A POPULAR INTRODUCTION
TO THE STUDY OF
ENGL ISH BOTANY.
Consider the lilies of the field ; how they grow"
WESLEYAN CONFERENCE OFFICE,
2, CASTLE STREET, CITY ROAD;
SOLD AT 66, PATERNOSTER ROW.
WATsoN KND HAZELI, Printers, London1 and Ayles-biix
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LIST OF PLATES.
TO FACE PAGE
Crane's Bill --11
Arum -- -- -23
Speedwell (Bird's Eye) 45
Marsh Marigold -- 61
Lesser Celandine -- 75
White Poppy 131
Small Reed 139
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
The Dog Rose -
,, Snowdrop -
,, Primrose -
,, Shepherd's Purse -
,, Wood Sorrel
,, Yellow Rattle
,, Solomon's Seal
,, Sloe, or Blackthorn
,, Pansy-leaf, with Lyr
,, Bedstraw -
,, Elder Tree
The Great Hairy Willow-Herb 79
,, Common Flax 81
,, Yellow Horned Poppy 84
,, Great Valerian 86
,, Sundew 90
,, Bog Pimpernel 95
,, Rock Rose 98
,, Fuller's Teasel 100
,, Furze -- 104
,, Common Broom -106
,, Pellitory of the Wall 108
,, Chicory 110
,, Perforated St. John'sWort 114
,, Common Avens 115
,, Yarrow 118
,, Scabious 122
,, Heath 124
,, Ivy-leaved Toad-flax -126
,, Salad Burnet 128
,, Anemone 129
SHE following chapters appeared originally in
te City Road Magazine, and the peculiarity
: their plan is owing partly to the necessity
a":t'1" t...r making each monthly portion complete in
':..'A self and of a uniform length.
There are many hand-books which teach Botany
well and scientifically, but which do not give the
simple, chatty information about flowers that is calcu-
lated to allure ordinary readers. On the other hand,
Miss Twamley, Miss Pratt, and others have given us
charming descriptions of plants, but they have avoided
technical instruction in the works to which we refer.
We have aimed at a middle course; to combine
interesting information with simple, progressive teach-
ing, so that our unpretending little volume may serve
as an introduction to Botany, and may prepare the
reader for an intelligent study of more advanced
Some repetition has seemed almost unavoidable, as it
was necessary to allude to points, the full develop-
ment of which would have occupied too much space
in the early part of the work, and was intentionally
reserved to the later chapters. After much considera-
tion we have decided that this is the more interesting
and natural style, and, on the whole, it is better to
leave it unaltered.
Our original intention was to avoid all technical
terms, but we have thought it better to introduce
gradually the more usual words, so that without being
discouraged at the outset by a long and dry list, the
student may find himself possessed at last of a suffi-
cient vocabulary to begin more advanced studies in
this interesting department of Natural History.
Endcliffe, Bristol, 1873.
A YEAR WITH THE WILD FLOWERS.
HERE is no science more interesting and
simple in its earlier stages than Botany; it
has also the advantage of combining exercise
in the fresh air with. its study, instead of
inducing its votaries to pore over books when
a they ought to be out of doors.
There seem to be three causes of the neglect of this
branch of knowledge, which we hope to counteract in
these papers. First objection: It is all very well if
you mean to pursue it so as to get your living by it,
but short of that, it is just waste of time."
If our education were entirely limited to subjects
which were indispensable, we suppose half the schools
might be closed; but besides the intellectual use of
Botany, expanding and cultivating the mental powers,
there is a spiritual use, in contemplating the wonder-
A Ya' with ite TWild Flowers.
ful works of God. He pronounced them all to be
" very good; and if we have the patience to imitate
His survey, we shall assuredly echo the oracle. We
can only study the orbs of heaven at a distance which
baffles minute inquiry, but "the stars of earth" are
within our reach, and may be subjected to the most
Besides, it is not a waste of time, from a purely
practical point of view.
In the vegetable world at our feet are mingled
intense poisons, valuable medicines, wholesome food,
pleasant spices; and is it "not worth while" to dis-
cover and separate them ?
Especially is it desirable for those who have charge
of the young. Children zill eat green food, and a
wholesale prohibition is far less likely to be obeyed
than a limited one, as, This will not hurt you, nor
this; you may have these, but never eat anything
without showing it first to me."
In the creation, all plants were made for food, and
(what we have never seen noticed) all parts of plants;
not every part of the same plant.
We use the roots of carrots, etc., the bark of the
cinnamon, the sap of the sugar cane, the pith of the
sago, the stem of the asparagus, (the woody fibre of
deal can be converted into bread, but it is not whole-
some,) the flower-stalk of secale, the leaf-stalk of
rhubarb, the leaves of cabbage, the flower of broccoli,
the seed of peas, seed and seed-vessels of French beans,
seed-vessels without the seed of plums, and even the
buds of a species of laurel, which produces cloves.
This list may be much extended, as we have onl5
given one example of each part, but there is still one
we cannot include-the thorns. We cannot recollect
any instance of their being used for man's food. Is it
not because they were not in the original plan of the lov-
ing Creator ? Added as a curse, they form a grand ex-
ception to :the otherwise edible character of vegetation.
It is now agreed that thorns are stunted buds;
careful cultivation will frequently deprive a plant of
thorns and produce luxuriant verdure. A silent lesson
that it is yet in man's power to avert much of the
misery entailed by the Fall, and to extract happiness
and glory from the sharpest trials of this life.
Second objection: "I only know my mother tongue,
and all the flowers have Latin or Greek names."
We are only attempting a very humble task in our
"botanical year," and we can promise you curious and
useful information about the plants we study, without
leaving English for any foreign language.
For a more advanced and accurate acquaintance, it is
desirable to use the scientific names; for two reasons.
First, because the English names are so carelessly
given: to mention a few examples,-Loosestrife, Milk-
wort, Cuckoo-flower, each of which has been given to
two totally different flowers. Second, because Botany
A Year with the Wild Flowers.
is a universal science, and it is necessary to find a
neutral platform on which the professors and especially
the doctors of all the civilized world may meet and
understand each other. If our objector were taken ill
on a journey it would probably be no small comfort to
find that his never failing prescription is as easily
understood in Dresden or Rouen as when he first
handed it to his own chemist,
Objection third: "The information generally found in
Botany-books is dry, technical, and couched in terms
which are difficult either to pronounce or understand."
There is much cause for this complaint; sometimes,
a scientific word is ingeniously contrived as the sub-
stitute for a whole sentence, but the thing has been
carried to an absurd extent, and therefore we yield
this point, with the promise to use as few of these
complicated terms as possible, and to translate all we
use.* Leaf-stalk and flower-stalk will answer our
purpose better than petiole and peduncle.
The plan we have sketched out for ourselves, is to
choose half a dozen flowers for each month, which are
in flower at that time. This of course can only be an
approximation, as difference of latitude and aspect
exercise a considerable influence upon the development
of fi.-,: in England, and a late or early spring would
further affect the calculation. Having selected a few
A forgotten explanation may easily be found again by referring to
flowers, which ought to be in blossom, we will. describe
them botanically, and then give facts worth knowing.
We shall choose those which are in some way remark-
able and interesting, feeling sure that any reader who
accompanies us steadily throughout will acquire such
a love for flowers as will carry him a second year into
more abstruse studies. In order to make this really
an introduction to Botany we would advise that the
flowers described should be sought and compared with
Next take the completest specimen you can find
of the whole plant; wash the root; then arrange
your plant neatly on a sheet of brown, blotting, or
other coarse paper; cover it with another sheet, and
press it under a heavy weight. In about a week it
will be fit to remove to a book of blank leaves, to
which it should be attached by narrow bands of
gummed paper. Towards the end of the year, when
fresh flowers fail, -we will make up our book of dried
ones, supplying the names of their orders, etc. Any
special directions for plants that require particular
treatment shall be given as we proceed.
It is important in the case of herbaceous plants,*
and many of the small ones growing in fields, to gather
the whole as a specimen; for the leaves at the root are
often quite different from those on the upper part of
Those which die down to the root every winter.
A Year wiLh the Wild Flowers.
The coltsfoot, meadow saffron, and some others, put
forth their blossoms and leaves at different seasons of
the year; in this case the different parts should be
carefully sought, and put together when dried. These
plants are not among the list we have chosen, but the
general rules for selecting subjects are given once for
all. It would be interesting to note the date on which
each of our specimens was gathered.
As this will be in print before New-Year's Day, and
we confine ourselves strictly to wild flowers, it will be
almost impossible to find one that would answer our
purpose as a representative, to point out the different
organs of a plant.
We shall therefore describe a dog-rose, as one that
is well-known and easily remembered.
THE ROOT is woody and fibrous. Some roots are
round and fleshy-they are then called bulbous; some
are fleshy, but taper off to a point, like the long
radish. Those are tap-roots; it will be easy to
remember that the tap tapers. When the root is
composed of a bundle of threads, it is called fibrous.
There are some fibres attached to every root, as it is
through them that the moisture from the ground is
sucked up by spongioles (little sponges) at the end of
each thread and carried up to the plant for sap. There
are other kinds of root, which we will describe as
(1.) The stem or stock is woody, and grows from the
outside. That is to say, the hardest timber is procured
* I ii
, .. : r )SE.
from the inside of the trees known as "outside-
8 A tYar with kte Wild Flowers.
growers" (Exogens), and the new wood is formed
round the old every year, causing those circles by
which the age of a tree is familiarly computed. The
bark is smooth, but armed with (2) priickles, which are
very different from thorns.
The first are only connected with the skin, and may
be peeled off. They are probably hairs, grown to an
unusual size, hardness, and strength. Thorns, on the
contrary, being undeveloped branches, are continua-
tions of the wood, etc., of the stem, and are not easily
The leaves (3) are compound-that is, several small
leaves joined together to form one-as is also the case
in the strawberry, horse-chestnut, etc.
