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ACADIA NATURE NOTES


Volume 5 Spring Number, 1939 Number 1

FLOWERS PINK

LADY'S SLIPPER or MOCCASIN FLOWER

May - June

Cypripedium acaule - Orchid family.

One of the loveliest harbingers of spring in the shaded woodlands.

Root Fleshy, fibrous.
Stem Very short, inconspicuous.
Flowering Stalk 6" to 12" high, one-flowered.
Leaves Two, basal, 6" to 8" long, 2" to 3" wide, thick, occasionally a smaller leaf on flower stalk.
Flower Three sepals, three petals, stamens united into a column. Pink, blossom somewhat peanut-shaped.

The name "moccasin flower" is an excellent tribute to the American Indian who loved the same woodland haunts. The scientific name is literally Venus' Slipper.

The Orchid family is the most peculiar in the vegetable world in the structure of its flowers. It has three outer sepals and three inner petals of which one is peculiar in shape. This one is considered a petal although in the Lady's Slipper it is in the form of a pouch. Technically it is called the lip of the flower. This large lip is open with a narrow slit in the front, the edges of which are turned inward. This forms a trap easy to get into but hard to get out of. A bee enters this open door and once satisfied with nectar she looks for a way out. She finds a way but not the way she came in. At the top of the flower on either side of the column (a single organ formed by the stamens and petals united), she finds the passage out, just big enough to push through. In pushing out she brushes against the sticky pollen mass of the stamens and carries away some of it on her hairy sides. When she enters another flower, she deposits some of this pollen on the stigma of that flower, thus accomplishing cross-fertilization. Observers tell us that this contrivance is so elaborate that it often defeats its own end and the plants are propagated chiefly by the root.



FLOWERS PINK

BOG LAUREL

Late May - Early June

Kalmia polifolia - Heath family.

Generally in bogs or on shores of cold ponds.

Stem A spreading, scraggly shrub, 6"-20" high, with smooth ascending branches; branches distinctly 2-edged.
Leaves Small, narrowly elliptical, opposite; dark green above, whitish below, the edge rolled back, 1"-2-1/2" long.
Flowers Pink to magenta, in terminal clusters, about 1/2"-5/8" across.
Fruit Pod, smooth, oval.

Found from Labrador to Alaska, also in Greenland.

Honey made from the Kalmia has been found to be poisonous. The foliage also is very destructive to cattle and sheep because it contains a dangerous substance which, when eaten, is more dangerous than strychnine. The Indians were familiar with the poisonous nature of the leaves and from them made a drink with which they committed suicide. The leaves are also brewed illegally to make a drink like cheap liquor.



FLOWERS PINK

BEACH PEA

Late May - August

Lathyrus maritimus - Pea family.

Trailing over the loose gravelly sea beaches of the Island is the Beach Pea.

Stem Vine-like, trailing or climbing definitely angled.
Leaves Compound, divided into 6-10 leaflets, thick, rounded-oblong, 1" to 4" long.
Flowers Pinkish-purple, large, 1/2" to 1-1/4" long. Somewhat like Vetch in form. Five sepals, ten stamens. Pod, two-valved.
Fruit A two-valved pod, like garden pea.

Named after a similar plant of the bean family by the Greek botanist Theophrastus.

Often called Vetchling because of its resemblance to the field vetch.

The blossom also looks like cultivated sweet peas.



FLOWERS PINK

FRINGED POLYGALA or GAY-WINGS

June

Polygala paucifolia - Milkwort family.

Perennial. A delicate plant with very handsome rose-colored flowers, found in open woods, fields, and meadows of light sandy soils.

Rootstock Slender, twisted.
Stems 3"-6" high; upper part leafy, lower part bearing small oval, leafy scales; these stems rise from prostrate or subterranean shoots which bear concealed fertile flowers.
Leaves Four to five upon a stem, petioled, alternate, ovate, entire, 1" long, 1/2" - 7/8" wide.
Flowers Showy, rose-purple, irregular, one to three upon each stem. Three petals, the middle one keel-shaped and fringe-crested, the two side ones oblong, concave, and united to the keel the greater part of their length. Six stamens united into a tube. Ovary two-celled; style long and somewhat curved.
Fruit A small, flat, two-seeded pod; the seeds are appendaged with two or three awl-shaped lobes.

Pollinated by bees and bee-like flies. Nectar-bearing.

An old name composed of polus, much, and gala, milk, from a fancied property that increases this secretion.

The Polygala blossom is beautiful in form and color, but very puzzling in structure. This is due to the fact that the five sepals are neither symmetrical in shape nor alike in color. Three are greenish and of sepal like character, two drop their sepal look, become larger than the others and rose colored -- in short, group themselves with the petals.



FLOWERS PINK

RHODORA

Late May - early June.

Rhododendron canadense - Heath family.

"Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why
This charm is wasted on Earth and Sky
Tell them, dear, that if eyes were made for seeing
Then Beauty is its own excuse for being."

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stem A shrub, 1'-4' high, branches slender, ascending or erect.
Fruit Oval, obtuse and pointed at the apex, narrowed at base, entire dark green and smooth, or nearly so, above, light green or pale and dull and slightly hairy, 1" to 2" long.
Flowers Expanding with or before leaves, lower lip divided into two oblong obtuse segments.
Fruit Capsule oblong.

One of Acadia's finest flower shows comes the last week in May or early June when Great Meadow is one expanse of color. It is there that Rhodora comes into all her glory and with characteristic New England pride shows her gorgeous colors. She is typically New England and found in no other National Park.



FLOWERS PINK

TWISTED STALK

Late May - June

Streptopus roseus - Lily family.

Found in cold moist woods.

Root Short, creeping, thick.
Stem Stout, short with bristly hairs, branching above.
Leaves Green on both sides, 2"-4-1/2" long, finely hairy, clasping the stem.
Flower Rose-purple, 1/4" to 3/8" long, six petals, six stamens, ovary three-celled.
Fruit Round cherry - red berry.

Scientific name from the Greek for twisted foot.

This plant is often confused with Solomon's Seal and False Spikenard. The main points of difference are:

Solomon's Seal - Flowers drooping from leaf axils, in a regular row.

False Spikenard - Flower a plume of small blossoms at the tip of the stem.

Twisted Stalk - Flowers, usually solitary, nodding from leaf axils not in a regular row.

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09-Jan-2006