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THE PLANTS OF OUR WOODS AND FIELDS.
The high regard which the native plants of this country hold abroad renders their better acquaintance and their cultivation an object of interest to the garden. The wide area, of thousands of miles extent, embraces the most showy, and likewise the most charming, herbaceous sorts which are sufficiently hardy to endure the winters of this vicinity. An article of the necessary brevity for these pages could do but feeble justice to their claims; and, if we take a very superficial and hasty glance at them, it will at least serve as an introduction to their merits, which could be urged to a greater expansion of detail.
Beginning, in our enumeration, at the lower orders, the admirer of ferns may find in the superb fronds of the Californian species some of the most attractive of these plants. Need we mention scarcely others than the representatives of the golden Gymnogrammes of that favored region; the elegant forms of Adiatum, or maiden-hair; the hardier and alpine ones of the Sierra Nevada, or the brakes (Pteris) of the Yo Semite Valley; the two new parasitic Polypodies described by Professor Eaton ; and the rock-brakes (AUosurus) near the Bay of San Francisco, hinting to us of novelties yet to be found, and worth the search? For the open border, we have, in New England alone, species well suited for cultivation. Our maiden-hair becomes always attractive, and grows without difficulty; the climbing fern, once thought so rare, but now found in several new localities, can scarcely be excelled, even by foreign species of the same genus; the curious broadly lanceolate fronds of the rare Scolopendrium, rediscovered near Pursh's original locality the past summer; the more curious walking-leaf (Camptosorus), which we have successfully cultivated in a covered glass jar in days prior to the Wardian cases; the magnificent ostrich-fern (Struthiopteris), now growing in the shade of our little garden; the pretty Polypodiums, which will survive transplantation, and fit themselves to the rock-work ; the ebonystemmed and black-striped spleenworts of exquisite proportions, and the larger and stronger species, which adapt themselves to the garden; the bladder-ferns (Cystopteris), delicate and graceful; the wood-ferns (Aspidium), enlivening the woods in mid-winter with their sempervirent fronds ; the sensitive-fern, whose spikes of fruit-capsules are used for mantle ornaments when dead and dry; the tiny moonworts (Botrychium), which are very accommodating, and root readily in the lawn or on the grassy banks, and come out afresh when the year is on the decline; and, lastly, the regal flowering ferns, stately and handsome as flowers, but never knowing any distinguishable floral organs (the microscopic botanist only able to tell you where they are), — what a catalogue of native plants, too little cultivated, yet all waiting for a better acquaintance with man! Many of these will grow where nothing else would. We can see them springing up spontaneously in the cool, shaded fronts of city houses, where the sun never shines : others spring out of old mortar, and from between the crevices of walls; and others under the shade of trees. Those who visit conservatories and greenhouses are often attracted by the superb ferns now so universally cultivated. Most of them are from foreign climates, and some from tropical regions; but others, whose forms are the most singular, are from climates no more genial than our own. The same care bestowed upon our New-England ferns would, in the course of time, produce as curious and as grotesque forms. The odd forms of the hart's-tongue are the effects of high culture, causing an abnormal condition in the young seedling plants. We have specimens of undulated fronds of this fern from species taken from wild specimens brought from the Azores. The singular crested variety of the buckler-fern (Aspidium filix mas) is but an accidental variation by seed, and carefully propagated; but any careful observer can find similar peculiarities in the fronds of native species, as we know from experience. Cultivation will produce others; and the facility with which they produce offspring offers an incentive to the experiment. We have said nothing of the beautiful and peculiar species of the South: suffice it to say that we have the superb golden-rooted fern (Acrostichum aureum), whose dark-green shining fronds rise to the height of eight feet; the tropical form of the common brake is seen along the Gulf coast; the pretty trichiomanes has been found by Curtis in East Tennessee, and elsewhere by others; and the delicate anemia, with its black, velvety root-stock, of Southern Florida, reminds us of co-species of Brazil. Our native ferns, then, sustain the high reputation which their flowering sister-plants possess; and the cultivator of beautiful ferns can find at home the grace and beauty in these plants which wealth seeks abroad in costly importations of European or Asiatic novelties. The
same remarks will hold good in the Lycopods and Selaginellas; the exquisite S. densa of the greenhouse being represented in S. apoda, of the swampy and grassy meadpws of Massachusetts, and other foreign kinds in the co-species of California.
The seed-catalogues give us lists of grasses as attractive objects in gardening. What can we do here? Let us remember that Uniola latifolia, whose flat and stiff seed-spikes rise so prominently upon the stout culm, and hang so gracefully on one side, as it were, is found on the prairies of the West, and extends southward as far as Florida; a much-esteemed garden ornament, and deservedly so. Some of the Andropogons are rivals of the pampas-grass; the Aira, with its silvery husks and slender wiry stems, waves on the dry and gravelly soils, and will grow elsewhere; the Eragrostis, or love-grass, has attractive spikelets of glaucous green ; the cord-grasses, if not so common, would be admired for stateliness; the hairgrass is of the most delicate character; the annual quaking-grass of the garden has an equally beautiful representative in the Briza media of our pastures; the delicious vanilla-scent of the tHerochloa entitles it to consideration independent of its lustrous chestnut florets. We have species of Erianthus, which would stand favorably beside the sort advertised, and grasses in the West and South as curious as any from abroad. Nor should the sedges be overlooked, represented in some of remarkable grace, and which we have found no difficulty in cultivating,— many indigenous to a dry soil, and adapted to the garden, such as C. plantagima, platyphylla, vcstita; and that most remarkable species, adapted to rockwork, and so rare, found in the rich woods of the south, — the Caix Fraseriana of Sims, with strange broad leaves and odd flower-spikes pushing out so early in May.