A leaf formed of a single piece is called simple,
however much it is scalloped or divided. If the
divisions are large and roundish, they are called lobes.
Thus the ivy has a simple leaf of five lobes, and the
shamrock a compound leaf of three leaflets. The
leaves that are connected with the flower-stalk often
differ considerably from those in other parts of the
plant. They are called bracts (4).
In examining the flower itself, we see first a row of
green leaves, united into a tube or rather a globe before
reaching the stalk.
This is the calyx (chalice, cup), (5); the separate
divisions are called sepals. In the rose there is one
sepal, five-cleft: but as all the strips join at the bottom,
we cannot call them distinct sepals. (Sepals are sepa-
rate.) If the calyx falls before the flower is passed
away, it is deciduous. If it remain to the very last it
is persistent. It persists in staying or decides to go.
These little helps to memory must be taken as purely
mnemonic hints, not scientific, but it is almost too diffi-
cult to charge the memory with so many new words
totally unconnected with ideas. In this particular
instance we suppose the accurate definition would be
from the Latin word decdo, to fall off, but we are
teaching Botany, not Latin; that we leave to others.
Within the calyx come the five petals of the corolla,
white or delicate pink (6, etc.). The little threads
ending in knobs are the stamens. (11) These little
knobs contain pollen, that dust, mostly yellow, which
shakes out of the flower after the case has burst, and
which furnishes the bee-bread on which baby bees
The pistil comes in the very centre of the flowers:
it consists of three parts, the seed-vessel at the bottom,
a little shaft arising from it, called the style, and a
knob at the top which is frequently sticky; this is the
stigma. The shaft is not invariable; the stigma may
be found seated on the seed-vessel. Sometimes many
styles and stigmas rise from one seed-vessel or germ.
This is the case with the rose, but our illustration does
not show the separate styles very clearly. The seeds
of plants present an endless variety; some are dry,
10 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
some fleshy: single or numerous,-inside a berry, as
the rose, or outside, as the strawberry: Light and
feathery, to be easily blown away, or heavy and hard,
as the acorn, etc., so as to sow themselves in the ground
where they fall. When we consider, that one pattern
might have sufficed, and how much the earth is beau-
tilfed and rendered pleasant by this abundance, we
feel more deeply than ever, 0 Lord, how manifold are
Thy works I in wisdom hast Thou made them all."
The majority of seeds consist of a tough skin, con-
taining two semicircular divisions, united by a little
tender shoot, which extends downwards into the root,
and upwards into the stem, etc., when duly developed.
This formation is very distinct in a pea; a little soaking
will enable you to take off the coat, and examine the
interior. Peas will grow without earth, and it is pretty
and curious to watch the gradual development. If a
stone be suspended by a striig in a basin of water,
and a couple of peas balanced on it just under the
water, they will grow up twining round. each other
and the string. Care must be taken to add water
gently, so as not to dislodge them, and never let them
get quite dry. Some recommend growing mustard and
cress in this manner, but it does not last so well as
peas or beans, and has the great objection of filling the
room with its pungent smell, which, unmodified by
earth, is unpleasant and greatly provocative of sneezing.
1-.. L '
S, E will remark, once for all, that the flowers
described really may be found in the
Months to which they are assigned; but as
i-. ,''.'i w we write in the south-west of England,
'' we shall, most likely, be far ahead of our
*-- i friends in the north.
We must beg them to exercise a little patience, and
by diligently seeking for the first specimens, to keep
up as near as possible. We shall print the names of
the flowers in small capitals, and those of the different
parts in italics, so that any important particular may be
found at a glance.
We shall probably first find a SNOWDROP. Botanists
are not agreed as to this being a native of Great Britain;
but if not, it must have escaped from gardens, as it may
now often be found wild. Its beauty and early appear-
ance make it a general favourite. The root was for-
merly used as an emetic. It is bulbous and perennial,
but if the wild single flower is to be cultivated, it
12 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
should be taken up every year and kept out of the
ground three or four months.
In speaking of the flowers which have only a single
envelope, either green or coloured, instead of a dis-
tinct calyx and corolla, we shall use the term perianth,
meaning "round the stamens," as it seems difficult at
first to call the white or beautiful-coloured bell a calyx.
The perianth of the snowdrop is in six divisions :
white, tinged with green; three outer ones, long and
rather pointed; three inner ones, heart-shaped;
stamens, six; style, one; leaves, linear, smooth. The
Greek name Galanthus means mqilk-white.
Its companion, the CRocus, has also a bulbous root,
and linear leaves, but it is a more remarkable plant.
The perianth is cut into six equal divisions at the top;
below these it gradually narrows into a long tube
which springs from the root, and supplies the place of
a stalk. The seed-vessel is thus left underground,
where it remains till the flowers have been long faded,
and warmer weather draws the seed to the surface.
Few people care to have the withered flowers left
drooping on the plant, so they are removed and the
seed summarily destroyed.
Seedling plants are, however, much to be admired,
but they do not flower the first year. In the singular
blue AUTUMNAL CROCUs the flowers appear before the
leaves; the style is very large, and divided into three
at the top. (See plate, page 117.) The style when
dried furnishes the saffron of commerce. In our day
this article is chiefly used in cakes, to which it imparts
a deceptive appearance of richness, and a peculiar fla-
vour which is either strongly liked or disliked; but in
14 A Year with ite Wild Flowers.
comparatively modern times it was judged worthy of a
place in the material medical, and very minute directions
were given to young chemists that they might discrimi-
nate between the different qualities. The Spaniards
used to increase the weight of their saffron by soaking
it in oil, to the annoyance of English purchasers. It
was recommended for nervous and hysterical com-
plaints, and was supposed to exhilarate to the verge of
In more remote times the praise lavished on this
"king of plants" was still more extravagant-" the
soul of the lungs," and the "vegetable panacea" it
Let us next take the PRIMROSE. This has the re-
markable distinction of being called "first" in eight
different languages. First rose we say in English,
Pridmla is its Latin name, which is retained by the
garden and greenhouse varieties.
The common primrose has a calyx of one sepal, and
a corolla of one petal; both are five-cleft. The colour
is so peculiar and delicate as to take its name from the
flower-an honour shared by the rose, violet, and
mauve, (the last being the French for mallow,) and
some others. The leaves are large and rough, all
radical, that is, springing directly from the root with-
out any branches. The seeds are contained in large
capsules, which, when 'ripe, part at the top, leaving a
jagged edge, resembling ten teeth.
For those who wish t6 cultivate economical gardens,
the primrose is a great acquisition; it improves under
care as much as any other plant we know. All the
double or gaily-coloured varieties have been produced
from wild ones. In Cornwall a pink variety is found,
16 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
and also one which seems to be a link between the prim-
rose and polyanthus. The COWSLIP and OxLIP (Frontis-
piece fig. 1) are wild varieties, differing in structure; the
corolla is tubular, instead of partly tubular and partly
flat, and they are fragrant. Although we mention them
here to note the connection, they are later in their
appearance-May or June is their time. The use of
the cowslip for making wine is well known; perhaps
it may not be equally notorious that the corollas of the
primrose are sometimes made into a pudding, but to
judge by the receipt, so many other good things must
be put in to make it taste of something, that "Prim-
rose pudding would be very palatable with the prim-
roses left out.
The crocus, snowdrop, and primrose have all simple
Under favourable circumstances the primrose will
flower twice a year. Two or three plants which were
brought from the fields in the early spring of last year
flowered again in the end of August.
The CRANE'S BILL GERANIUM, or Herb Robert (See
illustration, page 11) has a very pretty compound leaf.
It is cleft into three large divisions; these are all sub-
divided, and each segment is notched at the edges. It
is a trailing plant, very brittle, and has the stems and
many of the leaves tinged with deep red. The flowers
grow in pairs, pink, beautifully veined with a darker
colour. The calyx is green or red, of five sepals, hairy,
and sometimes sticky; corolla, of five petals; stamens
should be ten, but they are often imperfectly de-
veloped. They are almost imperceptibly connected at
This is a very pretty plant for a rockery or any place
where rapid growth is desired. But it will double its
size in a few weeks in a favourable soil, and would soon
overrun a garden were it not an annual, and therefore
obliged to start afresh every year. There are several
varieties of wild geranium in England, the principal
difference being in the leaves. They all agree in the
wonderful arrangement of their seeds, which is not
more curious than beautiful. It is necessary that the
seeds should be dispersed to some distance from the
plant, as otherwise they might only fall on the spread-
ing tangle of leaves and flowers, and die.
The style is very long, and, as the flower withers,
grows still longer, till it has assumed the singular
appearance which distinguishes this family, and which
has gained for it the name of Crane's Bill. Round the
base of this bill there are five cases containing the
seeds. From the top of each case proceeds a long,
thread-like stalk, at first attached to the elongated
style throughout its length; but when the seeds are
ripe, these stalks split away almost to the top, round
which they curl with an elastic force that slings
the seeds to a considerable distance. After the
seed is scattered, the bill" presents the appear-
18 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
ance of a circular swing, or "giant's stride," with the
ropes wound up.
The conspicuously-veined calyx is persistent. This
is only one of the beautiful methods of sowing seed
that God has seen fit to employ.
In this, as in every other part of His creation, we
admire the appropriateness of the means to the end.
Were plums and raspberries flung off in this manner,
few would be worth picking up again; if the cocoanut-
palm fired such shots equally unexpectedly, it would
be decidedly dangerous to come near it. This plant is
a great favourite with blights and ants; so much so,
that it is sometimes difficult to find a clean specimen.
