This section is from the book "British Wild Flowers - In Their Natural Haunts Vol2-4", by A. R. Horwood. Also available from Amazon: A British Wild Flowers In Their Natural Haunts.
Earth-smoke may be recognized by its finely-divided bluish-green foliage, simulating umbellifers, or Hymenophyllous ferns, its versi-colorous, purple and white flowers, nearly round fruits, with two sepals, lance-shaped, toothed, narrower and smaller than the corolla, and the lower petal of the four spatulate or spoon-shaped, the upper spurred or pouched. The pods are curved downward, erect, and shortly stalked. The leaves or petioles, which are sensitive, act as tendrils to support the plant. The raceme or group of flowers is long, and many-flowered. Two ovules are contained in the ovary, but only one matures.
Photo. H. Irving - Red Rampant Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis, L.)
The stem may be 18 - 24 in. long. Flowers are seen from May to September. Fumitory is a common annual.
The flowers are inconspicuous, and little visited, therefore, by insects. The flower is much the same as in Corydalis cava, but is smaller, and instead of a spur there is a short round pouch formed by the upper petal and the two at the side which form a tube, hinged at the base, and honey is secreted by a short process from the upper stamen. Flowers are fertile to their own pollen, and the chief visitor is the hive bee. The honey being easily accessible can be obtained by many insects, but it flowers in the middle of the summer, and the small flowers and little honey, therefore, cause it to rely on self-pollination almost entirely.
Fumitory is dispersed by the agency of the plant itself. The capsules are two-valved, and do not open, but the seeds are left to germinate around the parent plant.
The Fumitory is a sand plant, luxuriating in a sand soil, and growing on marly formations such as the Keuper, and sandstone such as the Middle Lias.
The only fungal pest is Peronospora affinis. No insects prey on it.
The name Fumaria was invented by Gesner from the Latin fumus, smoke, and fumus terra (hence Fumitory) means earth smoke, while officinalis refers to its former medicinal use.
The English names are Beggary, Earth-smoke, Fume-of-the-Earth, Fumiterre, Fumitory, Fumusterre, God's Fingers and Thumbs, Snapdragon, Wax Dolls.
The old writers called it Fumitory, imagining that it was produced without seed from vapours rising from the earth. This may be connected with the fact that the root when just pulled up gives off a gaseous smell, like fumes of nitric acid. Others held it so because at a distance it looked like blue smoke.
It was "used when gathered in wedding hours, and boiled in water milk and whey, as a wash for the complexion of rustic maids". The juice was said to cure bad sight or clear it. In the fourteenth century it formed an ingredient in a remedy for bad blood and leprous diseases, but is of no medicinal value, though it was used for scurvy, eczema, etc.
Essential Specific Characters: 22. Fumaria officinalis, L. - Stem erect, leaves bipinnate, leaflets cuneate, sepals not so wide as corolla tube, flower rose-coloured, capsule subglobose, retuse.
Seeds of this plant have not yet been found in Glacial beds, nor earlier than the present epoch. It is found in the Warm Temperate Zone in Central and S. Europe, and Temperate Asia. The occurrence of this plant in England is merely sporadic, and it is associated with other plants of alien origin and merely passing permanence. Its distribution is not therefore known.
Gold-of-Pleasure is one of those chance occupiers of the cornfield or flax field that delight the heart of the bird-fancier, who uses their seed for his stock, but it is not regularly found in its favourite stations year by year, coming up with grain sown yearly, or perchance here and there surviving a good cleaning of the stubble of last year. Flax-like it hides amid the tall cornstalks, and is half-obscured unless one has eyes for the unexpected.
Tall and erect, with nearly entire leaves, which on the stem have ear-like lobes at the base, it is only branched at the top, and is a graceful plant, having the flax habit, as the Latin generic name implies.
Amid the corn it is elongated, and never becomes a branched, spreading, or cymose plant. The radical-leaves are stalked. With small yellow flowers, like a Sisymbrium, the Gold-of-Pleasure may be distinguished by the shape of the pods, which are swollen, blunt at the tip, the pouches keeled, the four keels continued in the long-style, and the ultimate flower-stalks are spreading. The seeds are in two rows, without margins, oblong, and covered with small points.
The stem varies in height from 2 to 3 ft. Flowers may be gathered from June to July. The plant is annual and propagated by seeds.
The flowers are small and laroely hidden amongst the corn, so that insect visitors are few, and the petals are erect, the stigma undivided. Self-pollination is thus the normal mode of producing fertile seeds. The seeds of Gold-of-Pleasure are dispersed by the plant itself, the pods opening and allowing the seeds to fall immediately around the parent plant.
The soil required is a sand soil, and the plant is strictly a sand plant. No fungi or insects are known to infest the plant. The name Camelina is derived from the Greek chamai, in the ground, and linon, flax, while sativa is Latin, meaning sown or cultivated, as opposed to wild. The English names are Camline, Cheat, Dutch Flax, Gold-of-Pleasure, Myagrum, Oil-seed.
It is often, no doubt, introduced, as perhaps originally, with linseed.
Photo. The Author - Gold-of-Pleasire (Camelina sativa, Crantz)
Abroad it is cultivated for the sake of the oil in the seeds, which are used for different domestic purposes. It is valued as a bird seed and for feeding poultry. It is used in oil for soap-making, and in oilcake, for which it is cultivated in some places.
Essential Specific Characters: 33. Camelina sativa, Crantz. - Stem tall, erect, radical leaves stalked, entire, those on the stem auricled, flowers yellow, minute, pods inflated, obovate, valves keeled.