Wild or American Senna
FlowersYellow, about 3/4 in. broad, numerous, in short axillary clusters on the upper part of plant. Calyx of 5 oblong lobes; 5 petals, 3 forming an upper lip, 2 a lower one; 10 stamens of 3 different kinds; 1 pistil. Stem: 3 to 8 ft. high, little branched. Leaves: Alternately pinnately compounded of 6 to 10 pairs of oblong leaflets. Fruit: A narrow, flat curving pod, 3 to 4 in. long.
Preferred HabitatAlluvial or moist, rich soil, swamps, roadsides.
DistributionNew England, westward to Nebraska, south to the Gulf States.
Whoever has seen certain Long Island roadsides bordered with wild senna, the brilliant flower clusters contrasted with the deep green of the beautiful foliage, knows that no effect produced by art along the drives of public park or private garden can match these country lanes in simple charm.
While leaves of certain African and East Indian species of senna are most valued for their medicinal properties, those of this plant are largely collected in the Middle and Southern states as a substitute. Caterpillars of several sulphur butterflies, which live exclusively on cassia foliage, appear to feel no evil effects from overdoses.
Wild Indigo; Yellow or Indigo Broom; Horsefly Weed
FlowersBright yellow, papilionaceous, about 1 in. long, on short pedicels, in numerous but few flowered terminal racemes. Calyx light green, 4 or 5-toothed; corolla of 5 oblong petals, the standard erect, the keel enclosing 10 incurved stamens and 1 pistil. Stem: Smooth, branched, 2 to 4 ft. high. Leaves: Compounded of 3 ovate leaflets. Fruit: A many-seeded round or egg-shaped pod tipped with the awl-shaped style.
Preferred HabitatDry, sandy soil.
Flowering SeasonJuneSeptember. DistributionMaine and Minnesota to the Gulf states.
Dark grayish green, lover-like leaves, and small, bright yellow flowers growing in loose dusters at the ends of the branches of a bushy little plant, are so commonly “met with they need little description. A relative, the true indigo-bearer, a native of Asia, once commonly grown in the Southern states when slavery made competition with Oriental labor possible, has locally escaped and become naturalized. But the false species, although, as Doctor Gray says, it yields “a poor sort of indigo,” yields a most valuable medicine employed by the homoeopathists in malarial fevers. The plant turns black in drying. As in the case of other papilionaceous blossoms, bees are the visitors best adapted to fertilize the flowers. ‘When we see the little, sleepy, dusky-winged butterfly (Thanaos brizo) around the plant we may know she is there only to lay eggs, that the larvae and caterpillars may find their favorite food at hand on waking into life.
Wild Lupine; Old Maid’s Bonnets; Wild Pea; Sun Dial
FlowersVivid blue, very rarely pink or white, butterfly-shaped; corolla consisting of standard, wings, and keel; about in. long, borne in a long raceme at end of stem; calyx 2-lipped, deeply toothed. Stem: Erect, branching, leafy, 1 to 2 ft. high. Leaves: Palmate, compounded of from 7 to 11 (usually 8) leaflets. Fruit: A broad, flat, very hairy pod, 11 in. long, and containing 4 or 5 seeds.
Preferred HabitatDry, sandy places, banks, and hill-sides.
DistributionUnited States east of Mississippi, and east-ern Canada.
Farmers once thought that this plant preyed upon the fertility of their soil, as we see in the derivation of its name, from lupus, a wolf; whereas the lupine contents itself with sterile waste land. no one should grudge itsteep, gravelly banks, railroad tracks, exposed sunny hills, where even it must often burn out under fierce sunshine did not its root penetrate to surprising depths. It spreads far and wide in thrifty colonies, reflecting the vivid color of June skies, until, as Thoreau says, “the earth is blued with it.”
The lupine is another of those interesting plants which go to sleep at night. Some members of the genus erect one half of the leaf and droop the other half until it be-comes a vertical instead of the horizontal star it is by day. Frequently the leaflets rotate as much as 90 degrees on their own axes. Some lupines fold their leaflets, not at night only, but during the day also there is more or less movement in the leaves. Sun dial, a popular name for the wild lupine, has reference to this peculiarity. The leaf of our species shuts downward around its stem umbrella fashion, or the leaflets are erected to prevent the chilling which comes to horizontal surfaces by radiation, some scientists think. “That the sleep movements of leaves are in some manner of high importance to the plants which exhibit them,” says Darwin, “few will dispute who have observed how complex they sometimes are.”
Common Red, Purple, Meadow, or Honeysuckle Clover
FlowersMagenta, pink, or rarely whitish, sweet-scented the tubular corollas set in dense round, oval, or egg-shaped heads about 1 in. long, and seated in a sparingly hairy calyx. Stem: 6 in. to 2 ft. high, branching, reclining, or erect, more or less hairy. Leaves: On long petioles, commonly compounded of 3, but sometimes of 4 to 11 oval or oblong leaflets, marked with white crescent, often dark-spotted near centre; stipules egg-shaped, sharply pointed, strongly veined, more than 2 in. long.
