Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/374

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remarkably small stem, much as if a wire had been dressed with leaves for festal uses. The upper part of the stem is so closely surrounded with the compact flowers, that it is literally a purple raceme or wand. Cultivated in mass, in a dry soil, this aster would glow like a sheet of purple flame.

And why is the very common, yet very stately, gentian over-looked? This plant is positively unique in character. A single stem set amid green leaves, with cerulean gems, is a thyrsus worthy of a god. But there is a quaint, coyish modesty about it—its singular flowers seem to be always in bud, as if too coy to blossom outright.

And what charming terrestrial orchids are found native—but, concerning this, there, is but space for a word. These singular indigenous flowers—so lovely, and yet so eccentric—are represented by a large number of species. They may be called pretty, winning little oddities. They would need some skill, perhaps, in their cultivation; and some might come to be regarded as the coquettes of the floral community, jilting the gardener with futile promises. Last summer, we took up with our fingers a pretty specimen of the Calopogon pulchellus, which means the Beautiful Little Beard. It had but one tiny scape, growing from a green bulb which lay in the moss, much like a solitary egg in a bird's-nest. The entire plant, with its marvellous flower, was not more than six inches high. Our heart failed us in an attempt to put it in the press as a specimen; so we planted it in a little pot, attached to it a label bearing its scientific name, for popular name it had not, and then put it on the glass case on the counter of the apothecary. It was a pleasant surprise to everybody who saw it. Many were the ejaculatory commendations received by the little stranger with the purple hood, and the quaint little beard of so grotesque dyes of pink, and yellow, and white. The pretty stranger was unanimously voted "charming;" and was by some taken to be a rare exotic, that had grown up under the professor's care. Besides this, we have among our native orchids the equally pretty Pogonia and Arethusa; while, worthy of any conservatory, are the white fringed and the yellow fringed Rein-orchis, both of the genus Habenaria. Mention might be made of the Lady's Slipper, the showy and rather ostentatious Cyprepedium; but the list is a long one. These native orchids are all eccentricities, and we have selected the most lovable, and the most easily attainable—in fact, those the nearest to our hands.

Just as the above was written, the usual monthly report of the Department of Agriculture came to hand. The following paragraphs are so much to the purpose, that it would be nothing less than blame-worthy not to quote them. Speaking of American plants in Great Britain, it cites an English journal as saying: "The beautiful Asclepias tuberosa is, this season, producing freely its showy, bright orange-colored flowers in several collections round London. This fine perennial thrives perfectly well almost anywhere, if planted in sandy peat."