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for too great latitude of discussion, if I continue. So I will adopt a more practical line.
I am invited to contribute an article upon fhe Cyprepedium, a vegetable family of extensive relations, upon which I have bestowed considerable attention. The interests of this family being just now paramount in my mind, I prefer to review its claims and generic peculiarities.
The Cypripedium is a terrestrial orchid, and constitutes Dr. Lindley's seventh tribe of orchids, comprising but this one genus, which differs from all other orchids far more than any other two do from each other. It is claimed that an enormous amount of extinction must have swept away a multitude of intermediate forms, and left this single genus, now widely disseminated, as a record of a more simple state of the great Orchidean order.
Darwin describes the organic peculiarities of the Cypripedium as follows : —
"Cypripedium possesses no rostellum; all three stigmas being fully developed, but confluent. That anther which is present in all other orchids is here rudimentary, and is represented by a single shield-like projecting body, deeply notched or hollowed out on its lower margin. There are two fertile anthers which belong to an inner whorl, represented in ordinary orchids by various rudiments. The pollen-grains do not consist of three or four united granules, as in all other genera excepting the degraded Cephalanthera. The grains are not united into waxy masses, nor tied together by elastic threads, nor furnished with a caudicle. The labellum is of large size, and is, as in all other orchids, a compounded organ."
The curious slipper-like shape of the labellum is necessary for the fertilization of the plant, in leading insects to insert their probosces by the lateral passages close to the anthers, by which means the glutinous pollen is conveyed to the stigma. The Cypripedium, like many other orchids, is incapable of producing ripe seed by virtue of its own powers; and the structure is said by Darwin to be actually opposed to it. The aid of insects is absolutely required; and, without their visits, the plants would be sterile. Darwin styles the moths their "marriage-priests." This is one of the most curious phenomena connected with plant-life, and shows the reciprocal importance of the different created things to each other. Vegetable growth not only furnishes food for insects and other creatures, but the instinctive visits of insects to certain plants in search of this food, are, by a mysterious economy, made absolutely necessary to the fructification of the plants; the insects, accidentally as it were, being the agents for uniting the pollen with the stigmas : for though all the organs are represented with requisite reproductive power in the same individual plant, yet they are so related structurally, that union is impossible without artificial assistance. Among the many interesting features of the vegetable kingdom, the contrivances for fertilization which prevail among orchids are chief, and, together with the singular and exquisite forms which they present, are an attraction which arrests not only the observation of the student of natural history, but the admiration of every lover of the beautiful who finds any thing in Nature picturesque enough to inspire him with a sentiment of beauty. Exalted ideas of plant-existence proceed from study of the admirable processes and marvellous methods which abound in Nature as they are developed by investigation. The Cypripedium alone has interesting chapters enough to reward the researches of the most exacting; and the frequent discoveries of new species are yearly adding to the accumulation of attractions which already cluster around this remarkable genus.
Of the Cypripcdium, there are six species indigenous to the United States, and all found, in more or less abundance, in different localities in the Northern States. They are as follow: C. pubcscens, larger yellow; C. parviflorum, smaller yellow; C. spectabile, purple and white; C. acaule, pink; C. candidum, white; C. arietinnm, red and white.
Five of these species I have growing in my garden, and have no trouble in keeping them. I plant them in the shade in leaf-mould. C. acaule, which is not rare, I have frequently planted in large numbers, but have never had it bloom a second season.
Mr. Rand, in a recent correspondence respecting our indigenous Cypripedia, wrote me of this species as follows: "As to C. acaule, my woods are full of it. I remember, one day last summer, my little boy brought in more than a hundred blossoms. I have often transplanted them with complete success: they seed freely. Plant it in dry, sandy loam, and shade from the sun; never set the roots more than an inch deep, spreading them, and mulch with pine-needles."