Preferred HabitatFields, meadows, roadsides.
Flowering SeasonAprilNovember. DistributionCommon throughout Canada and United States.
Meadows bright with clover-heads among the grasses, daisies, and buttercups in June resound with the murmur of unwearying industry and rapturous enjoyment. Bumblebees by the tens of thousands buzzing above acres of the farmer’s clover blossoms should be happy in a knowledge of their benefactions, which doubtless concern them not at all. They have never heard the story of the Australians who imported quantities of clover for fodder, and had glorious fields of it that season, but not a seed to plant next year’s crops, simply because the farmers had failed to import the bumblebee. After her immigration the clovers multiplied prodigiously.
No; the bee’s happiness rests on her knowledge that only the butterflies’ long tongues can honestly share with her the brimming wells of nectar in each tiny floret. Children who have sucked them too appreciate her rapture. If we examine a little flower under the magnifying glass, we shall see why its structure places it in the pea family. Bumble-bees so depress the keel either when they sip, or feed on pollen, that their heads and tongues get well dusted with the yellow powder, which they transfer to the stigmas of other flowers; whereas the butterflies are of doubtful value, if not injurious, since their long, slender tongues easily drain the nectar without depressing the keel. Even if a few grains of pollen should cling to their tongues, it would probably be wiped off as they withdrew them through the narrow slit, where the petals nearly meet, at the mouth of the flower. Bombus terrestris delights in nipping holes at the base of the tube, which other pilferers also profit by. Our country is so much richer in butterflies than Europe, it is scarcely surprising that Professor Robertson found thirteen Lepidoptera out of twenty insect visitors to this clover in Illinois, whereas Muller caught only eight butter flies on it out of a list of thirty-nine visitors in Germany. The fritillaries and the sulphurs are always seen about the clover fields among many others, and the “dusky wings” and the caterpillar of several species feed almost exclusively on this plant.
“To live in clover,” from the insect’s point of view at least, may well mean a life of luxury and affluence. Most peasants in Europe will tell you that a dream about the flower foretells not only a happy marriage, but long life and prosperity. For ages the clover has been counted a mystic plant, and all sorts of good and bad luck were said to attend the finding of variations of its leaves which had more than the common number of leaflets. At evening these leaflets fold downward, the side ones like two hands clasped in prayer, the end one bowed over them. In this fashion the leaves of the white and other clovers also go to sleep, to protect their sensitive surfaces from cold by radiation, it is thought.
White Sweet Clover; Bokhara or Tree Clover; White
Melilot; Honey Lotus
Flowers—Small, white, fragrant, papilionaceous, the standard petal a trifle longer than the wings; borne in slender racemes. Stem: 3 to 10 ft. tall, branching. Leaves: Rather distant, petioled, compounded of 3 oblong, saw-edged leaflets; fragrant, especially when dry.
Preferred HabitatWaste lands, roadsides.
Flowering SeasonJuneNovember. DistributionUnited States, Europe, Asia.
Both the White and the Yellow Sweet Clover put their leaves to sleep at. night in a remarkable manner: the three leaflets of each leaf twist through an angle of 90 degrees, until one edge of each vertical blade is uppermost. The two side leaflets, Darwin found, always tend to face the north with their upper surface, one facing north-northwest and the other north-northeast, while the terminal leaflet escapes the chilling of its sensitive upper surface through radiation by twisting to a vertical also, but bending to either east or west, until it comes in contact with the vertical upper surface of either of the side leaflets. Thus the upper surface of the terminal and of at least one of the side leaflets is sure to be well protected through the night; one is “left out in the cold.”
The dried branches of sweet clover will fill a room with delightful fragrance; but they will not drive away flies, nor protect woollens from the ravages of moths, as old women once taught us to believe.
The ubiquitous White or Dutch Clover (Trifolium repens), whose creeping branches send up solitary round heads of white or pinkish flowers on erect, leafless stems, from May to December, in fields, open waste land, and cultivated places throughout our area, Europe, and Asia, devotes itself to wooing bees, since these are the only in-sects that effect cross-fertilization regularly, other visitors aiding it only occasionally. Its foliage is the favorite food of very many species of caterpillars and of all grazing cattle the world around. This is still another plant frequently miscalled shamrock. Good luck or bad attends the finding of the leaves, when compounded of an even or an odd number of leaflets more than the normal count, according to the saying of many simple-minded folk.
