Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

of

it was, of old, called “cock's head” and "honey-suckle.

The white Dutch clover is no less common than the purple species ; and it is interesting, as being generally considered to be the Irish shamrock, though some writers consider that to be the leaf of the wood-sorrel.

In the beautiful valley of Sharon, so renowned in Scripture, Monro found the Dutch clover most abundant, covering the grassy plain with its white blossoms, and there, as with us, inviting swarms of bees to gather over it.

Besides the white and purple clovers, we have several other species of trefoil, though many them bloom rather later in the summer.

The little common yellow trefoil, (Trifolium filiforme,) with its small flowers, not larger than a green pea, meet our eye in every country walk, blooming on every pasture land and wayside. The hop trefoil, (Trifolium procumbens,) a yellow flower, somewhat larger than the last-named species, is less common than that kind, but readily distinguished from it by its oval hopshaped blossoms. We have besides, on gravelly heaths, and on banks and pastures, some very pretty downy purple trefoils; as the starryheaded trefoil, (Trifolium stellatum,) with its little oral ball of downy flowers; the hare'sfoot trefoil, (Trifolium arvense) which took its name from the soft silky whitish tuft of which its flower consists, and which resembles the little tuft of down on the foot of the hare. This is very common on pastures, and in corn-fields,

during July and August. A less frequent but very singular species, is the strawberry-headed trefoil, (Trifolium fragiferum,) which has purplish red flowers an inch in diameter, and is often so coloured as to bear a considerable resemblance to a strawberry. It may, at a glance, be distinguished, by this circumstance, from the other trefoils; it is found in meadows during the middle of summer. A calcareous soil is that on which clovers flourish best; and it is well known that, if lime be strewed on some soils, a crop of clover will arise on lands from seeds which were scattered over them by the wild winds ages since, and which only needed this stimulus to arise and cover the earth.

The leaves of all trefoils are very sensitive to a moist atmosphere, and close their leaflets when the sun goes down, drooping low beneath the drops of evening dew. They also close and droop when the rain is coming on, and the clover field presents a singular appearance during a heavy shower. The ancients remarked, that they closed and trembled before a tempest; but, probably, the movement of gradually enfolding leaves was regarded as a trembling; or, perhaps, the fierce winds, which precede the storm, shook them so much as to originate this idea.

On dry soils, in warm climates, several species of clover attain a great degree of luxuriance ; though clovers generally are best adapted to temperate regions. In Buenos Ayres clover grows to such a height, that “men and cattle

وو

rose.

cannot see each other while passing through a plain covered with its flowers."

Blooming beside the clover, and nodding far above it, we may find the “fragrant dweller of the lea,” the yellow cowslip, or paigle, (Primula veris,)and also the yellow oxlip(Primula elatior.) This latter plant is less common than the cowslip, and much like it, but it has larger flowers. The leaves of both are like those of the prim

The cowslip was formerly called “petty mullein,” and “palsy wort;" and as the French still termit, herbedelaparalysie, it probably had some old renown as a medicine. An ointment of cowslip leaves has long been used to remove tan and freckles from the sun-burnt complexion.

The cowslip is a great ornament to our spring meadows. Nightingales are affirmed by some ornithologists, to have a peculiar predilection for these flowers. It has been said that they are only found where cowslips are plentiful.

Certainly,” says Mr. Jacob, in his "Flora of Devon and Cornwall,” “ with regard to these counties, the coincidence is just :” but the writer of these pages knows a copse, much frequented by nightingales, and from which a chorus of their songs issues in spring, but around which cowslips cannot be found for some miles.

Another meadow flower, the cuckoo-flower, (Cardamine pratensis,) with its pale lilac blossoms and pungent leaves, is now abundant in moist meadows; as are also several other species of cardamine, too closely allied to each other to be easily discriminated. The little dark

[ocr errors]

blue flower, which, though called the autumnal gentian, (Gentiana amarella,) blooms in spring, may now be found in the meadow, especially where the soil is composed of limestone. It is about three inches high, and its bell-shaped flowers grow in clusters. It is not quite so common as the species called field gentian, (Gentiana campestris,) which much resembles this, and is very abundant on chalky, hilly pastures, in the month of October. We have several other wild species of gentian, but all are rare.

The little wild pansy, or heartsease, (Viola tricolor,) is now in blossom on banks and cultivated fields. It is sometimes purple, at other times, yellow with purple streaks, but most commonly all its petals are of a pale sulphur colour. It is a species of violet. The numerous and beautiful pansies cultivated by florists, are mostly natives of Sib ia, and the northern countries of Europe, and America ; though a few like our sweet violet, are found within the tropics.

The early scorpion grass, (Myosotis collina,) with very small but very bright blue blossoms, is also a spring flower, and is common both on sterile fields and cultured lands; and now, on marshy meadows, we may see the butter-bur, (Petasites vulgaris) which may easily be described. This plant has a thick stem, with a crowded cluster of pink, or rather fleshcoloured flowers, and is apparently destitute of leaves. Like the coltsfoot, to which plant it is nearly allied, its blossomslong precede its foliage; but when this appears, it is very conspicuous, as the leaves are larger than those of any other wild flower.

By the latter end of April almost every woodland displays its stores of blue wild hyacinths, (Hyacinthus non scriptus.) Some of the old herbalists, as Gerarde, term this beautiful flower the harebell; but the nodding blue-bell of the heath-land is the harebell of modern poets, and probably, also, of most of the older ones. The Germans call our woodland flower the Englische hyacinth ; but it is a native not only of every county of England, but of every land of Europe.

The roots contain a great quantity of starch, which, in former times, was used, not only by the laundress, but also instead of gum for pasting books and setting feathers on arrows. The fresh root is said to be very poisonous. Our garden hyacinths, called eastern hyacinths, (Hyacinthus orientale, are very abundant in Palestine. Lamartine found them in great beauty on the plains, at the foot of Mount Lebanon. Kitto, in his “ Pictorial Palestine,” says, “the narcissus, the hyacinth, and the violet are in flower in the Holy Land in the beginning of February. One species of narcissus is cultivated in the open fields, by the people of Aleppo, and towards the end of winter, certain Arab women are seen in the streets, carrying baskets of the flowers for sale, and chanting as they walk along ‘How delightful its season! its Maker is bountiful."" The Holy Land has also the grape hyacinth and the blue grape hyacinth in its corn-fields.

« VorigeDoorgaan »