ward on this continent, through Canada to New Jersey and
Pennsylvania; westward to Nebraska, to Arizona in the
Rockies, and to California in the Sierra Nevadas.
The inaccessible crevice of a precipice, moist rocks sprayed
with the dashing waters of a lake or some tumbling mountain
stream, wind-swept upland meadows, and shady places by the
roadside may hold bright bunches of these hardy bells, swaying
with exquisite grace on tremulous, hair-like stems that are fitted
to withstand the fiercest mountain blasts, however frail they appear.
From Blue to Purple
How dainty, slender, tempting these little flowers are! One gladly
risks a watery grave or broken bones to bring down a bunch
from its aerial cranny.
It was a long stride forward in the evolutionary scale when
the harebell welded its five once separate petals together; first at
the base, then farther and farther up the sides, until a solid bell-
shaped structure resulted. This arrangement which makes insect
fertilization a more certain process because none of the pollen is
lost through apertures, and because the visitor must enter the
flower only at the vital point where the stigmas come in contact
with his pollen-laden body, has given to all the flowers that have
attained to it, marked ascendency.
Like most inverted blossoms, the harebell hangs its head to
protect its nectar and pollen, not only from rain, but from the in-
trusion of undesirable crawling insects which would simply brush
off its pollen in the grass before reaching the pistil of another
flower, and so defeat cross-fertilization, the end and aim of so
many blossoms. Advertising for winged insects by its bright
color, the harebell attracts bees, butterflies, and many others.
These visitors cannot well walk on the upright petals, and sooner or
later must clasp the pistil if they would secure the nectar secreted
at the base. In doing so, they will dust themselves and the imma-
ture pistil with the pollen from the surrounding anthers ; but a
newly opened flower is incapable of fertilization. The pollen,
although partially discharged in the unopened bud, is prevented
from falling out by a coat of hairs on the upper part of the style.
By the time all the pollen has been removed by visitors, however,
and the stamens which matured early have withered, the pistil
has grown longer, until it looks like the clapper in a bell; the
stigma at its top has separated into three horizontal lobes which,
being sticky on the under side, a pollen-laden insect on entering
the bell must certainly brush against them and render them
fertile. But bumblebees, its chief benefactors, and others may
not have done their duty by the flower; what then ? Why, the
stigmas in that case finally bend backward to reach the left-over
pollen, and fertilize themselves, obviously the next best thing for
them to do. How one's reverence increases when one begins to
understand, be it ever so little of, the divine plan!
"Probably the most striking blue and purple wild flowers
we have," says John Burroughs, "are of European origin. These
colors, except with the fall asters and gentians, seem rather un-
stable in our flora." This theory is certainly borne out in the
case of the Rampion, European, or Creeping Bellflower (C. rapun-
culoides), now detected in the act of escaping from gardens from
New Brunswick to Ontario, Southern New York, Pennsylvania,
and Ohio, and making itself very much at home in our fields and
along the waysides. Compared with the delicate little harebell, it is
From Blue to Purple
a plant of rank, rigid habit. Its erect, rather stout stem, set with
elongated oval, hairy, alternate leaves, and crowned with a one-
sided raceme of widely expanded, purple-blue bells rising about
two feet above the ground, has little of the exquisite grace of its
cousin. It blooms from July to September. This is the species
whose roots are eaten by the omnivorous European peasant.
One of the few native campanulas, the Tall Bellflower (C.
Americana), waves long, slender wands studded with blue or
sometimes whitish flowers high above the ground of moist
thickets and woods throughout the eastern half of this country,
but rarely near the sea. Doubtless the salt air, which intensifies
the color of so many flowers, would brighten its rather slatey blue.
The corolla, which is flat, round, about an inch across, and deeply
cleft into five pointed petals, has the effect of a miniature pinwheel
in motion. Mature flowers have the style elongated, bent down-
ward, then curved upward, that the stigmas may certainly be in
the way of the visiting insect pollen-laden from an earlier
bloomer, and be cross-fertilized. The larger bees, its benefactors,
which visit it for nectar, touch only the upper side of the style,
on which they must alight ; but the anthers waste pollen by
shedding it on all sides. No insect can take shelter from rain or
pass the night in this flower, as he frequently does in its more
hospitable relative, the harebell. English gardeners, more appre-
ciative than our own of our native flora, frequently utilize this
charming plant in their rockwork, increasing their stock by a
division of the dense, leafy rosettes.