Blue, Tufted, or Cow Vetch or Tare; Cat Peas; Tinegrass
FlowersBlue, later purple; in. long, growing downward in 1-sided spike, 15 to 40 flowered; calyx oblique, small, with unequal teeth; corolla butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard, wings, and keel, all oblong; the first clawed, the second oblique, and adhering to the shorter keel; 10 stamens, 1 detached from other 9. Stem: Slender, weak, climbing or trailing, downy, 2 to 4 ft. long. Leaves: Tendril bearing, divided into 18 to 24 thin, narrow, oblong leaflets. Fruit: A smooth pod 1 in. long or less, 5 to 8 seeded.
Preferred HabitatDry soil, fields, waste land.
DistributionUnited States from New Jersey, Kentucky, and Iowa northward and northwestward. Europe and Asia.
Dry fields blued with the bright blossoms of the Tufted Vetch, and roadsides and, thickets where the angular vine sends forth vivid patches of color, resound with the music of happy bees. Although the parts of the flower fit closely together, they are elastic, and opening with the energetic visitor’s weight and’ movement give ready access to the nectary. On his departure they resume their original position, to protect both nectar and pollen from rain and pilferers whose bodies are not perfectly adapted to further the flower’s crosstfertilization. ‘The common humblebee (Bombus terrestris) plays a mean trick, all too frequently, when he bites a hole at the base of the blossom, not only gaining easy access to the sweets for himself, but opening the way for others less intelligent than he, but quite ready to profit by his mischief, and so defeat nature’s plan. Doctor Ogle observed that the same bee always acts in the same manner, one sucking the nectar legitimately, another always biting a hole ,to obtain it surreptitiously, the natural inference, of course, being that some bees, like small boys, are naturally depraved.
Apios tuberosa (A. Apios)
FlowersFragrant, chocolate brown and reddish purple, numerous, about 1/2 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 1. Stein: From tuberous, edible rootstock; climbing, slender, several feet long, the juice milky. Leaves: Compounded of 5 to 7 ovate leaflets. Fruit: A leathery, slightly curved pod, 2 to 4 in. long.
Preferred HabitatTwining about undergrowth and thickets in moist or wet ground.
DistributionNew Brunswick to Ontario, south to the Gulf states and Kansas.
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 (Phaseolus polystachyus). The latter has loose racemes of smaller purple flowers and leaflets in threes; nevertheless it is often con-founded with the ground-nut vine by older naturalists whose knowledge was “learned of schools.”
Wild or Hog Peanut Amphicarpa monoica (Falcata comma)
FlowersNumerous small, showy ones, borne in drooping clusters from axils of upper leaves; lilac, pale purplish, or rarely white, butterfly-shaped, consisting of standard petal partly enfolding wings and keel. Calyx tubular, 4 or 5 toothed; 10 stamens (9 and 1); 1 pistil. (Also solitary fertile flowers, lacking petals, on thread-like, creeping branches from lower axils or underground.) Stem: Twining wiry brownish-hairy, 1 to 8 ft. long. Leaves: Compounded of 3 thin leaflets, egg-shaped at base, acutely pointed at tip. Fruit: Hairy pod 1 in. long. Also 1-seeded, pale, rounded, underground peanut.
Preferred HabitatMoist thickets, shady roadsides.
DistributionNew Brunswick westward to Nebraska, south to Gulf of Mexico.
Amphicarpa (“seed at both ends”), the Greek name by which this graceful vine is sometimes known, emphasizes its most interesting feature, that, nevertheless, seems to many a foolish duplication of energy on Nature’s part. Why should the same plant bear two kinds of blossoms and seeds? Among the foliage of low shrubbery and plants in shady lanes and woodside thickets, we see the delicate, drooping clusters of lilac blossoms hanging where bees can readily discover them and, in pilfering their sweets, transfer their pollen from flower to flower. But in case of failure to intercross these blossoms that are dependent upon insect help to set fertile seed, what then? Must the plant run the risk of extinction? Self-fertilization may be an evil, but failure to produce seed at all is surely the greatest one. To guard against such a calamity, insignificant looking flowers that have no petals to open for the enticing of insects, but which fertilize themselves with their own pollen, produce abundant seed close to the ground or under it. Then what need of the showy blossoms hanging in the thicket above? Close inbreeding in the vegetable world, as in the animal, ultimately produces degenerate offspring; and although the showy lilac blossoms of the wild peanut yield comparatively few cross-fertilized seeds, these are quite sufficient to enable the vine to maintain those desired features which are the inheritance from ancestors that struggled in their day and generation after perfection. No plant dares depend upon its cleistogamous or blind flowers alone for offspring; and in the sixty or more genera containing these curious growths, that usually look like buds arrested in development, every plant that bears them bears also showy flowers dependent upon cross-pollination by insect aid.
The boy who: “Drives home the cows from the pasture Up through the long shady lane” knows how reluctantly they leave the feast afforded by the wild peanut. Hogs, rooting about in the moist soil where it grows, unearth the hairy pods that should pros duce next year’s vines; hence the poor excuse for branding a charming plant with a repellent folk-name.
This plant should not be confused with pig-nut (carya porcina), which is a species of hickory.