Most of the English species are pink; of these the
one we have described is the most showy, and will
flower for months uninterruptedly. A fine blue variety,
however, grows wild near Buxton-at least, did fifteen
The difference between this species and the Stork's
Bill is, that in the latter the elastic thread is furnished
with a white, silky beard on the inner side. It does
not roll up to the top, but twists round twice and
hangs in a little ringlet. The pelargonium of the green-
house, which is almost universally, but erroneously,
called geranium, resembles the last named.
Several plants of this order possess valuable medicinal
properties, therefore they had better all be let alone
by unscientific hands. They are used externally for
wounds, internally as a powerful astringent and a cure
for hemorrhage. The resin which makes this plant
sticky is developed in such quantity in some of the
foreign species, that when freshly gathered they will
burn like torches.
All the plants already described are worthy of a
place in our gardens. We will now speak of one that
usurps a place there against our will.
The DANDELION is a compound flower; that is to
say, a great number of tiny, but in some cases imperfect,
flowers are gathered closely together on one receptacle,
and form collectively one flower. These florets may
be all tubular, as in tansey and wormwood; or tubular
in the centre, strap-shaped round the edge, as daisy
and yarrow; or all strap-shaped, as in dandelion. This
flower, which would be greatly admired if it were an
exotic, at any rate by those who cultivate sunflowers
and marigolds, takes its name from the French, dent-
de-lion, or lion's tooth, but whether this refers to the
singular jagged leaf, or to the toothed edge of the petal,
is not agreed: probably to both.
The long tap-root is sometimes cut up and roasted,
in imitation of coffee. The smooth, radical leaves are
not only food for silkworms and rabbits, but are
extensively sold in France for salad. The hollow
flower-stalk affords constant amusement to children
* Technically, a composite flower. See Index.
20 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
in making chains; the milky juice which exudes is in
favour with tortoises. Goats, sheep, and pigs, all eat
the flowers. It is credited with important properties
as a medicinal herb, both the root and leaves yielding
an extract which enters largely into the composition
of some of the well-known tonic and antibilious pills,
besides giving its name to the "taraxacum cocoa."
It is recorded that Frederick the Great was a most
shameful glutton. Six weeks before his death he was
suffering from indigestion and fever, yet would not
attempt to control his appetite, but sent for, a clever
physician from Hanover, who undertook the difficult
task of counteracting the invalid's daily excess. He
prescribed extract of dandelion. The following is a
report of his patient's dinner one day:-
This day the King took a large quantity of soup;
but, highly as it was spiced at first, he added to each
plate of it a large spoonful of pounded ginger and mace.
He then ate a good piece of beef, which had been
steeped in a pint of brandy. Then a great quantity of
his most darling dish, named polenta, made of equal
parts of Indian corn and Parmesan cheese; to this the
juice of garlic is added, and the whole is baked in
butter, till there arises a rind as thick as a finger.
Having expressed his satisfaction at the excellent
appetite the dandelion had given him, he closed with
a large plateful of eel-pie, made exceedingly hot and
fiery." We are not surprised at the catastrophe,
despite the doctor and the dandelion: "Even before
leaving the table he fell into a doze, and was seized
This flower is one of those that open and close at
stated times. Linneus, the celebrated Swedish bota-
nist, arranged a species of floral clock in his garden,
in which the time was indicated by the opening and
closing of certain flowers. The dandelion's day is one
of the most exact-from seven in the morning till five
in the evening. The seed is too well known to require
description. Who has not admired the miniature
shuttlecock as it sails through the calm air, the snowy
feathers bearing the little hard, dry grain far away
from the parent plant ? These feathery, flying seeds
are found in many of the flowers of the composite
order, besides our present subject.
With a few words on the arrangement of leaves we
will conclude this chapter. They may be joined to the
stem singly or in pairs. If the former, they are fre-
quently alternate, that is to say, at regular distances
from each other, first on one side of the stem, then on
the other. They may be stalled, or sessile, that is,
seated close to the stem, without any separate stalk of
their own. The leaf of the laburnum, composed of
many leaflets arranged in pairs on one centre stalk, is
called pinnate, or winged. The horse-chestnut leaf
is termed palmate, because it is generally five-fingered,
like the human hand. There are many other dis-
22 A Year with tIe Wild Flowers.
tinctions, but it will be better to leave them for the
present, and take them up in detail as they occur.
The HERB ROBERT (page 16), is often confused with
the RAGGED ROBIN, which does not flower till May.
This is a tall branching plant, cultivated in our gar-
dens under the name of Lychnis. The flower is much
larger, and each of the five petals is deeply cleft; not
in pairs, but in threes (see definite inflorescence, page
88). The leaves are opposite, ovate, sessile, and entire
-that is, undivided at the edge. It is perennial, and
altogether so different from the little creeping annual
that they may be distinguished at a glance.
...i"... OST of our readers are familiar with the
handsome white cup of the ARUM, as cul-
., tivated in greenhouses; but have they
-'' ever found its English representative in
'r.:' its wild state ? A pair of beautiful, thick,
bright green leaves rise direct from the
root, and the plant grows without any stem, each leaf
and flower being attached to the root independently of
the others. Between these leaves, which are shaped
somewhat like an arrow, there is a pale green sheath,
rolled up tight at first, but gradually expanding till it
resembles the "sugar-loaf" fold of paper. This calyx
is supported by a thick, juicy stalk, and is sometimes
spotted, like the leaves, with dark purple. A straight
spike in the centre of the flower bears beneath its
smooth upper portion a number of imperfect stamens.
Below these there is a belt of perfect ones, provided
with the pollen necessary for fertilizing the pistils,
which are similarly clustered round the lower part of
24 A Year wilh the Wild Flowers.
the club. As the summer advances the false stamens
wither off, the true ones drop their pollen on the
styles and then disappear, and the styles give place to
brilliant scarlet berries, which surround the stalk
thickly, and last through the greater part of the winter,
surviving the green sheath and leaves. This plant,
though very curious, is hardly beautiful; the flower has
a very disagreeable scent if kept in water, and is in-
tensely poisonous. Perhaps no one would feel inclined
to eat the spike, which looks like mulberry-coloured
velvet; but the leaves have been eaten by children with
fatal results. The juice of either the stalk or root will
raise a blister if applied to the skin, yet in the ignorant
practice of village herbalists it is sometimes recom-
mended as a cure for burns, and the fresh juice is
prescribed in quantities which a regular practitioner
would not dare to order. In fact, so virulent is it, that
it is very seldom used at all by medical men. Milk or
oil allays the burning caused by the juice.
The root is tuberous, about as large as a walnut; and
it is possible to obtain from it not only starch, but a
substance known as Portland sago, which resembles
arrowroot. The inhabitants of Portland Island used
to trade in this article, but as the root requires drying
in the sun, pounding, mixing with water, and, after it
has stood to settle, and the water has been poured
away, washing a second time, it has ceased to be a
The Eddoe, which is eaten either boiled as a vege-
table or cut up in soup, by the West Indians, belongs
to this tribe of plants. The starch is very stiff, and
was used to stiffen the immense ruffs, which were
made of very thin material, in the days of Elizabeth.
It would seem, however, that the acrid properties were
not destroyed, as the laundresses found it blister their
The amount of sago produced from each plant is
very small, and cannot compete with the productions
of the West Indies. The popular names of this plant
are Cuckoo-pint, Wake-Robin, Cows and Calves, and
Lords and Ladies-the latter, we suppose, derived from
the rich velvety look of the central spike. The French
call it The High-Priest's Mitre, which, in our humble
opinion, it resembles about as much as it does a fool's
cap. We have mentioned it thus early because it is to
be found in March in its rolled up state, but the full
development may be watched till April or May.
Let us next examine the VIOLET. There are several
varieties of this plant found in England; the two we
shall especially study are the sweet violet and the
The pansy we shall describe in June, as it is later
in its appearance.
The violet has a fibrous root, and creeps along the
ground. The ccdyx is green; of five sepals, each fur-
nished with a sort of spur, or projection, that extends
26 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
beneath the part which is joined to the stalk; corolla,
of five petals, of different sizes, one of them ending in
a nectary, or hollow tube, containing honey; colour-
white, pale yellow, or violet, according to slight differ-
ences in the species. The stamens are very curious,
five in number, with all their anthers joined.* Two of
Anther-The little box containing the pollen, which tips the
the stamens have long spurs inserted in the nectary;
style one, with a curious hood at the top, seed-vessel
splitting into three valves when the seed is ripe.
SThe leaves are dark green, heart-shaped, and scal-
loped at the edge. Each flower is furnished with a
pair of narrow leaves more than half way up its stalk.
These are called bracts. The beauty and fragrance of
the violet have made it the darling of poets and
gardeners; but it is no less useful than ornamental.
Not to speak of its value to the perfumer, it has
important medicinal properties. Syrup of violets is a
safe and usual draught for children, at any rate where
the little ones are persistently physicked on very
slight occasions. One kind of ipecacuanha is obtained
from a species of violet, which does not, however, grow
in England. The juice of the flowers is a skilful
chemical "detective," as its blue turns to red when
mixed with any substance containing acid, and to
green with an alkali. In former times a highly-prized
cosmetic was made by steeping violets in goat's milk,
and they are still associated in various ways with the
luxuries of the toilet.
It was reserved, however, for our neighbours across
the Channel to invent the elegant barbarism of smoth-
ering these little treasures in sugar, and then eating
them as a sweetmeat; but we can assure such of our
readers as have not made their acquaintance that
" violettes praline'es" (that is, candied) is a very deli-
28 A Year with tke Wild Flowers.
cate confection. Syrup of violets diluted with water
forms a popular sherbet in Turkey.
The violet was the favourite flower of Mahomet, who
lavished extravagant praise upon it.