Venus* Looking-glass; Clasping Bellflower
(Legou^ia perfoliata) Bellflower family
(Specular i a perfoliata of Gray)
Flowers Violet blue, from }4 to 24 in. across ; solitary or 2 or 3
together, seated, in axils of upper leaves. Calyx lobes vary-
ing from 3 to 5 in earlier and later flowers, acute, rigid ;
corolla a ^-spoked wheel ; s stamens ; i pistil with 3 stig-
mas. Stem: 6 in. to 2 ft. long, hairy, densely leafy, slender,
weak. Leaves: Round, clasped about stem by heart-shaped
Preferred Habitat Sterile waste places, dry woods.
Flowering Season May September.
Distribution From British Columbia, Oregon, and Mexico, east to
At the top of a gradually lengthened and apparently over-
burdened leafy stalk, weakly leaning upon surrounding vegeta-
From Blue to Purple
tion, a few perfect blossoms spread their violet wheels, while
below them insignificant earlier flowers, which, although they
have never opened, nor reared their heads above the hollows of
the little shell-like leaves where they lie secluded, have, never-
theless, been producing seed without imported pollen while
their showy sisters slept. But the later blooms, by attracting
insects, set cross-fertilized seed to counteract any evil tendencies
that might weaken the species if it depended upon self-fertiliza-
tion only. When the European Venus' looking-glass used to be
cultivated in gardens here, our grandmothers tell us it was alto-
gether too prolific, crowding out of existence its less fruitful, but
more lovely, neighbors.
The Small Venus' Looking-glass (L. biflora], of similar habit
to the preceding, but with egg-shaped or oblong leaves seated on,
not clasping, its smooth and very slender stem, grows in the
South and westward to California.
Great Lobelia; Blue Cardinal-flower
(Lobelia syphilitica) Bellflower family
Flowers Bright blue, touched with white, fading to pale blue,
about i in. long, borne on tall, erect, leafy spike. Calyx 5-
parted, the lobes sharply cut, hairy. Corolla tubular, open to
base on one side, 2-lipped, irregularly 5-lobed, the petals pro-
nounced at maturity only. Stamens 5, united by their hairy
anthers into a tube around the style; larger anthers smooth.
Stem; i to 3 ft. high, stout, simple, leafy, slightly hairy.
Leaves: Alternate, oblong, tapering, pointed, irregularly
toothed, 2 to 6 in. long, l / 2 to 2 in. wide.
Preferred Habitat Moist or wet soil ; beside streams.
flowering Season July October.
Distribution Ontario and northern United States west to Dakota,
south to Kansas and Georgia.
To the evolutionist, ever on the lookout for connecting links,
the lobelias form an interesting group, because their corolla, slit
down the upper side and somewhat flattened, shows the begin-
ning of the tendency toward the strap or ray flowers that are
nearly confined to the composites of much later development,
of course, than tubular single blossoms. Next to massing their
flowers in showy heads, as the composites do, the lobelias have
the almost equally advantageous plan of crowding theirs along a
stem so as to make a conspicuous advertisement to attract the
passing bee and to offer him the special inducement of numerous
feeding places close together.
The handsome Great Lobelia, constantly and invidiously com
From Blue to Purple
pared with its gorgeous sister the cardinal flower, suffers un-
fairly. When asked what his favorite color was, Eugene Field
replied: " Why, I like any color at all so long as it's red ! " Most
men, at least, agree with him, and certainly humming-birds do;
our scarcity of red flowers being due, we must believe, to the
scarcity of humming-birds, which chiefly fertilize them. But how
bees love the blue blossoms!
There are many cases where the pistil of a flower necessarily
comes in contact with its own pollen, yet fertilization does not
take place, however improbable this may appear. Most orchids,
for example, are not susceptible to their own pollen. It would
seem as if our lobelia, in elevating its stigma through the ring
formed by the united anthers, must come in contact with some of
the pollen they have previously discharged from their tips, not
only on the bumblebee that shakes it out of them when he jars
the flower, but also within the tube. But when the anthers are
mature, the two lobes of the still immature stigma are pressed
together, and cannot be fertilized. Nevertheless, the hairy tips of
some of the anthers brush off the pollen grains that may have
lodged on the stigma as it passes through the ring in its ascent,
thus making surety doubly sure. Only after the stigma projects
beyond the ring of anthers does it expand its lobes, which are now
ready to receive pollen brought from another later flower by the
incoming bumblebee to which it is adapted.
