Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 45.djvu/29

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17
THE GUESTS OF THE MAYFLOWER.
THE GUESTS OF THE MAYFLOWER.

By Prof. CLARENCE M. WEED.

NO native plant has so endeared itself to the New England heart as the mayflower. For two centuries it has been to old and young the sweetest of spring's harbingers as it pushed its dainty blossoms through the fallen leaves beside the lingering snow. It has charmed those fortunate ones who have wandered over the hills to find it, and has carried glad tidings to those compelled to stay at home. It has been constantly used to carry Cupid's message from youths to maidens — a custom which I like to fancy may have originated when, in the infancy of Plymouth, John Alden brought to Priscilla Mullens bunches of arbutus blossoms that spoke not only for themselves but also for the hand that plucked them.

But Epigœa is a plant of decided interest in itself apart from its associations. It was not originally designed as an emissary of

PSM V45 D029 The mayflower.jpg

Fig. 1. — The Mayflower.

the goddess of love, and its beauty was primarily developed without reference to the æsthetic needs of the Pilgrims or their descendants. Long before the Mayflower reached Plymouth or Columbus landed at San Salvador — probably before the Indians arrived, and possibly before the glaciers came down from the north — the arbutus blossomed with each returning season and carried on the cycle of her existence as tranquilly as she does today. But her fragrance was by no means "wasted on the desert air," for she received then, as now, the tributes of a host of insect visitors that went about to do her unconscious bidding.

Although the trailing arbutus has been developing for so many centuries, it is still in a state of transition, and appears to be looking toward a goal which probably will not be fully reached