This, then, is a plant which need not be absolutely
forbidden to the greedy little two-legged rabbits that
accompany us in the fields. A large quantity would
bring on simple sickness and diarrhea, but the amount
that any child would care to eat at once need not be
Our Spring nosegay would not be complete without
the delicate ANEMONE, or wind-flower, the special
blossom of windy 31 ..-!, as the hawthorn is of sunny
May. (See page 129.)
The root is black and creeping. A single stem rises
from it, with three handsome leaves clustered about
half-way up. These are divided into five lobes, which
are subdivided or deeply toothed. The first thing
that would strike us in looking at the flower, is that
there is no calyx. That is, there are no green sepals,
-only the white or coloured ones. Many botanists,
however, think it more correct to say there is no
corolla; the calyx is white in the Field-anemone, blue
in the Pacsque. I /,. ,i. i ...-, fig. 7.)
The calyx, then, consists of five sepals; there are
many stamens, and many styles. The juice of this
plant is acrid and blistering; it is extremely injurious
to cattle, and must of course be carefully avoided by
human beings. The blue variety, known as the
Pasque flower, (French for Easter flower,) is a very
beautiful object when in fruit, as each seed is furnished
with a white feather to fly away, till the mass before
dispersion looks like a bunch of wool. It is from this
plant that the homoeopath derives one of his most
valuable medicines, pulsatilla. Thus does our Hea-
venly Father not only allow man to escape the curse
of these poisons by avoiding them, but positively to
extract benefit from them, and call them to his aid in
restoring that health which an ignorant use of them
would destroy. We are inclined to think there is no
definite, unmitigated curse pronounced against our race
-none from which we may not obtain a blessing-if
we conform ourselves to God's will.
Let us next look for the CORN SALAD. (Frontispiece,
fig. 6.) As its name would lead us to suppose, its
favourite home is the corn-field; but it may be found
on banks, or even walls. The leaves are juicy, smooth,
and tongue-shaped. They are joined to the stem in
pairs, without stalks; and between every pair two
branches rise, to be similarly subdivided in their. turn,
till they end in bunches of small, pale blue flowers.
The calyx is minute, the corolla divided into five lobes,
stamens, three, style, one. The seed-vessel is curious; it
contains cells for three seeds, but only produces one.
In some varieties the fertile cell is distinguished from
the others by a peculiar substance resembling cork; in
30 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
others, the empty and full cells are alike. It would be
an interesting experiment to see whether cultivation
would induce the plant to perfect three seeds. Lambs
are very fond of this herb, hence it is often called
lamb's lettuce. All the species are harmless; indeed,
they may, with advantage, be cultivated as salad. They
are still prized in France and Germany, and were
formerly eaten in England. The monks were fond of
it; it is often found in the old abbey gardens. Culti-
vation improves the plant greatly, though it is not to
be despised in its wild state.
The MARSH MARIGOLD (see plate, page 61) is an
instance of the careless naming of plants. It would
reasonably be inferred that it was a variety of the
garden marigold that inhabited a wet soil instead of a
dry one, whereas there is not the least similarity be-
tween them. This is important to note, for both flowers
are yellow; and our specimen belongs to the acrid and
poisonous ranunculus tribe, while the garden marigold
belongs to a class which does not contain poisonous
plants. The flowers of the last-named are dried and
used to flavour soups, but it would decidedly "spoil
the broth" to use the petals of the marsh marigold.
It is true that the peasants sometimes pickle the buds
for capers, and the salt and vinegar so far neutralize
the poison as to make them safe in small quantities;
but as the whole plant is noxious, it is not wise to use
the buds in this way. At first sight it resembles a
large buttercup, but closer observation discovers that
the stem is thick, fleshy, and hollow; the root-leaves
are heart-shaped, crenate (that is, cut into roundish
divisions), and stalked; the stem-leaves are more sharply
indented and sessile. A flower grows with each leaf;
calyx, of five or more yellow sepals; corolla, none;
stamens and styles, numerous. The leaves are alternate
and dark green. A decoction of the blossoms in alum
water is used for staining paper yellow. The scientific
name is Caltha, a cup.
The SLOE is making so showy an appearance this
month, as almost to rival its cousin the hawthorn; but
its scent is not so sweet or strong. It is a crooked,
thorny, low, much-branched shrub'; the dark colour of
its stem contrasting finely with the snowy bloom, which
precedes the leaves. (See page 59.) The green calyx is
divided into five, and is deciduous; corolla, white, of five
petals; stamens, many; style, one. In April, before the
blossoms fall, the leaves appear. They are thin, dark-
green, narrow, and finely toothed. They greatly re-
semble the ordinary tea-leaf, for which they are sold in
large quantities. The price of the cheap teas now would
not pay for a commodity from China; and happy are
those-consumers who only get the blackthorn leaf for
their money Iron filings, burnt feathers, and chopped
pea-straw, have been turned out of a tea-chest, in the
Docks of London. How much wiser it would be for
us to make up our minds to avail ourselves of tie
32 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
cheaper articles of food within our own reach, and
have them properly prepared, instead of blindly pre-
ferring a foreign article, without any certainty as to
the treatment it has endured! We have many leaves
in England which would produce tea as pleasant as
the rubbish which is palmed-off on economical cus-
tomers, and be more wholesome.
The seed of the sloe consists of a dark plum, re-
sembling a small damson with a purple bloom, and is
rough and sour in the extreme. It is possible, by
cooking with much sugar, to make it eatable, and if
buried in the earth in bottles, and left to be mellowed
by the frost, it loses much of its harsh quality. Still
it would only be acceptable to those who are very fond
of the peculiar flavour of damsons. As an adulteration
of port wine, these berries are largely used, and in this
instance also are a great improvement upon many of
the other substances employed. The wood is hard and
tough, but it never attains a large size, and grows very
slowly. It is highly suitable for whips, walking-sticks,
and the teeth of wooden rakes. Its thorns are long,
strong, and sharp, but under favourable circumstances
they put forth leaves.
Let us learn a lesson from the sloe to clothe the
asperities of our nature with the foliage of Christian
charity till our greatest deformities are transformed
into "the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which
is in the sight of God of great price."
PERI WI N K LE.
'*, "'i .--
I ,, '*
i i .
'l ' .1 1 -
"". t '! [ r:/
.' i ,' w ici
f F all the wide-awake, conspicuous flowers,
we think the GARLIC-TREACLE-MUSTARD is
one of the most noticeable. It is of so pale
a green that it suggests the idea of growing
.-L-:, too fast for its supply of colouring matter;
-':. while its long, thin stem poking up straight
through the hedge, and ending in a tuft of white
flowers, when it has struggled out, has the most
comical resemblance to a small man on tiptoe in a
crowd. Still, it enlivens the hedges wonderfully, and
would be sadly missed if it disappeared, though none
but a botanist would add it to his posy. It smells of
garlic, and its taste justifies all three names-(if you do
not think this possible, eat a bit). The leaves are thin
and rather large, heart-shaped, toothed at the edges,
and smooth. The four sepals are green, the four petals
white, and small; stamens, six, of which four are long
and two short; stigmas, two; seed-vessel, a long pod.
Country people used to eat it with bread and butter,
A Year with the Wild Flowers.
and call it sauce alone: certainly it would need no
more seasoning !
Botany is chiefly studied in England under two
systems-the natural and the Linnean. The former
is the more correct, while the latter is easier for a
beginner. A more particular account is reserved for
the winter months, but we shall make stray notes by
the way. Linnaeus grouped his specimens according
to the number or arrangement of the stamens. The
natural system examines every part of a plant, and
only classifies together those which have a general
similarity. In some instances it happens that one of
the Linnsean" orders agrees with one of the natural
ones; but generally, the plants are re-distributed in
the artificial system without much reference to their
The plants with four long and two short stamens
form one of the Linnaean classes which corresponds
with the cruciform order in the natural system. They
all have four petals arranged in a cross. It is a most
important order. The general characteristic is warmth,
and most of the plants are used for food or medicine.
The nitrogen they contain makes them most offensive
in decay. Mustard and cress, watercress, cabbages of
all kinds, turnips, radishes, and horse-radish belong to
this class. All the cruciform plants bear their seeds
in pods; they are divided into two classes: one with
long narrow pods; the other with short broad ones.
36 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
The prettiest specimen of the latter is the SHEPHERD'S
PURSE, which may be found by the roadsides, from
early spring till late in the year.
The root-leaves are like those of the dandelion; the
upper ones are sessile, with two long points growing
past the stem. They are long and pointed; sometimes
whole at the edges, but often toothed, especially if
thdy have not a moist situation. The flower is similar
to the garlic-treacle-mustard, but smaller. The tiny
blossom is succeeded by a large, flat, heart-shaped
pouch, containing a thin membrane, to which the
seeds are attached. If this plant is cultivated, the
"purse will grow about as large as a penny, and this
thin, transparent wall makes a very pretty object in a
bunch of skeleton flowers. The shepherd's purse is
one of the plants which flower upwards. The blos-
soms at the bottom of the stalk open first; and, as life
seems gradually to creep up, there are soon unopened
buds at the top, perfect flowers beneath, and ripening
seeds at the bottom.
Everybody knows CHICKWEED Possibly; yet there
are two different families of plants known by that
name. First the MOUSE-EAR CHICKWEED. There are
eight or nine species of this in Great Britain. They
are all hairy, with opposite, sessile leaves. These in
shape, and in their downy appearance, are not unlike
a mouse's ear. The stem is from four to six inches in
height, and branched; sepals, five, green; petals, white,
five, each divided into two at the top; the styles, gene-
38 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
rally, five; and stamens, ten. The seeds are contained
in little boxes called capsules, which grow after the
petals have fallen off, till they reach far beyond the
persistent calyx. When the seeds are ripe the capsule
parts at the top into ten teeth, and pours the seeds
out. The manner of flowering is just the reverse of
the last described. The centre stem is crowned by
one flower, which expands first. Below that two
branches spring from the stem, each bearing three
flowers, of which the centre one is first open. When
the blossom at the end of the stem unfolds first, the
flowering is called definite inflorescence. When the
flowers bloom from the bottom, and the stalk still pro-
duces fresh buds above, as those below pass off, it is
termed indefinite inflorescence.