Linnaeus named this group of plants for Matthias de 1'Obel, a
Flemish botanist, or herbalist more likely, who became physician
to James I. of England.
Preferably in dry, sandy soil or in meadows, and over a wide
range, the slender, straight shoots of Pale Spiked Lobelia (L. spi-
cata) bloom early and throughout the summer months, the in-
florescence itself sometimes reaching a height of two feet. At
the base of the plant there is usually a tuft of broadly oblong
leaves; those higher up narrow first into spoon-shaped, then into
pointed, bracts, along the thick and gradually lengthened spike of
scattered bloom. The flowers are often pale enough to be called
white. Like their relatives, they first ripen their anthers to prevent
The lithe, graceful little Brook Lobelia (L Kalmit), whose
light-blue flowers, at the end of thread-like footstems, form a loose
raceme, sways with a company of its fellows among the grass on
wet banks, beside meadow runnels and brooks, particularly in
limestone soil, from Nova Scotia to the Northwest Territory and
southward to New Jersey. It bears an insignificant capsule, not
inflated like the Indian tobacco's; and long, narrow, spoon-shaped
leaves. Twenty inches is the greatest height this little plant may
hope to attain.
From Blue to Purple
Not only beside water, and in it, but often totally immersed,
grows the Water Lobelia or Gladiole (L. Dortmanna). The slender,
hollow, smooth stem rises from a submerged tuft of round, hol-
low, fleshy leaves longitudinally divided by a partition, and bears
at the top a scattered array of pale-blue flowers from August to
Indian or Wild Tobacco; Gag-root; Asthma-
weed ; Bladder-pod Lobelia
(Lobelia inflata] Bellflower family
Flowers Pale blue or violet, small, borne at short intervals in
spike-like leafy racemes. Calyx 5-parted, its awl-shaped lobes
^4 in. long, or as long as the tubular, 2-lipped, 5-cleft, corolla
that opens to base of tube on upper side. Stamens, 5 united
by their hairy anthers into a ring around the 2-lobed style.
Stem : From i to 3 feet high, hairy, very acrid, much branched,
leafy. Leaves : Alternate, oblong or ovate, toothed, the upper
ones acute, seated on stem ; lower ones obtuse, petioled, I to
2 l /z in. long. Fruit: A much inflated, rounded, ribbed, many
Preferred Habitat Dry fields and thickets; poor soil.
Flowering Season J uly November.
Distribution Labrador westward to the Missouri River, south to
Arkansas and Georgia.
The most stupid of the lower animals knows enough to let
this poisonous, acrid plant alone; but not so man, who formerly
made a quack medicine from it in the days when a drug that set
one's internal organism on fire was supposed to be especially
beneficial. One taste of the plant gives a realizing sense of its
value as an emetic. How the red man enjoyed smoking and
chewing the bitter leaves, except for the drowsiness that followed,
is a mystery.
On account of the smallness of its flowers and their scanti-
ness, the Indian tobacco is perhaps the least attractive of the lobe-
lias, none of which has so inflated a seed vessel, the distinguish-
ing characteristic of this common plant.
Chicory; Succory; Blue Sailors; Bunk
(Cichorium Intybus) Chicory family
Flower-head Bright, deep azure to gray blue, rarely pinkish or
white, i to \Y?. in. broad, set close to stem, often in small
clusters for nearly the entire length ; each head a composite
From Blue to Purple
of ray flowers only, 5-toothed at upper edge, and set in a
flat green receptacle. Stem: Rigid, branching, i to 3 ft. high.
Leaves : Lower ones spreading on ground, 3 to 6 in. long,
spatulate, with deeply cut or irregular edges, narrowed into
petioles, from a deep tap-root ; upper leaves of stem and
branches minute, bract-like.
Preferred Habitat Roadsides, waste places, fields.
Flowering Season July October.
Distribution Common in Eastern United States and Canada, south
to the Carolinas ; also sparingly westward to Nebraska.
At least the dried and ground root of this European invader is
known to hosts of people who buy it undisguised or not, accord-
ing as they count it an improvement to their coffee or a disagreea-
ble adulterant. So great is the demand for chicory that, notwith-
standing its cheapness, it is often in its turn adulterated with
roasted wheat, rye, acorns, and carrots. Forced and blanched in a
warm, dark place, the bitter leaves find a ready market as a salad
known as "barbe de Capucin " by the fanciful French. Endive
and dandelion, the chicory's relatives, appear on the table too, in
spring, where people have learned the possibilities of salads, as
they certainly have in Europe.
