Easy Botany, August Wild Flowers
The wild flowers of August have their own distinguishing
characteristics. We find the road-sides gleaming and glowing with
brilliant colors, and all the tribes of strong-growing and
strong-scented plants that prefer the later summer months.
Among others the singular desmodium, or bush trefoil, is interesting
from having the leaves and flowers grow on separate plants, quite
unconnected apparently, and often some little distance apart.
The large, spreading leaves grow on a stalk as if they had nothing to do
with anything else; but the young botanist who may grasp this plume of
leaves will find that the root leads along under-ground, till suddenly
up comes another plant—a tall stem with panicles of purplish flowers.
All these freaks or peculiarities become delightful to the observant
The ground-nut, or wild bean, is a very handsome climber, and peculiar
in appearance. The clusters of waxy flowers are rich brown and white,
growing very thick, and having the scent of violets. The tubers are
The wild kidney-bean is found in copses and along road-sides from
Connecticut to Illinois. It climbs high from a perennial root, with
clusters of small bright purple flowers.
In rich woodlands in the Middle States and west the pea-nut is very
interesting to young searchers. The plant bears two kinds of flowers,
the upper ones ripening no fruit, but the lower or under-ground ones
bearing the well-known pea-nuts.
Try to find a remarkable plant belonging to the convolvulus family, the
wild-potato vine, or "man of the earth." It is not very easily
overlooked. Several stems spring from the same root, growing and twining
seven or eight feet high. The leaves are large, and of various
shapes—heart-shaped, pointed, and fiddle-shaped. Three or four large
blossoms, several inches broad, grow in clusters; the flowers are white,
with purple in the tube. This remarkable vine is found in sandy fields
and by road-sides from Connecticut to Illinois and south.
A large plant grows by the end of an old country bridge near Canaan,
Connecticut. The stems are long and stout, and grow from a huge root
that weighs fifteen or twenty pounds.
The beautiful August lilies make the fields and meadows gay; the stately
pale yellow lily spotted with brown or purple, the darker yellow, and
the fiery red lily, contrasted with the white spiranthes, or
Now the radiant heads of countless composite flowers are highest and
most showy, and a walk or drive along any country road reveals such
masses of color as to arrest and enchant the most unobservant eye.
On one woodland road at Orange, New Jersey, the shades of asters, from
the deepest violet-blue and purple to the palest lilac, are
bewilderingly beautiful, while the splendid varieties of liatris, or
button snakeroot, the rose-purple and white ox-eyed daisies and white
asters, golden-rod, and the great open-eyed corn-flowers, or rudbeckias,
are certainly beyond description.
Try to find the elegant golden asters, which are more rare. At Cape Cod,
Massachusetts, at Nantucket, and on the pine barrens of New Jersey, they
may be found.
Look for the compass-plant, if you have the command of prairies. It is
not pretty, is rough and coarse-looking, but is immortalized by
Longfellow. The peculiarity consists in the arrangement of the leaves,
the lower and root leaves, which, being very large, spread out on the
open prairies, and are disposed to present their edges pointing north
and south, thus sometimes guiding the bewildered traveller.
Another beautiful prairie plant, two or three feet high, is found in dry
and sandy soils and in rocky crevices. The flowers are numerous, of a
beautiful bright blue or bluish-white, and what makes it interesting is
that it is supposed to prefer localities where lead ore prevails, and is
Now is the time for any so disposed to make a collection of herbs, as
they are called. In old-fashioned days these herbs were considered great
treasures, and cures for many of the ills of humanity. They were tied
carefully in bunches, and hung in the garret of the farm-house to dry.
The odor of dried herbs comes to me now as I think of a dear old
garrets—a favorite play-place of early childhood.
No child familiar with the garret of a country home can ever forget its
mysterious charm. But I must remember that I am writing of flowers, and
leave the captivating subject of garrets. Multitudes of potent herbs may
now be found in the woods, by the road-side, everywhere: tansy,
camomile, wormwood, everlasting, wild basil, lavender, germander,
pennyroyal, spearmint, balm, peppermint, horehound, hyssop, thyme,
rosemary, sage, wild bergamot, catnip, motherwort, comfrey, boneset,
thoroughwort, fennel, and many other life-giving plants. They are
generally coarse-looking and rough, with strong stems and strong odors,
and no beauty, though in some cases the flowers are a pretty blue or
rose-color. All these things, even to the summer gathering of herbs for
some dear relative, become interesting to the young student, because it
is a real pleasure to become familiar with the varieties which are
presented in nature's domain, and the homely growths are sometimes of
more importance than the ornamental, a consoling thought to such of us
as are possessed of but little physical beauty.