The STITCHWORT, commonly called Chickweed, re-
sembles our last specimen in most particulars, but has
only three styles. A row of white hairs runs up one
side of the stem, and changes sides whenever it comes
to a leaf. The leaves are stalked and smooth, except
the very young ones, which soon lose their down.
The flowers are only awake from nine to twelve
o'clock each day; if it rains they do not open, but
hang their heads down till fine weather makes them
look up again. When the stitchwort goes to sleep it
folds each pair of leaves together upwards, so as to
protect the base of the pair above. The uppermost
pair but one is provided with stalks long enough to
enable them to wrap up the tender baby-pair at the
top altogether. Birds are very fond of this weed.
Formerly it was boiled as a substitute for spinach.
Neither chickweed nor stitchwort are injurious, nor of
any medical value. The greater stitchwort is a beau-
tiful plant. The white flower is as large as a daisy;
the bright green, brittle stems clamber in the hedges,
bearing grass-like leaves at the joints. It is suitable
for a rockery. (See frontispiece, fig. 2.)
Many of the forest trees are now putting on their
verdure, but the sturdy ELM is too busy with its flowers
to get its leaves ready-a silent lesson that even the
roughest and strongest natures may show beautiful
traits; the giant of a century drapes his rugged limbs
with tiny flowers, and lets the breeze play with his
The perianth is of a dull red colour, bell-shaped and
cleft; stamens, five, styles, two. The flowers are in
close clusters, and as the stamens are much longer
than the perianth, they hang. out in pretty bunches.
The seed-vessel is oval, two-celled; but only one cell
perfects its seed. The seed when ripe is surrounded
by a flat, thin membrane.* The leaves are stalked,
toothed, generally rough, and unequal at the base, i.e.,
one side of the leaf grows further down the stalk than
the other. One peculiarity of the elm is that the seeds
scarcely ever produce a tree exactly like the parent.
This kind of seed is called a samara.
40 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
There are about twenty different varieties, some of
'r / '
which follow the usual course of nature, and produce
leaves before flowers. A better way of propagating
the tree is by layers or suckers, plenty of which may
be found round the lower part of the tree. The timber
is hard, durable, and large, as the elm attains a great
size. It is used for kitchen furniture, coffins, pumps,
and troughs. It is useful in any wet situation, as it
resists the action of water better than most woods. It
is also not so liable to be worm-eaten. The inner bark
is medicinal. It is thin, tough, yellowish white, when
fresh, but rather like cinnamon when dry. It is very
hard to pound. Its properties are demulcent, astrin-
gent, and tonic, and it is not very unpleasant to the
taste. It is recommended for obstinate skin diseases;
but as the prescription is a pint or more of the decoc-
tion daily for several months, even the high recom-
mendation of Dr. Lettsom would be hardly sufficient
to gain favour for so slow a cure. The timber is very
apt to grow knotty, but the knots take a high polish,
and make beautiful fancy furniture. Cattle are fond
of the young shoots and leaves, and in Russia the leaves
are employed as a substitute for tea. They were for-
merly used in England as an adulteration, till forbidden
by the Excise. The tough inner bark may be converted
into mats and ropes. A native of Palestine, the elm is
said to have been brought over by the Crusaders.
The PERIWINKLE is one of the handsomest wild
flowers, and is an ornament to any garden. It flourishes
See plate, page 33.
42 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
best in the shade. The stem is woody, creeping on the
ground, and taking root again at intervals, but the
stems which bear the flowers are erect. The leaves
are egg-shaped, dark green and very glossy, with a
minute fringe of white hairs round the edge of the
leaf; they are stalked and opposite. The flowers are
axillary-i.e., the stalk is inserted in the stem with
the leaf or leaf-stalk.* The corolla is a brilliant blue,
similar in form to the primrose, but larger; this is
usually called salver-shaped, though to see the resem-
blance requires a strong effort of imagination. The
upper part of the tube of the corolla-" the throat"
-is raised a little above the surrounding level, and,
being white, shows off finely against the blue. The
calyx is small, green, cleft into five sharp-pointed
divisions, and hairy, contrasting with the smooth
round stem. The five stamens are quite hid in the
tube, but they are worth looking for, as they are
singularly twisted, and hairy. They bend close to the
stigma, which is also very curious. The plant flowers
all through the summer, and retains its leaves far
into the winter; indeed, in favourable circumstances,
it is evergreen. It has also a curious way of putting
out one or two flowers very early in the spring, and
then resting till the warm weather. A few were to be
seen near Bristol in the end of January this year, but
The angle formed by the union of a stalk with the stem is
called an axil.
probably those plants will not blossom again till April.
In hot countries the order to which the periwinkle
belongs contains many highly poisonous plants. Our
present one is astringent, and possesses certain medical
properties, though not so many as the old herbalists
ascribed to it. If we could believe them, it would be
worth while to lay in a store in some households, for
" the leaves of the periwinkle eaten by man and wife
do cause them to love each other." It was formerly
used in charms, whence its name, "Sorcerer's Violet."
In France it is the emblem of happy memories; this
arises from a bit of sentiment penned by Jean Jacques
Rousseau, when reminded by this flower of a scene
which he had forgotten for thirty years. In Italy it is
called "the flower of death," as it was much used in
decorating, the corpses of children. Its tough stems
clinging so firmly to the ground by their numerous
roots, also make it a favourite for planting over sodded
graves, which they keep tidy and beautiful. The stem
contains a milky juice, which is a characteristic of the
order. Some of its cousins, hardly recognisable as
relations in their tropical luxuriance, are the caout-
choucs, the milk-tree, and the cream-fruit. These are
innocent; but the Nux Vomica, so useful in the hands
of the homoeopath, so frightful as strychnine when
obtained by the murderer, belongs to the same order;
as also the tangena, by which so many of the martyrs
of Madagascar were poisoned.
44 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
In pressing our bouquet, it will be.well to dry our
garlic friend separately, and not transfer it to its white
paper till the scent has left it. The wood must be
shaved away from the elm twig till it will lie flat. A
whole plant of the Shepherd's Purse should be pre-
served, to show the difference between the radical and
stem leaves. Also of the chickweeds, to show the
regular branching peculiar to definite inflorescence.
.II / )I !I
I \ Ir
4OUSE-EAR SCORPION GRASS. What
a noxious name for the pretty innocent
little favourite, the FORGET-ME-NOT In
our gardens, or the fields, and specially by
the brooks, the tiny pink and blue flowers
greet us, recalling many scenes of past
happiness, and many friends who have given us this
gentle remembrancer. Yet, fair as it is, there are many
other wild flowers that equal or even excel it in beauty,
and there must be some reason for its universal adop-
tion as the Forget-me-not." The German account
is :-A knight in armour was walking by the Danube
with a lady, who pointed out some blossoms growing
just at the water's edge. The knight in trying to
gather them slipped down the moist treacherous bank,
and before he could recover himself was borne away
by the current. Unable to swim in armour, he flung
the costly prize to the shore, exclaiming, "Forget me
not!" and resigned himself to his fate. Barely possible,
46 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
but not very likely. Another tradition is, that Henry
of Lancaster adopted this flower as a badge when an
exile, and that his adherents regarded it as his token.
This explanation is not nearly so well known as the
more romantic one.
This is a most difficult plant to describe accurately
without becoming too technical. The leaves are large
and rough, the flowers are in a long bunch called a
spike. This is twisted quite round at the top. The
twist is supposed to resemble a scorpion's tail, whence
the latter half of its name; the first refers to its
Gerarde, the old herbalist, seems to have quite mis-
taken the meaning when he says, The Scorpion-grass
is a present remedy for the sting of scorpions." Happily,
it is not of much consequence to us in our favoured isle
to prove the accuracy of his statement. No doubt he
knew it was impossible to disprove it. The cacyx
is five-cleft. The corolla is also five-cleft, salver-
shaped, with little scales choking it and concealing the
five stamens and one style. The flower is blue or pink,
with a yellow eye. It grows smaller and smaller in
gardens, unless planted by water-a rare exception to
the ordinary result of cultivating wild flowers. Still
the minute flowers are very curious and pretty in the
last stage in which they are visible.
Cattle and horses refuse to eat this plant, and cases
have been known of sheep taking it accidentally with
A Year with the Wild Flowers.
their other food and dying from the effects of it. It
is not poisonous to man. It is included in the list of
pectoral plants, though seldom used, because there are
others which are much better for the purpose. The
leaves have occasionally been eaten as salad by mistake.
Many people confuse the SPEEDWELL or Bird's-eye
with this, but the two are very different. The Speed-
well has a flat corolla divided into four unequal lobes;
two stamens, which are both visible. There are
other points of difference, but these will enable any
one to distinguish the false from the true Forget-me-
not. (See plate, page 45.)
In many places we shall now find the woods
carpeted with a pale green foliage, enlivened by deli-
cate white flowers faintly pencilled with lilac. This is
the WOOD-SORREL, a very easy plant for the young
botanist to examine. The root is composed of tiny
red tubers connected by fibres, not unlike threaded
coral. There is no stem ; the leaves and flowers are all
radical. The stalks are hairy and tinged with pink.
The leaves consist of three heart-shaped leaflets, joined
at the points, a most delicate green above, generally
purplish beneath, and hairy. These and the flowers
close in the rain.
When an ovate or egg-shaped leaf has the narrow
end fastened to the stalk it is called obovate; so, when
a heart-shaped or cordate leaf grows apparently wrong
way on," like the sorrel, it is obcordate.