From the depth to which the tap-root penetrates, it is not un-
likely the succory derived its name from the Latin succurrere =
to run under. The Arabic name chicourey testifies to the almost
universal influence of Arabian physicians and writers in Europe
after the Conquest. As chicoree, achicoria, chicoria, cicorea,
chicorie, cichorei, cihorie, tsikorei, and cicorie the plant is known
respectively to the French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Germans,
Dutch, Swedes, Russians, and Danes.
On cloudy days or in the morning only throughout midsum-
mer the "peasant posy " opens its "dear blue eyes"
"Where tired feet
Toil to and fro ;
Where flaunting Sin
May see thy heavenly hue,
Or weary Sorrow look from thee
Toward a tenderer blue ! "
In his " Humble Bee " Emerson, too, sees only beauty in the
"Succory to match the sky ; "
but, mirabile dictu, Vergil, rarely caught in a prosaic, practical
" And spreading succ'ry chokes the rising field."
From Blue to Purple
Iron-weed; Flat Top
(yernonia Ncrveboracensis) Thistle family.
Flower-head Composite of tubular florets only, intense reddish-
purple thistle-like heads, borne on short, branched peduncles
and forming broad, flat clusters ; bracts of involucre, brown-
ish purple, tipped with awl-shaped bristles. Stem : 3 to 9 ft.
high, rough or hairy, branched. Leaves: Alternate, narrowly
oblong or lanceolate, saw-edged, 3 to 10 in. long, rough.
Preferred Habitat Moist soil, meadows, fields.
Flowering Season July September.
Distribution Massachusetts to Georgia, and westward to the
Emerson says a weed is a plant whose virtues we have not
yet discovered ; but surely it is no small virtue in the iron-weed
to brighten the roadsides and low meadows throughout the sum-
mer with bright clusters of bloom. When it is on the wane, the
asters, for which it is sometimes mistaken, begin to appear, but
an instant's comparison shows the difference between the two
flowers. After noting the yellow disk in the centre of an aster,
it is not likely the iron-weed's thistle-like head of ray florets only
will ever again be confused with it. Another rank-growing
neighbor with which it has been confounded by the novice is the
Joe Pye weed, a far paler, pinkish flower, as one who does not
meet them both afield may see on comparing the colored plates
in this book.
To each tiny floret, secreting nectar in its tube, many insects,
attracted by the bright color of the iron-weed standing high
above surrounding vegetation, come to feast. Long-lipped bees
and flies rest awhile for refreshment, but butterflies of many
beautiful kinds are by far the most abundant visitors. Pollen car-
ried out by the long, hairy styles as they extend to maturity must
attach itself to their tongues. The tiger swallow-tail butterfly
appears to have a special preference for this flower. (See p. 46.)
Common or Scaly Blazing Star; Colic-root;
Rattlesnake Master; Button Snakeroot
(Lacinaria squarrosa) Thistle family
(Liatris squarrosa of Gray)
Flower-heads Composite, about I in. long, bright purple or rose
purple, of tubular florets only, from an involucre of over-
lapping, rigid, pointed bracts ; each of the few flower-heads
From Blue to Purple
from the leaf axils along a slender stem in a wand-like raceme.
Stem: % to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Alternate, narrow, entire.
Preferred Habitat Dry, rich soil.
Flowering Season June September.
Distribution Ontario to the Gulf of Mexico, westward to Ne-
Beginning at the top, the apparently fringed flower-heads
open downward along the wand, whose length depends upon
the richness of the soil. All of the flowers are perfect and attract
long-tongued bees and flies (especially Exoprosopa fasciata) and
butterflies, which, as they sip from the corolla tube, receive the
pollen carried out and exposed on the long divisions of the style.
Some people have pretended to cure rattlesnake bites with appli-
cations of the globular tuber of this and the next species.
The Large Button Snakeroot, Blue Blazing Star, or Gay Feather
(L. scariosa), may attain six feet, but usually not more than half
that height; and its round flower-heads normally stand well away
from the stout stem on foot-stems of their own. The bristling
scales of the involucre, often tinged with purple at the tips, are a
conspicuous feature. With much the same range and choice of
habitat as the last species, this Blazing Star is a later bloomer,
coming into flower in August, and helping the golden-rods and
asters brighten the landscape throughout the early autumn. The
name of gay feather, miscellaneously applied to several blazing
stars, is especially deserved by this showy beauty of the family.
