare
Of flowers is air
Or sunshine sweet ;
They shouldn't eat
Or do aught so degrading ! "
There must always be something shocking in the sacrifice of
the higher life to the lower, of the sensate to what we are pleased
to call the insensate, although no one who has studied the mar-
vellously intelligent motives that impel a plant's activities can any
longer consider the vegetable creation as lacking sensibility.
Science is at length giving us a glimmering of the meaning of the
word universe, teaching, as it does, that all creatures in sharing the
One Life share in many of its powers, and differ from one another
only in degree of possession, not in kind. The transition from
one so-called kingdom into another presumably higher one is a
purely arbitrary line marked by man, and often impossible to
define. The animalcule and the insectivorous plant know no
boundaries between the animal and the vegetable. And who
shall say that the sun-dew or the bladderwort is not a higher
organism than the amoeba ? Animated plants and vegetating
animals parallel each other. Several hundred carnivorous plants
in all parts of the world have now been named by scientists.
It is well worth a journey to some spongy, spagnum bog to
gather clumps of pitcher-plants which will furnish an interesting
study to an entire household throughout the summer while they
pursue their nefarious business in a shallow bowl on the veranda.
A modification of the petiole forms a deep hollow pitcher having
for its spout a modification of the blade of the leaf. Usually the
pitchers are half filled with water and tiny drowned victims when
we gather them. Some of this fluid must be rain, but the open
pitcher secretes much juice too. Certain relatives, whose pitchers
have hooded lids that keep out rain, are nevertheless filled with
fluid. On the Pacific Coast the golden jars of Darlingtonia Cali-
fornica, with their overarching hoods, are often so large and
watery as to drown small birds and field mice. Note in passing
that these otherwise dark prisons have translucent spots at the top,
whereas our pitcher-plant is lighted through its open transom.
A sweet secretion within the pitcher's rim, which some say
is intoxicating, others that it is an anaesthetic, invites insects to a
fatal feast. It is a simple enough matter for them to walk into the
Red and Indefinites
pitcher over the band of stiff hairs, pointing downward like the
withes of a lobster pot, that form an inner covering, or to slip into
the well if they attempt crawling over its polished upper surface.
To fly upward in a perpendicular line once their wings are wet
is additionally hopeless, because of the hairs that guard the mouth
of the trap ; and so, after vain attempts to fly or crawl out of the
prison, they usually sink exhausted into a watery grave.
When certain plants live in soil that is so poor in nitrogen
compounds that proteid formation is interfered with, they have
come to depend more or less on a carnivorous diet. The sundew
(see p. 192) actually digests its prey with the help of a gastric
juice similar to what is found in the stomach of animals ; but the
bladderwort (p. 335) and pitcher-plants can only absorb in the
form of soup the products of their victims' decay. Flies and gnats
drowned in these pitchers quickly yield their "poor little bodies;
but owing to the beetle's hard-shell covering, many a rare speci-
men may be rescued intact to add to a collection.
A similar ogre plant is the yellow-flowered Trumpet-leaf
(S. flava) found in bogs in the Southern States.
(Apios Apios) Pea family
(A. tuberosa of Gray)
Flowers Fragrant, chocolate brown and reddish purple, numerous,
about Y-2 in. long, clustered in racemes from the leaf-axils.
Calyx 2-lipped, corolla papilionaceous, the broad standard
petal turned backward, the keel sickle-shaped ; stamens within
it 9 and i. Stem: From tuberous, edible rootstock ; climbing,
slender, several feet long, the juice milky. Leaves: Com-
pounded of 5 to 7 ovate leaflets. Fruit: A leathery, slightly
curved pod, 2 to 4 in. long.
Preferred Habitat Twining about undergrowth and thickets in
moist or wet ground.
Flowering Season July September.