The flower-stalks are longer than those which
support the leaves, and each has a tiny pair of bracts
an inch or so below the flower. The calyx is green, of
five sepals joined by a little projection at their base,
50 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
known as a claw. Corolla, of five petals, connected by
claws ; stamens, ten; styles, five.
When the seed-vessel bears the calyx at its summit,
the former is said to be inferior, e.g., rose-hips, currants,
gooseberries, medlars. When the seed-vessel is seated
upon the calyx, or inclosed by it, we say the seed-
v essel is superior, as in strawberries, violets, peonies,
Seeds are classified according to the presence or absence of
a seed-vessel. The principal varieties in the former class are as
follows :-1. Seeds contained in a capsule-a kind of box, fre-
quently soft at first, but dry and husky when the seeds are
ripe. These are attached in different ways while immature, but
generally loosen when perfect. The capsule then parts at the
top, with a toothed edge, as in chickweed, or opens with a lid,
or splits half way down. Some plants open by "pores," i.e.,
minute holes in the capsule-making it like a pepper-castor.
The snap-dragon is an example; it is almost impossible to gather
the seed-vessel when ripe, without shedding a few of the seeds.
2. Seed-vessel, a pod. Further divided into three. Siliqua, a
long pod; silicula, a short one. These to which we have already
referred in our cruciform specimens, split in equal halves through
their entire length. The seeds are fastened by small stalks to
each edge alternately. Third, legumen, which differs from the
other pods in having its seeds fastened only to one edge of the
seed-vessel, though, like the last described, the seeds are on each
valve. Laburnum and peas will show this. 3. A follicle, a
kind of pod that only opens on one side. It looks as if the seeds
had been arranged on an oval leaf, and the edges drawn together
down the length. The peony will soon show an example in our
gardens. 4. A drupe, i.e., a nut surrounded by fleshy substance,
The superior capsule is five-celled, and when the
seed is ripe it splits at all the angles. This is one of
the plants that possess an elastic force for dispersing
the seeds. When they are just ready to go, a very
slight touch is sufficient to fire them off. The triple
form of the leaf has caused some people to fancy that
it was the shamrock, chosen by Saint Patrick to sym-
bolise the Trinity in Unity, and now known as the
emblem of Ireland : but that probably belonged to the
clover family. For a similar reason the popular name
of sorrel used to be Alleluia. It would not be difficult
to guess from the Latin name of our specimen that it
is poisonous. Oxalis acetosella prepares us to find
oxalic acid, and it is this salt that gives the leaves that
refreshing acidity which makes them highly acceptable
on a hot day. A few would not be injurious, and per-
haps no one would have patience to gather enough to
produce speedy illness and death, but it is well to
know what a virulent poison they contain. In France
they are used largely in cookery. For allaying thirst
in fevers and consumption, a preparation of this plant
as plums, olives, etc. 5. An apple, or pomum, a fleshy substance
containing seeds inclosed in their membraneous cells. 6. A
berry. Pulp inclosing seeds without cells, as gooseberry, cur-
rant, etc. 7. A cone, or strobilus, hard scales fixed on a
woody receptacle, the seeds slipped in between the scales and
the centre like cards in a note-rack, e.g., fir-cones. These are
the general divisions ; our space will not allow us to pursue this
subject further this month.
52 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
is much valued; but lemons are far safer. One pound
of the leaves, beaten up with three pounds of sugar,
used to be a favourite conserve. Sowerby says it had
"a pleasant flavour like green tea." The process of
obtaining the acid is simple. The juice is squeezed out
of the leaves, and after it has had time to settle, the
clear liquor is poured off and left undisturbed till the
crystals form. The quantity that each plant yields is
so small, that it is cheaper now to manufacture the
oxalic acid of commerce from sugar and nitric acid :
to say nothing of the many spurious imitations." It
is the same as the "salt of lemons used for bleaching
and removing ink-stains.
The pure salt is one of the most powerful vegetable
acids known. It will impart acidity to two thousand
times its bulk of water. If taken in its full strength,
it would cause death in a few minutes. If somewhat
diluted, it would produce lockjaw, convulsions, or para-
lysis, according to the dose. It enters so thoroughly
into the whole system, that if leeches are applied to
any one suffering from its effects they drop off dead.
The acid dock, known as sheep-sorrel, or green-sauce,
contains the same principle in a less degree. Of either
we may safely eat a few leaves occasionally, but free
indulgence would produce serious illness, if not a fatal
result. In Cornwall there is a yellow variety of the
sorrel, a creeping plant, which is not quite so acid as
Towards the end of the month we may look for the
YELLOW RATTLE. This pretty and curious plant has
THE YELL W RATTLE.
a square stem. The leaves are opposite to each other,
deeply serrated, (toothed like a saw,) and tapering
gradually to a point. The flowers are sessile and
54 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
axillary; calyx green, four-cleft, and very much swelled
out; corolla gaping, the upper lip compressed at the
sides, so as to resemble a hood, the lower lip flat and
divided into three lobes; stamens, two long and two
short; style, one. The whole plant is smooth; the stem
is sometimes spotted with black, and the upper lip
of the flower has two fine blue spots on it. It grows
a foot or more in height, and as the cattle do not eat
it, it soon overtops the surrounding herbage. The
seed-vessel is a two-celled capsule, in which the unripe
seeds are disposed like tiles; but when they are ripe
they quit the side of the dried capsule, and fall loose
to the bottom. As the wind shakes the stalk this
miniature dice-box can be heard with a gentle little
rattle; hence the name. This plant is most plentiful
on poor ground, and is very destructive to grass. Its
roots attach themselves to the roots of the grass by
numerous fine points, which can only be seen with
a magnifying glass; and by these minute vegetable
leeches the moisture is withdrawn from the victim and
nourishes the rattle. We feel tempted to carry out
the simile to those who rattle the dice, with every
allurement, that they may secretly subsist on their
infatuated dupes. The Yellow Rattle is said to be
fatal to insect vermin, and injurious to man. The ii-
flated calyx makes a pretty skeleton. Mr. Francis, in
the "Little English Flora," tells us that the simplest
method of preparing vegetable skeletons, is to put a
great number of leaves, or whatever you are experi-
menting upon, into an open vessel, and leave them,
well covered with water, in the open air for at least
six weeks. The less they are disturbed, and the more
you have together, the better is your chance of success.*
The moisture will rot out all the fleshy parts, and
leave the sinews, so to speak, the strong fibrous frame-
work which has kept all in shape; but as this is very
delicate, rough handling or stirring would soon tear
and spoil it. The seeds of the large trees, those which
are furnished with a membranaceous wing, make good
SOLOMON'S SEAL is worth finding, and is cultivated
in many gardens. The root is tuberous. One explana-
tion of its singular name is that the root, if cut across,
will show marks like Hebrew letters. We have never
made up our mind to waste a root in proving this, but
many tubers present curious appearances when cut.
A very thin slice of a turnip-radish is quite pretty
with the light shining through it. Another explana-
tion refers to the scarred marks on the outside of the
tuber, which are the remains of withered shoots. A
tuber is an underground stem, differing from a root by
producing leaves as well as rootlets. It sends up an
aerial stem to bring the seed into the influence of the
sun and air, but continues underground. The aspara-
N.B.-The smell of the decaying leaves is both unpleasant
56 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
gus is a good example of this growth. The slender
unbranched stem grows about a foot and a half in
length, but it loses some of its height by drooping.
The leaves are smooth, rather long, egg-shaped, alter-
nate, and partly clasping the stem. The flowers grow
on short axillary stalks, but they bend down behind
the leaves till they are almost lost to sight. The peri-
anth is yellowish white, tipped with six green teeth ;
stamens, six; style, one; seed-vessel, a bluish-black
berry. The whole plant is poisonous. It was formerly
highly prized for curing recent wounds, removing
bruises, etc. Gerarde, the quaint old herbalist, recom-
mends the root freshly pounded for allaying the ill
effects of women's wilfulness in stumbling upon their
hasty husbands' fists."
We must not forget the HAWTHORN, the plant of
the month. From Barbary to Scotland this thorn is
found in various degrees of luxuriance. Sixty or
seventy varieties are cultivated, and many of them are
highly ornamental. The long-suffering, much-lopped,
crooked shrub of our hedges, develops under proper
management into a tree some thirty feet high, yielding
a hard, white timber. The thorns are strong and
sharp. The dark green leaves are very much divided
and toothed. The flowers are in loose bunches. Calyx,
green, five-toothed; petals, five, white, or tipped with
pink; stamens, twenty or more, placed upon the calyx;
styles, one to five. The fragrant blossoms are suc-
58 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
needed by the berries, which are eaten by birds and
children. The number of bony seeds that each berry
one kind, found in gardens, that bears a large, double,
one ki-n.dou in gardens that ber a lgd e
one kind, .found in gardens, that bears a large, double,
pink flower, just like a fairy rose. The specimen we
examined had twvo seeds to each flower. The general
3 ,-'.' -
"a, t. .
-' .1 1 "- 1' C ,,J ', -_-i
/ ,.', 1- '. .
..__?: 'i"'--:- ; ..
.-=--:- \ c.
"- \, I 'r!'['"
-L. > ;
SLOE, OR BLA.CrTHOR (p. 31).
result of plants becoming "double" is that they cease
60 A Year wiki the Wild Flowers.
to perfect fruit. It is well known that double stocks
cannot be perpetuated by seed. This is owing to the
stamens and styles, which are the reproductive part of
the flower, becoming more or less changed into extra
petals, until, when the flower is very "double," as we
call it, they disappear entirely. Many of the finer
kinds of haws are tolerable as fruit, and some people
preserve them with hips, though neither of them have
juice enough to make good jam.