The Messrs. Hovey & Co., so well known for their fine taste, and success in cultivation, received a prize, at the last Annual Horticultural Exhibition in Boston, for the best specimen-plant. It was a sedge, and called the Cyperus alternifolius. Loudon says it is " curious," grows two feet high, and is a native of Madagascar, having been introduced into cultivation in 1781. The tropical Cyperi are showy plants; but we have native species. They grow almost everywhere. Some are showy too, and all are pretty: but being weeds of the cornfield, or common in the sands, nobody deems them fit for flower-beds; though who can tell what cultivation might do, rewarding somebody, perhaps, with a variegated leaf variety, when it would henceforth become all the rage? A small pot of a delicate and wiry-leaved grass-looking plant stood out conspicuous at that floral festival among other wonders; it was some kind of Scirpus or bulrush: but no name accompanied it; and, whether from abroad or from near at hand, we were not informed. It was very pretty, and its weak stems and leaves hung profusely over the pot's edge: but any one may find just as pretty, and perhaps the identical, who seeks for Hemicarpha on the sandy borders of our rivers and ponds; and a chance bit of this completely filled, in a single summer, a large pot, in which it sprang up from the soil employed by us in cultivating an aquatic plant.
The beautiful spider-worts, now of every color, white, rosy, light-blue, and purple-blue, all spring from carefully-selected seedlings of a wild plant we find growing plentifully on the rich hills and woods of the West, and are the garden products of Tradescantia Vtrginica, commemorating the elder Tradescaunt, gardener to Charles I., and the part of North America from where it was brought by some student of the great Linnaeus. The delight of my old friend Carter, of the Cambridge Botanic Garden, at these new varieties, as they appeared, I well recall, though many years have flown by since that time. Closely related is the day-flower (Commelyna). The skyblue flowered (ccelestis) comes to us from Mexico: it finds a place in our seed-lists, and knows of variation in its flowers ; but there are two or three species nearer home, and belonging to the United States. I have often wondered why some attempts have not been made to induce the pickerelweed to grow in dryer spots. Its rich purple spikes vie successfully with the vernal hyacinth: perhaps a border of peat and sphagnum would tempt its growth. Caltha palustris, which ordinarily prefers a similar situation of mud and water, will thrive in the border, and is cultivated in its doubleflowered condition. For effect derived from stateliness and foliage, the false hellebore ( Veratrum viride) can be recommended: it does best in the black soil of decayed leaves on the edges of meadows; but we have seen it flourish very well in other soil. A pretty red-berried and rosy, bell-shaped, flowered, herbaceous plant is the Streptopus roseus, occasionally found in our rich moist woods, and worth the seeking for. It belongs to the bellwort family, and is a fitting companion to the elegant golden-flowered, large-blossomed Uvularia, which we find growing wild in the woods of Vermont, and yet known in many gardens as a prized border-flower. The Adams needle, or Yuccafilamentosa, so universally introduced into gardens, and so conspicuous for its stately column of pure white hanging blossoms, is nothing but the wild bear-grass of Kentucky, and used for strings and ties in its tough green leaves. It is, however, the Northern representative of the Spanish bayonet of the South, and humbly imitates the superber species seen with us only in conservatories.
The seeker for early flowers in May is gratified to find in his rambles the yellow adder's-tongue (Erythronium Americanum), whose two leaves, scarcely rising from the ground, are so curiously spotted and mottled with purplish blotches, and which clasp at base the flower-stalk, surmounted by its nodding gold-colored flower. We have known this successfully cultivated; but let it be planted under some thickly-set trees, or in the shade of bushes, where its erratic habits will do no mischief. In blossom or without, it is a pretty plant, and perfectly hardy : we only wish we could say as much for its finer co-species, the E. albidum, whose whitish or bluish-white flowers are so pretty; but we can record no instance of any attempt to make it better known than in its wild condition in the rich soils of the West.
Admiration for lilies — as increased of late years by the Japan kinds, and recently by the golden-banded lily (Lilium auratum) — attracts the notice of amateurs to our native kinds. Conspicuous in the meadows of Taunton and Providence, in July, may be noticed the elegant and stately superb lily, or native Turk's-cap, bearing on its summit from two to forty rich bright-orange flowers, spotted and dashed with dark blotches on the inside of the sepals. It transplants readily, even if taken up when in flower; and, treated with a little peat and sand when planted in the border, will repay all cost and care. Quite similar to it, but not so fine and showy, is the wild yellow lily (Z. Canadensc), more common, and equally readily cultivated. Its color is usually yellow; but now and then a red or salmon tinted one can be met with. The blossoms are not so large in this species as are those of the superb lily: often they are as numerous, and culture will do much to enhance their value. In June and July, the whortleberry-pastures of Eastern Massachusetts are enlivened by the elegant wild orange-red lily, its graceful stem seldom bearing more than three