On the other hand, a correspondent in New Jersey, devoted to native botany, and who cultivates more native plants, I think, than any one else in the United States, agrees with my experience. I copy from his letter as follows: —
"I have met with C. acaule in damp woods and in dry woods; in the sandy pine-barrens of New Jersey, sometimes in nearly pure sand, with very little mixture; and in one instance I have met with it in tolerable abundance growing in a wet sphagneous swamp, where grew Sarracenia purpurea and Pogonia ophioglossoides. It did not grow quite so much in the water as the two last-named plants: but there would be no difficulty in reaching C. acaule with one hand; and with the other, Sarracenia purpurea. But, up to this time, it has resisted or rejected all my endeavors to retain it. It will come up one year after bringing it in ; and after two, sometimes; but is sure to be gone by the third"
One of the peculiarities of C. acaule is, that it seems never to throw up two stems or scapes from one plant; and another, that it never increases at the root as the other native species do, but always by seed. This is the experience of a friend who is a close observer.
C. candidum is a dwarf lovely species, and challenges my admiration as much as any of them. It is pure China-white, about the size of a robin's egg. It is very rare indeed, although a lady wrote me last summer it was abundant in swamps about ten miles from Madison, Wis. My plants came from Western New York, where it is occasionally seen.
All these species have the characteristic shoe-shaped lip, from which the plant derives its name, Venus's-slipper; more commonly, lady's-slipper; or, in the United States, moccason-flower. Some Englishman has remarked, in view of its classic name, that he hoped Venus did not, slattern-like, wear her slipper down at the heel, but that all the species of Cypripedium he had seen indicated that she did.
C. speciabile is larger and more showy, and generally esteemed the handsomest of the native species. One clump of roots of this species in my garden, last July, produced twenty-six superb flowers, two on each stem; the stems about two feet high, and the flowers uncommonly large.
C. arietinum is a small species, with a wild look, but is quite interesting, and the exact shape of a ram's head, as its name indicates. This diminutive species is very pretty when examined, the red and white lip curiously drawing to a point at its lower extremity. I counted fifty-two flowers in my garden last June upon my plants, which came from Canada. As to stations for collecting it, I can only remark, it is a first-rate thing to hunt after. It is the most uncertain, irregular, vagrant plant in all our flora. It seems enchanted, and to have the gift of disappearing at will when wanted.
In some stations, amid cold swamps, it is reported to be both plenty and permanent. I have heard it is somewhat abundant in Bergen Swamp, Genesee County, N.Y. Referring to its transitory character, is not one reason for its disappearance from accustomed habitats, that sphagnum is always growing, and in course of time overtops all the little hillocks in the
swamps upon which it prefers to grow, thereby destroying its roots? Excessive moisture is fatal to it in cultivation, I know from experience.
A gentleman wrote me from Canada, that he found it growing with Lilium Philadelphicum, and other plants that require a dry, warm soil, but where a cedar or tamarack swamp had formerly been; and, as that was the only swamp-plant remaining, he inferred, that, like C. pubescens, it coukl exist without much moisture.
These little hillocks in the swamps are the favorite haunts of C. acauk as well as of C. arietinum; and a theory is drawn from this fact to account for their blooming in May. These knolls get heated through long before the ice is out of the swamps; and I am informed it is not a rare occurrence to find them in flower with ice in their immediate vicinity.
C. parviflorum and C. pubescens are both yellow, and very showy. They vary much in intensity of color; soma bainj quite dull, and others lively and brilliant. The brightest I have had came from Canada. C. pubescens, in size, is from two to four times as large as C. parviflorum.
These two species are abundantly distinct, though in some localities difficult to determine. C. parviflorum is much the rarer of the two, though not generally so considered: it is also fragrant, shorter, and flowers earlier; has a deeper brown-purple perianth ; does not change much in form, though some in size. C. pubescens is generally paler in color, much larger, and is quite changeable in all its parts.
C.parviflorum is entitled strictly to but one flower to the stem; yet Mr. Rand informs me he had a plant of this species under open-air culture, in his garden, which produces three flowers on a single stem. This accidental development occurs in those East-India species which ordinarily have but one flower to the stem also; for I have this winter seen a large plant of C. insigne, in Mr. Rathbone's greenhouse in Albany, with two or three of its many stems bearing two flowers each.
Flowers of C. spectabile are frequently met with of pure white ; and in Otsego County, in this State, blossoms of C. acaule have been found entirely white.
A specimen of C. parviflorum has been gathered in Schenectady County, in this State, having all the parts of the flower single except the lip, which is double.