The Glastonbury thorn is a variety resembling a
native of Palestine. It flowers in the winter. The
tradition is well known that Joseph of Arimathlea,
having led a band of missionaries to England, stopped
at Glastonbury, and there planted his staff, as a sign
that his wanderings had ceased. To encourage the
faithful, and symbolise the flourishing Church they
would raise, his stick took root and flowered on Christ-
mas-day. The legend says-it has done so every year
since. Stern, unpoetical fact states-it flowers about
Christmas, but it may be a fortnight earlier, or even as
late as February.
Ours is not the only land where hawthorn is used
as the flower of joy in rural festivals. Greek brides
wear a sprig of it, and deck the altar with boughs, as
an emblem of the flowery future they expect. It
would be more poetical, though less true to life, if
they chose a plant without thorns.
y ; -
".. 1' ,h I:
i HE VIOLET (described in "March," p. 25)
has leaves heart-shaped and radical, but
Sthe PANSY has a square branched stem,
Switch oblong leaves, crenate-that is, cut into
'7.- .... scallops round the edges.
Each leaf is attended by a pair of differently-
shaped leaves, joined laterally to the base of the leaf-
stalk. These irregular leaves are called stipules when
they occur on the leaf-stalk; bracts, if on the flower-
stalk. The stipules of the Pansy are long, and pointed,
with two or three lobes on each side; from their fancied
resemblance to an ancient lyre, known as lyrate. The
general arrangement of the flower is identical with the
Violet, but it is more prettily marked. The purple,
yellow, and white conspicuous in our garden Pansies
are to be found in many of the wild ones. (See frontis-
piece, fig. 5.) The proper English name is Heart's-ease.
Pansy is a corruption of the French Pensez-a-moi,
think of me: for the Heart's-ease rivals the Forget-
62 A Year wilh tke Wzld Flowers.
me-not across the Channel. It was the token chosen
by Buonaparte on his return from Elba in 1815, so
that those who wore this flower were easily recognized
by their fellow-conspirators without exciting general
suspicion. Shakespeare represents Ophelia as offering
PANSY LEAF, WITH LYRATE STIPULE.
this flower with the explanation-" Pansies, that's for
GOOSEGRASS, Turkey-grass, Cleavers, Catchweed,
Bedstraw, Hairough: one or more of these names must
be familiar to all of us, for the Bedstraw is a widely-
distributed weed. There are several varieties; some
of which are fragrant, as the yellow bedstraw, which is
not a prickly plant. Its narrow, drooping leaves and
tiny golden flowers, crowded for an inch or so down
i 5,,*yI )*
the stem, give it a very delicate appearance. Its roots
are used in the Highlands to dye wool red.
The WOOD-RUFFE, which belongs to the same family,
64 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
has white flowers. Its sweetness is hardly noticed
unless the plant is roughly handled. It has, however,
the peculiarity of smelling more strongly when dried
than fresh, so that bundles of it were formerly as much
prized by careful housewives as Lavender, to put
away with clean linen. It is said to repel moths. In
Prussia, where it grows more plentifully than with us,
it is steeped in wine, to which it imparts a pleasant
flavour. The madder of commerce, from which the dye
known as Turkey red is obtained, belongs to the same
The Goosegrass grows in the hedges with a long,
trailing stem. It is square, prickly, woolly at the
joints. The leaves, set in a whirl or ruff round the
stem, are eight or ten together. They are long, pointed,
rough, and prickly. Perianth, white, of one petal
divided into four pointed lobes, superior (that is,
above the seed); stamens, four; style, one; seeds,
two, covered with hooks, which fasten in the skins of
animals or the dress of man, and so get conveyed to a
distance and then sown. In early days, when a truss
of straw was the only bed, the first beginnings of
luxury suggested, mixing fragrant plants with the
straw and rushes. The Hairough and other sweet and
smooth species of this class were used for this purpose,
till the name Bedstraw was applied to all the plants
with linear, whirled leaves. Young geese and turkeys
are fond of this herb, and in many places it is regularly
i ,. _-- -- : .
I. 1 .'
,, \, .i, _-.. .
*I ,,, / ^ -- ---
"I '"'~ ..
66 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
cultivated in the farmer's garden, and chopped up with
boiled onions for the birds.
The PRIVET, always neat, has adorned our gardens
and hedges with its handsome leaves almost all the win-
ter, and is now delighting us with its bunches of white
flowers. It is a many-branched shrub, with smooth
stems; opposite, dark, glossy, long ovate leaves, and
clusters of blossoms at the summit of the stem. Calyx,
cup-shaped, with four tiny teeth; corolla, cut into four
spreading lobes; stamens, two ; style, one: fruit,
round, black, bitter berries; look like miniature
bunches of grapes, and are eagerly eaten by birds.
The flowers are very fragrant, and the shrub is adapted
for hedges, as it is strong, sweet, pretty, and hardy.
It will bear a good deal of pruning. From the spongy
pulp of the berries a rose-coloured paint may be
manufactured. The leaves are astringent, and a
decoction of them is sometimes used as a lotion for
sores. The privet is supposed to represent "gentle
prohibition," for though it forms as strong a barrier as
a quicksett hedge," yet, instead of wounding, it offers
flowers to those whom it repels.
The ELDER-TREE is another of those plants so highly
and absurdly prized by our forefathers, and so lightly
valued in modern times. There is scarcely a part of
it which has not been used medicinally, either by
quacks or regular practitioners. Like most of our
Not four, as inadvertently represented in our illustration.
English fruit-trees, it does not attain a great height,
68 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
but it often spreads widely, unless vigorously pruned,
and few plants will grow under its shadow. The
young stems are smooth, round, greyish-green, and
filled with pith. Most country children have cleared
this out of the shoots, to make fifes, popguns, etc., of
the tubes. Valentine Jamerai Duval, a French farmer's
boy, who had a natural genius for astronomy, con-
structed a rude substitute for a telescope out of elder
shoots. Choosing a tree for his study, he fixed himself
on one branch and his instrument on another. Here
he watched the stars, and drew plans of their positions,
till his patience and ingenuity attracted the patronage
they deserved. The pith of the elder is so extremely
light and tough, that small figures are constructed of
it for electrical experiments. A small amount of elec-
tricity will attract them, etc.
The dark-green leaves are opposite, pinnate, with
about two pairs of leaflets and an odd one at the end.
The ovate leaflets are serrate. At the end of the stem
five stalks spring from the same point, and are after-
wards branched. These bear the flowers in a loose
head. The calyx and corolla are five-cleft; stamens,
five; and styles, three. Theflow'rs are white or cream-
coloured. The flower-buds and young shoots are
pickled, but as the former without the vinegar are
violently medicinal, they are not to be recommended.
A decoction of the blossoms is sometimes taken for
colds. Distilled elder-flower water is a cosmetic, and
is prescribed for weak eyes. A bunch of the flowers
steeped for a few hours in water, makes it soft and
cooling for the skin. Either fresh or dried, they are
used as poultices for quinsy, etc. The round, purplish-
black berries have a sickly, luscious taste. They are
extremely injurious when raw, and though the wine
made from them is in great repute, yet it is more in-
toxicating than most of the British wines, and is not
wholesome. These fruits poison poultry, but the juice
is sometimes used as a gargle or an astringent dose.
After all, the strong, oppressive-scented flowers are the
only part that can safely be used by unskilful hands.
There is a dull, dingy-looking plant very common
in hedges, which is frequently mistaken for the DEADLY
NIGHTSHADE. Its pointed, purple flowers are like those
of the potato, and the pretty, red, sickly berries which
follow are very injurious, though not quite so violently
poisonous as the real deadly nightshade. This "woody
nightshade" is the DULCAMARA of medicine, and is
often known both here and in America by the transla-
tion of that name, "the bitter sweet." (See frontispiece,
fig. 3.) The stem and root are bitter, but leave a sweet
taste in the mouth. Our illustration is the valuable
BELLADONNA. This grows about three feet high, but
the stem, instead of becoming woody like the Dulcamara,
remains round, green, soft, and hairy. It is thick and
branched. The large leaves are opposite and ovate,
smooth, and of a dull green. One leaf in each pair is
70 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
larger than the other. The flowers are solitary and
axillary. C. .. ,. five-cleft; corolla, lurid purple, bell-
shaped,.five-lobed; stacmens, five; one long style. The
berry looks like a black cherry, except that the calyx
is persistent, like that of the strawberry. The seeds
are imbedded in a sweet pulp, which is sadly attractive
to children. Some years ago, there were so many ac-
cidents caused by eating this fruit, that a war of
extermination was decided upon, and the plants were
destroyed until they have become rare. Two berries
would kill a child, and much less would have very
painful effects. Delirium, lockjaw, paralysis, may be
caused by an incautious dose. Belladonna is the
Italian for beautiful lady, as a cosmetic may be pre-
pared from the berries. The juice expands the pupil
of the eye, and is sometimes used to prepare it for
operations. Some silly folks actually use it in order
to improve their appearance, by making their eyes
large and lustrous. Its common name "Dwale is a
corruption of the French detil, "mourning."
The NARROW-LEAVED EVERLASTING PEA that twines
around the hedges of our midland counties is rather
smaller and fainter coloured than our cultivated ones.
The stem is winged," i.e., there is a thin flat projection
running down each side of it. The leaf-stalk is also
winged. It bears a pair of lanceolate sessile leaves
and ends in a twisted tendril, by which it clings to
other plants for support as it climbs. The calyx is
five-cleft. The corolla is of five petals, pink or purple,
and green. Two petals are joined in a shape like a
boat, and are called the keel. Two more fold over the
keel, and are called wings. One large one stands up, and
is called "the standard." Stamens, nine, in a bunch,
and one long one apart; -" ,., one; seed-vessel, a
72 A Year with ite Wild Flowers.
legume. The seeds of this and all the other wild peas
./ ''7 -
,\\ :j / .
