Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/373

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357
CULTIVATING WILD-FLOWERS.

We know of more than one little cottage flower-patch, whose owner has planted in it the cardinal-flower, where it has grown in such decided prominence of beauty as to maintain a sort of pontifical preeminence among the floral dignities of the parterre. This splendid flower, with its racemes like scarlet rods, and the habit of the plant, so upright and graceful, with a sort of queenly bearing, and gorgeous magnificence, very much outshone its gayer but straggling companion, the gaudy scarlet salvia. We know a village blacksmith who thus made this plant the spectacle in his flower-plot; and it was amusing to see persons, in their admiration, seeking to purchase plants from this little garden, utterly ignorant of the fact that they could be had simply for the going after in the contiguous meadows. As a wild-flower, they had often seen it, but had never observed it. Forsooth, how few obey the aesthetic command: "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow!"

And there is the common spreading dogbane, to which science has given one of its terrible sesquipedalian names, to wit, Apocynum androsœmifolium. It is an engaging plant, for all that, with its open, bell-shaped flowers. Its first cousin, the Indian hemp, though very unpretentious as to its flowers, has an upright habit, much more queenly than the loose abandon of its beautiful flowered relation. Alas! for its reputation, this plant has fallen into bad hands, and become notorious among the empirics of medicine. Speaking of the spreading dogbane, a correspondent of the Torrey Botanical Club, quoting authorities, describes it as "one of the most charming of our native plants. The beautiful clusters of rosy bells, with their pink bars, and delicate fragrance, claim for it a place in the garden, where, however, we do not meet with it, but on open banks and by the side of roads or cultivated fields. It is well approved, too, by the insect tribe, who are, in general, much more appreciative judges of color and odor than we are. In Europe, where it is not native, it is cultivated in gardens, and, according to Lamarck, is called gobe-mouche—fly-trap. If flies alight on this plant, they are frequently entangled by the glutinous matter, and destroyed. Hence, the plant has been called Herbe d la puce."

It has surprised me that so little has been done with our star-worts, or native asters—plants so prodigal of bloom during the late summer, and almost the entire autumnal months. The number of species is very great, and some are of exquisite beauty. Our favorite is the Aster concolor. It abounds South, and comes as far North as the Pines of New Jersey, where it attains perfection in delicacy of structure and prodigality and compactness of bloom. Indeed, this part of New Jersey has seemed to us as the prodigal border-land, where the Southern and the Northern floras terminate and commingle, or overlap each other. Here Michaux and other great men have labored, and carried away many novelties. In these regions, the Aster concolor grows up like a simple wand, with its small leaves closely hugging the