Unlike others of its class, the Dense Button Snakeroot, Devil's
Bit, Rough or Backache Root, Prairie Pine or Throatwprt (L.
spicata), the commonest species we have, chooses moist soil, even
salt marshes near the coast, and low meadows throughout a range
nearly corresponding with that of the scaly blazing star. Resembling
its relatives in general manner of growth, we note that its oblong
involucre, rounded at the base, has blunt, not sharply pointed, bracts;
that the flower-heads are densely set close to the wand for from
four to fifteen inches ; that the five to thirteen bright rose-purple
florets which compose each head occasionally come white ; that
its leaves are long and very narrow, and that October is not too
late to find the plant in bloom.
Blue and Purple Asters or Starworts
Evolution teaches us that thistles, daisies, sunflowers, asters,
and all the triumphant horde of composites were once very dif-
ferent flowers from what we see to-day. Through ages of natural
From Blue to Purple
selection of the fittest among their ancestral types, having finally
arrived at the most successful adaptation of their various parts
to their surroundings in the whole floral kingdom, they are now
overrunning the earth. Doubtless the aster's remote ancestors
were simple green leaves around the vital organs, and depended
upon the wind, as the grasses do a most extravagant method
to transfer their pollen. Then some rudimentary flower changed
its outer row of stamens into petals, which gradually took on
color to attract insects and insure a more economical method of
transfer. Gardeners to-day take advantage of a blossom's natural
tendency to change stamens into petals when they wish to pro-
duce double flowers. As flowers and insects developed side by
side, and there came to be a better and better understanding be-
tween them of each other's requirements, mutual adaptation fol-
lowed. The flower that offered the best advertisement, as the
composites do, by its showy rays ; that secreted nectar in tubu-
lar flowers where no useless insect could pilfer it ; that fastened
its stamens to the inside wall of the tube where they must dust
with pollen the under side of every insect, unwittingly cross-fer-
tilizing the blossom as he crawled over it ; that massed a great
number of these tubular florets together where insects might
readily discover them and feast with the least possible loss of
time this flower became the winner in life's race. Small wonder
that our June fields are white with daisies and the autumn land-
scape is glorified with golden-rod and asters !
Since North America boasts the greater part of the two
hundred and fifty asters named by scientists, and as varia-
tions in many of our common species frequently occur, the tyro
need expect no easy task in identifying every one he meets afield.
However, the following are possible acquaintances to every one:
In dry, shady places the Large, or Broad-leaved Aster (A, ma-
crophyllus), so called from its three or four conspicuous, h^art-
shaped leaves on long petioles, in a clump next the ground, may
be more easily identified by these than by the pale lavender or
violet flower-heads of about sixteen rays each which crown its
reddish angular stem in August and September. The disk turns
In prairie soil, especially about the edges of woods in western
New York, southward and westward to Texas and Minnesota,
the beautiful Sky-blue Aster (A. a^ureus) blooms from August till
after frost. Its slender, stiff, rough stem branches above to display
the numerous bright blue flowers, whose ten to twenty rays
measure only about a quarter of an inch in length. The upper
leaves are reduced to small flat bracts ; the next are linear ; and
the lower ones, which approach a heart shape, are rough on both
sides, and may be five or six inches long.
Much more branched and bushy is the Common Blue, Branch-
ing, Wood, or Heart-leaved Aster (A. cordifolius), whose generous
From Blue to Purple
masses of small, pale lavender flower-heads look like a mist hang-
ing from one to live feet above the earth in and about the woods
and shady roadsides from September even to December in favored
The Wavy or Various-leaved Aster or Small Fleabane (A. un-
dulatus) has a stiff, rough, hairy, widely branching stalk, whose
thick, rough lowest leaves are heart-shaped and set on long foot-
stems ; above these, the leaves have shorter stems, dilating where
they clasp the stalk; the upper leaves, lacking stems, are seated
on it, while those of the branches are shaped like tiny av/ls. The
flowers, which measure less than an inch across, often grow
along one side of an axis as well as in the usual raceme. Eight
to fifteen pale blue to violet rays surround the disks which, yel-
low at first, become reddish brown in maturity. We find the
plant in dry soil, blooming in September and October.
By no means tardy, the Late Purple Aster, so-called, or Purple
Daisy (A. patens), begins to display its purplish-blue, daisy-like
flower-heads early in August, and farther north may be found in