-. .. *' .' "' '.
.--,^ ., .
and vetches are fit for fodder, and in times of famine
some sorts have been used for human food; but, except
in extreme cases, they would be considered too small
to be worth shelling.
The IRIS, or Flag, is very common in cottage gar-
74 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
dens, and is found there displaying the variety of
colours -which have gained it the name of Iris; but
our wild ones show only one colour-either yellow or
blue. The yellow Flag, which is found in watery
places, has a round stem, sword-shaped leaves, and
very curiously-shaped j/...... ,*. The perianth is divided
into six segments: three wide ones, which hang down,
and three narrow ones, erect. The .'..i.... resemble
three more petals, and each enfolds one stamen.
Seed-vessel, a three-valved capsule, opening down the
middle, to disclose the round, scarlet seeds. These,
when roasted, are said to be the best substitute for
coffee. Most of the Iris tribe are used in medicine.
-The root of one yields the Florentine Orris, which,
though bitter to the taste, has the scent of Violets, and
is powdered and used to destroy moths. A black dye
is extracted from the roots of one species found in the
Jura district: and the petals of the common blue Flag
make a paint fit for water-colour drawing, if bruised
in water. Among the ancient Egyptians, this flower
was sacred to Isis; it was considered the emblem of
eloquence, and was wreathed around the brows of
the sphinxes. The peculiar drooping form -of the
side petals is familiar to us as the fleur de luce or
S. ,' de lys of France. Louis VII. is said to have
chosen it as his badge, and called it the fleur de Louis:
but some think he chose the White Lily, and that the
Iris was called the flower of delights, or delices.
.1 I 1
'.,ERY early in the spring, the hedge-banks
and brook-sides opened golden eyes, and
S though but a few peeped cautiously at first,
there were soon scores and hundreds gem-
ming our paths.
"Only buttercups!" says the casual
observer, and goes his way without looking again.
But the hasty judgment is incorrect, as may be seen
when the buttercup does make its appearance a couple
of months later. The earlier and later flowers belong
to the same family, but the later is branched and hairy,
with leaves three-lobed and toothed, five rounded
petals, sepals bent back and drooping,. The blossoms
are not solitary, and the stem is wiry and channelled.
This is called the bulbous ranunculus, but the root is
more properly a tuber than a bulb, being exactly like
a pigmy turnip.
The earlier plant is the LESSER CELANDINE, with
an unbranched stem, smooth, as is the whole plant;
76 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
heart-shaped leaves on long stalks, and solitary flowers;
pointed petals, eight or nine; sepals, three, spreading;
stamens and styles, many. The root is composed of
fibres, mixed with little tubers, about the size and
colour of grains of wheat. As these lie very near the
surface they are sometimes washed bare, and even
detached by a violent shower. This gave rise to a
report that it had rained wheat," till a more careful
observer discovered the truth. The flowers close from
five p.m. to nine a.m., and also in rainy weather; but
as they grow old they lose this power, and the sun or
rain takes all the colour out of them. I do not remem-
ber any other flower that fades so utterly ; they may
be found quite white, so as for a moment to excite a
doubt as to their identity with the yellow celandine.
We have thus looked back to avoid confusion while
studying the CELANDINE proper, with which the lesser
celandine has scarcely anything in common but the
name. This plant is found on banks near to houses,
but seldom out in the open country. A round, hairy,
straggling, branched stem grows about two feet high.
The large alternate leaves are the only handsome
part. They are divided into about five lobes, deeply
crenate; their shape will be better understood from
the illustration than from a description. Three or four
long-stalked flowers compose a tuft, which looks very
insignificant beside the leaves, which are of a delicate
green covered with a bloom. Sepals, two, pale yellow,
deciduous; petals, four, dull yellow, small and fleeting;
stamens, many; style, one; succeeded by a pod con-
.7 '. '._- "' .
,' 4 '
training a double row of black, glossy seeds. The stem
is brittle, and contains a juice resembling mustard
78 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
ready mixed for table. Its smell is most unpleasant
-worse than that of the flowers. Great care must be
taken, if you gather a piece, to wrap the end of the
stalk up, for the sap drops, and it stains and spoils
clothing, and burns the hand. It is used by country
people to cure warts and other skin affections, and
is even recommended, mixed with milk, for removing
spots from the eye. This is much too great a risk to
run, without consulting a doctor, who, in all pro-
bability, would suggest a very different remedy. No
animal eats this acrid, pungent plant; and though it
possesses powerful medical properties, it is very little
based. It is too uninviting to be very dangerous,
though it seems to have proved fatal to one or two
persons. Its scientific name, Chelidonium, comes from
the Greek, chelidon, a swallow, because the ancients
had a wild notion that its ophthalmic properties were
so extraordinary, that if swallows' eyes were put out,
the mother bird would restore them by this application !
In moist situations, a large handsome bushy plant
attracts our attention. THE GREAT HAIRY WILLOW-
HERB well deserves a place in our gardens, and is not
seldom cultivated. The hairy stemz is much branched.
The lanceolate leaves are hairy also, and deeply serrate.
The showy pink flowers are solitary and axillary; each
seems to be on a stalk about two inches in length, but
on closer inspection this proves to be a seed-vessel.
This peculiarity gives the plant a very curious ap-
pearance. Calyx, four-cleft, deciduous; petals, four,
heart-shaped, spreading; stamens, eight; style, one,
with a cruciform. stigma The square pod splits into
four valves, scattering the seedswhich have a tuft of
,, -- T
GEAT HAIRY WILLOW-HEBB.
with a cruciform stigma. The square pod splits into
four valves, scattering the seeds, -which have a tuft of
80 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
cotton at the top to fly away with. The flower has a
faint sweet smell, something like cooked fruit, but it
soon loses it if plucked. The country name for it is
Codlins and Cream. In Kamtschatka the young shoots
and roots are eaten; and an intoxicating liquor is
brewed from the leaves and the bark of the roots.
The seed-down has been mixed with cotton or
beaver fur and felted, but the manufacture has attained
so little importance that we cannot discover what was
made. There are several smaller varieties of this herb,
some of which may be found by waysides.
What recollections of our childhood does the name'
of FLAx call up As when we first heard the true,
stories," now again in fancy we accompany the Egyp-
tians to their ruined fields after the plague of hail;
again we watch Rahab at that wonderful "hide and
seek," which had the issues of life and death to make
it exciting! These glowing Eastern visions fade
away, and again we sit by the nursery fire, and find
the alleviations of our captivity are a book and sweet
warm linseed tea.
Flax was brought from Egypt to England by the
Romans, and has now become naturalised. At one
time the proportion of land which must be given up
to its culture was fixed by law, which accounts for its
general diffusion over the country. Since cotton and
silk have come into general use, the manufacture of
linen has ceased to be so important.
The smooth round stem grows about a foot and a
half in height, and bears alternate lanceolate leaves.
The flowers are stalked and axillary; pointed green
sepals, rounded blue petals, stamens, and styles, five of
82 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
each; capsule of five cells, each nearly divided into
two, so that at first sight there seem to be ten; one
shining, brown, flat, oval seed in each division. Its
large, brilliant blue flower contrasts well with the
dark leaves; but the stem is too weak and straggling
to make it an ornamental plant.
The skin of the seeds contains mucilage, which is
very soothing to the chest. The kernel yields linseed
oil, and the farinaceous part of the seed, after the oil
has been pressed from it, forms the oil-cake used for
feeding cattle. To obtain the valuable fibres the stems
are drawn through a sort of comb, called a heckle,
which strips off the leaves, etc. They are then soaked
till the outer skin rots, and beaten to separate the fibres.
These are next "laid in order" to dry, (not a very savoury
bed that Rahab prepared for the spies,) and when dry
are combed, and sorted, and bleached, and finally spun.
The finest flax does not grow in England. It is
much taller than ours, but cannot support itself, so
that stakes with a rope tied from one to another for
the flax to lean upon have to be provided. If it gets
bent or broken, the quality of the fibre is spoiled,
which explains the Egyptian catastrophe: "The flax
was boiled," not belled or in flower, as some say, but
full-grown. A bole is the trunk of a tree or the full-
grown stem of a plant. Arrived at maturity, this
plant could never rise after being beaten down, and
was no doubt cut to pieces.
The POPPIES are an important class, and we have
several species in England. The most common is the
red poppy that grows in corn-fields. The root is
fibrous and annual. Stem, branched, hairy, erect;
radical leaves, stalked; stem-leaves, sessile. When a
leaf is divided almost to the middle several times, so
as to resemble a pinnate leaf, it is called pinnatifid.
The poppies have pinnatifid leaves, as each little
division is again cut, so as to form a miniature of the
whole leaf. Sepals, two; but as they fall off before
the flower expands, it is easy to mistake and reckon
without them. Petals, four, crumpled; many styles,
and about twenty purple stamens. Seed-vessel, a
large, smooth, pear-shaped capsule, containing, it is
said, 50,000 seeds. The plant abounds with milky
juice. There is a larger white variety which yields
opium (see illustration, page 131); but it is less
expensive to import the drug than to manufacture it
in our climate, so that the English poppy-heads are
mostly dried for soothing poultices. Opium is collected
before the capsules are quite ripe, by gashing them
freely in the evening. The juice that oozes out during
the night is dried and thickened by the sun next day,
and then scraped off with iron tools, and made up into
cakes. In small quantities it is prescribed as a stimu-
lant, but the deleterious effects of large doses are well
known. Laudanum and morphia are different pre-
parations of opium. They should all be avoided, or
84 A Year with the Wild Flowers.
only used as the last resort; for the injury they do to
the constitution frequently outweighs the temporary
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relief from pain. Thousands have been made wretched
both in body and soul by contracting the habit of