Distribution New Brunswick to Ontario, south to the Gulf States
No one knows better than the omnivorous "barefoot boy " that
" Where the ground-nut trails its vine "
there is hidden something really good to eat under the soft, moist
soil where legions of royal fern, usually standing guard above it,
must be crushed before he digs up the coveted tubers. He would
be the last to confuse it with the Wild Kidney Bean or Bean Vine
Red and Indefinites
(Phaseolns polystachyus] P. perennis of Gray. The latter has
loose racemes of smaller purple flowers and leaflets in threes ;
nevertheless it is often confounded with the ground-nut vine by
older naturalists whose knowledge was "learned of schools."
Usually a bee, simply by alighting on the wings of a blossom
belonging to the pea family, releases the stamens and pistil from
the keel ; not so here. The sickle-shaped keel of the ground-nut's
flower rests its tip firmly in a notch of the standard petal, nor will
any jar or pressure from outside release it. A bee, guided to the
nectary by the darker color of the under side of the curved keel
which spans the open cavity of the flower, enters, at least partially,
and so releases by his pressure, applied from underneath, the tip of
the sickle from its notch in the standard. Now the released keel
curves all the more, and splits open to release the stigmatic tip of
the style that touches any pollen the bee may have brought from
another blossom. Continuing to curve ana coil while the bee
sucks, it presently dusts him afresh with pollen from the now re-
leased anthers. A mass of pulp between anthers and stigma
prevents any of the flower's own pollen from self-fertilizing it.
These little blossoms, barely half an inch long, with their ingenious
mechanism to compel cross-fertilization, repay the closest study.
At midnight the leaves of the ground-nut and wild bean "are
hardly to be recognized in their queer antics," says William Hamil-
ton Gibson. " The garden beans too play similar pranks. Those
lima bean poles of the garden hold a sleepy crowd."
Pine Sap; False Beech-drops; Yellow Bird's-
(Hypopitis Hypopitis} Indian-pipe family
(Monotropa Hypopitis of Gray)
Flowers Tawny, yellow, ecru, brownish pink, reddish, or bright
crimson, fragrant, about % in. long ; oblong bell-shaped ;
bofne in a one-sided, terminal, slightly drooping raceme, be-
coming erect after maturity. Scapes : Clustered from a dense
mass of fleshy, fibrous roots ; 4 to 12 in. tall, scaly bracted,
the bractlets resembling the sepals. Leaves : None.
Preferred Habitat Dry woods, especially under fir, beech, and
Flowering Season June October.
Distribution Florida and Arizona, far northward into British Pos-
sessions. Europe and Asia.
Branded a sinner, through its loss of leaves and honest green
coloring matter (chlorophyll), the pine sap stands among the dis-
Red and Indefinites
reputable gang of thieves that includes its next of kin the Indian-
pipe (see p. 233), the broom-rape, dodder, coral-root, and beech-
drops. Degenerates like these, although members of highly
respectable, industrious, virtuous families, would appear to be as
low in the vegetable kingdom as any fungus, were it not for the
flowers they still bear. Petty larceny, no greater than the fox-
glove's at first, then greater and greater thefts, finally lead to ruin,
until the pine-sap parasite either sucks its food from the roots of the
trees under which it takes up its abode, or absorbs, like a ghoulish
saprophyte, the products of vegetable decay. A plant that does not
manufacture its own dinner has no need of chlorophyll and leaves,
for assimilation of crude food can take place only in those cells
which contain the vital green. This substance, universally found
in plants that grub in the soil and literally sweat for their daily
bread, acts also as a moderator of respiration by its absorptive in-
fluence on light, and hence allows the elimination of carbon diox-
ide to go on in the cells which contain it. Fungi and these
degenerates which lack chlorophyll usually grow in dark, shady
Within each little fragrant pine-sap blossom a fringe of hairs,
radiating from the style, forms a stockade against short-tongued
insects that fain would pilfer from the bees. As the plant grows
old, whatever charm it had in youth disappears, when an unwhole-
some mould overspreads its features.
