Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/247

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PRAIRIE FLOWERS OF LATE AUTUMN. 235

year. Some of the species bear flowers that long seern upon the verge of coming into full bloom, and disappoint those who look for wide-open flowers. They are somewhat bell-shaped ; into the plaited opening, otherwise nearly closed, the bee or other insect pushes its way in search of nectar and pollen. Upon the exit of the winged visitant the corolla again closes, to the exclusion of everything except its insect attendants. The most charming of all the species of this late-flowering genus is the celebrated fringed gentian, so named because its long corolla ends in a most delicate row of long, fine, hair-like projections, suggesting the heavy eyelashes of a beautiful girl. The tint of the whole blos- som is a pure and delicate blue, caught, as it would seem, from some patch of October sky, margined by flecks of fleecy clouds. These gentians, as well as rich specimens of a cousin to the thor- oughwort and boneset, with great clusters of pure white flowers, might be gathered any late autumn day, the former in the low prairie, the latter in the tangle of frost-bitten herbage in " the timber " along the water- courses. The boneset flowers suggested, in their exhibition of white, the approach of winter, when all the copse is covered with a mantle of snow and the stream is locked in the embrace of the frost-king.

One of the latest of the autumn prairie flowers and one not found by me until drear November has come in the wake of In- dian summer weather is the ladies-tresses, an orchid of no strik- ing beauty, but, in a region where orchids are rare and arriving after the eleventh hour, it has its full share of interest. The plants are single-stemmed, few-leaved, and the small, pure white flowers are so arranged upon the long spike as to assume a spiral inflorescence, from which fact the common name doubtless origi- nated in the fertile mind of some imaginative lover of plants. If the witch-hazel had been a member of the prairie flora un- der consideration, it would have been in its place of honor at the close of this list ; but, as it is, the orchid and the aster, the shep- herd's-purse of the wayside and the prairie must vie with the pansy in the flower-garden for the last place in the floral calendar of the year.

The reasons assigned in a previous article for the early bloom- ing of plants hold good here for those that develop their flowers late in the year, and can be briefly condensed into the expression that, in the experience of the species, it is probably found an ad- vantage to be somewhat out of the season. A single store upon a side street may do as well as any one in the market-place, provided it is thoroughly accommodated to the situation : com- petition, or the absence of it, is likewise an element not to be ignored in the consideration of the time of blooming of flow- ers ; and no one can but rejoice that all plants do not produce

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