ACADIA NATURE NOTES
LADY'S SLIPPER or MOCCASIN FLOWER
May - June
Cypripedium acaule - Orchid family.
One of the loveliest harbingers of spring in the shaded woodlands.
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.
Late May - Early June
Kalmia polifolia - Heath family.
Generally in bogs or on shores of cold ponds.
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.
Late May - August
Lathyrus maritimus - Pea family.
Trailing over the loose gravelly sea beaches of the Island is the Beach 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.
FRINGED POLYGALA or GAY-WINGS
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.
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.
Late May - early June.
Rhododendron canadense - Heath family.
"Rhodora! If the sages ask thee why
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.
Late May - June
Streptopus roseus - Lily family.
Found in cold moist woods.
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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