Scarlet Pimpernel; Poor Man's or Shepherd's
Weather-glass ; Red Chickweed ; Burnet
Rose; Shepherd's Clock
(Anagallis arvensis) Primrose family
flower Variable, scarlet, deep salmon, copper red, flesh colored, or
rarely white ; usually darker in the centre ; about % in. across;
wheel-shaped ; 5-parted ; solitary, on thread-like peduncles
from the leaf-axils. Stem: Delicate ; 4-sided, 4 to 12 in. long,
much branched, the sprays weak and long. Leaves: Oval,
opposite, sessile, black dotted beneath.
Preferred Habitat Waste places, dry fields and roadsides, sandy
Flowering Season May August.
Distribution Newfoundland to Florida, westward to Minnesota
Tiny pimpernel flowers of a reddish copper or terra cotta
color have only to be seen to be named, for no other blossoms
on our continent are of the same peculiar shade. Thrifty patches
of the delicate little annuals have spread themselves around the
Red and Indefinites
civilized globe ; dying down every autumn, and depending on
seeds alone to keep the foothold once gained here, in Mexico and
South America, Europe, Egypt, Abyssinia, Cape of Good Hope,
Mauritius, New Holland, Nepaul, Persia, and China. What amaz-
ing travellers plants are ! The blue-flowered plants are now be-
lieved to be a distinct species (A. coeruled).
Notwithstanding the fact that many birds delight to feast on
the seeds, or perhaps because of it, for many must be dropped
undigested, the scarlet pimpernel is one of the most widely dis-
tributed species known.
Before a storm, when the sun goes under a cloud, or on a
dull day, each little weather prophet closes. A score of pretty
folk names given it in every land it adopts testifies to its sensitive-
ness as a barometer. Under bright skies the flower may be said
to open out flat at about nine in the morning and to begin to
close at three in the afternoon. No nectar is secreted unless there
may be some in the colored hairs which clothe the filaments. As
if it knew perfectly well that however desirable insect visitors are
and it has an excellent device for compelling them to transfer
pollen it is likewise independent of them, it takes no risk in
exposing the precious vitalizing dust to wind and rain, but closes
up tight, thereby bringing its pollen-laden stamens in contact with
its stigma. Manifestly, it is better for a plant having aspirations to
colonize the globe to set even self-fertilized seed than none at all.
Hound's Tongue; Gipsy Flower
(Cynoglossum officinale) Borage family
Flowers Dull purplish red, about y>> in. across, borne in a curved
raceme or panicle that straightens as the bloom advances up-
ward. Calyx ^-parted ; corolla salverform, its 5 lobes spread-
ing ; 5 stamens ; I pistil. Stem: Erect, stout, hairy, leafy,
usually branched, \% to 3 ft. high. Leaves: Rather pale,
lower ones large, oblong, slender petioled ; upper ones lance-
shaped, sessile, or clasping. (Thought to resemble a dog's
Preferred Habitat Dry fields, waste places.
Flowering Season May September.
Distribution Quebec to Minnesota, south to the Carolinas and
This is still another weed "naturalized from Europe" which,
by contenting itself with waste land, has been able in an incredibly
short time to overrun half our continent. How easy conquest of our
vast unoccupied area is for weeds that have proved fittest for sur-
vival in the overcultivated Old World ! Protected from the ravages
Red and Indefinites
of cattle by a disagreeable odor suggesting a nest of mice, and
foliage that tastes even worse than it smells ; by hairs on its stem
that act as a light screen as well as a stockade against pilfering
ants ; by humps on the petals that hide the nectar from winged
trespassers on the bees and butterflies' preserves, the hound's tongue
goes into the battle of life further armed with barbed seeds that sheep
must carry in their fleece, and other animals, including most unwill-
ing humans, transport to fresh colonizing ground. For a plant to
shower its seeds beside itself is almost fatal ; so many offspring im-
poverish the soil and soon choke each other to death, if, indeed, ants
and such crawlers have not devoured the seeds where they lie on the
ground. Some plants like the violet, jewel-weed, and witch-hazel
forcibly eject theirs a few inches, feet, or yards. The wind blows
millions about with every gust. Streams and currents of water
carry others; ships and railroads give free transportation to quanti-
ties among the hay used in packing ; birds and animals lift many on
their feet Darwin raised 537 plants from a ball of mud carried be-
tween the toes of a snipe ! and such feathered and furred agents as
feed on berries and other fruits sometimes drop the seeds a thousand
miles from the parent. But it will be noticed that such vagabonds
as travel by the hook or by crook method, getting a lift in the
world from every passer-by burdocks, beggar-ticks, cleavers,
pitchforks, Spanish needles, and scores of similar tramps that we
pick off our clothing after every walk in autumn make, perhaps,
the most successful travellers on the globe. The hound's tongue's
four nutlets, grouped in a pyramid, and with barbed spears as grap-
pling-hooks, imbed themselves in our garments until they pucker
the cloth. Wool growers hurl anathemas at this whole tribe of
A near relative, the common Virginia Stickseed (Lappula
Virginiana) C. Morisoni of Gray produces similar little barbed
nutlets, following insignificant, tiny, palest blue or white flowers
up the spike. These bristling seeds, shaped like sad-irons, reflect
in their title the ire of the persecuted man who named them Beg-
gar's Lice. If, as Emerson said, a weed is a plant whose virtues
have not yet been discovered, the hound's tongue, the similar
but blue-flowered Wild Comfrey (C. Pirgttticum), next of kin, and
the stickseed are no weeds ; for ages ago the caterpillars of certain
tiger moths learned to depend on their foliage as a food store.
Oswego Tea; Bee Balm; Indian's Plume;
Fragrant Balm; Mountain Mint
(Monarda didyma) Mint family
Flowers Scarlet, clustered in a solitary, terminal, rounded head of
dark-red calices, with leafv bracts below it. Calyx narrow,
Red and Indefinites
tubular, sharply 5-toothed ; corolla tubular, widest at the
mouth, 2-lipped, \% to 2 inches long ; 2 long, anther-bear-
ing stamens ascending, protruding; i pistil; the style 2-cleft.
Stem: 2 to 3 ft. tall. Leaves : Aromatic, opposite, dark green,
oval to oblong lance-shaped, sharply saw-edged, often hairy
beneath, petioled ; upper leaves and bracts often red.
Preferred Habitat Moist soil, especially near streams, in hilly or
Flowering Season July September.
Distribution Canada to Georgia, west to Michigan.
Gorgeous, glowing scarlet heads of bee balm arrest the dullest
eye, bracts and upper leaves often taking on blood-red color, too,
as if it had dripped from the lacerated flowers. Where their vivid
doubles are reflected in a shadowy mountain stream, not even
the cardinal flower is more strikingly beautiful. Thrifty clumps
transplanted from Nature's garden will spread about ours and add
a splendor like the flowers of salvia, next of kin, if only the roots
get a frequent soaking.
With even longer flower tubes than the wild bergamot's (see
p. 144), the bee balm belies its name, for, however frequently
bees may come about for nectar when it rises high, only long-
tongued bumblebees could get enough to compensate for their
trouble. Butterflies, which suck with their wings in motion,
plumb the depths. The ruby-throated humming bird to which
the Brazilian salvia of our gardens has adapted itself flashes
about these whorls of Indian plumes just as frequently of course
transferring pollen on his needle-like bill as he darts from flower
to flower. Even the protruding stamens and pistil take on the
prevailing hue. Most of the small, blue or purple flowered mem-
bers of the mint family cater to bees by wearing their favorite
color ; the bergamot charms butterflies with magenta, and tubes
so deep the short-tongued mob cannot pilfer their sweets ; and
from the frequency of the humming bird's visits, from the greater
depth of the bee balm's tubes and their brilliant, flaring red an
irresistibly attractive color to the ruby-throat it would appear
that this is a bird flower. Certainly its adaptation is quite as per-
fect as the salvia's. Mischievous bees and wasps steal nectar
they cannot reach legitimately through bungholes of their own
making in the bottom of the slender casks.
"This species," says Mr. Ellwanger, "is said to give a de-