The Dcvil's-bit,* an example of the Dipsacaceous family, belongs to the same series of epigynous Monopetals as the family of Composites. It is found abundantly in meadows and pastures, and in heathy places, and is a perennial herb, with a short thick root-stock, ending abruptly as if it had been bitten off, whence the vulgar name. The leaves mostly spring from the root, and are stalked, ovate or oblong, entire, nearly or quite free from hairs; those of the stems are few, opposite* oblong, and occasionally slightly toothed. The stems grow from one to two feet high, and produce from one to three or five heads of flowers, a pair of flowering branches springing from one or both of the upper pairs of leaves, according to the vigour of the plant. The flower-heads are surrounded by an involucre of two or three rows of lanceolate bracts, the outer of which are as long as the flowers, the inner ones passing gradually into the scales of the receptacle. Unlike those of the allied Teasels, these bracts are not prickly. The receptacle bears a globular head of florets, between which small pointed scales are placed. The florets are nearly equal, the outer series being scarcely larger than the others; they consist of an ovary crowned by the little cup-shaped calycine border with four bristle-shaped teeth, a four-lobed tubular corolla, four stamens inserted in the corolla tube, and having free anthers, and a long simple style. Each of the florets is inserted in an involucre, which is tubular and angular, bordered by very small green teeth, and completely enclosing the ovary and fruit. It flowers towards the latter part of summer, and during autumn. This genus is represented in gardens by the Sweet Scabious or Blackamoor's Beauty, an annual of not unfrequent occurrence, especially in cottage gardens.
* Scabiosa succisa - Plate 23 A.
The Ericaceous family has been already referred to, but is very well illustrated by a favourite autumn-blooming shrub, the Strawberry Tree or Common Arbutus.* This shrub, which is frequent in hilly districts in the south of Europe, is found abundantly about the Lakes of Killarney, but is even better known as a very ornamental garden shrub, an evergreen always pleasing in habit and foliage, and in the autumnal season becoming decorated with the greenish-white pitcher-shaped flowers of the present season, and the large red strawberry-like fruits produced by the preceding year's flowers, so that, the fruit taking a year to arrive at maturity, the shrub has perfect flowers and ripe fruit all at one time. The Arbutus forms a tall evergreen shrub or bushy tree, sometimes of considerable size, furnished with shortly-stalked, ovate or oblong-lanceolate, toothed leaves, shining on the upper surface. The flowers grow in terminal drooping panicles, consisting of an inferior calyx of five small sepals, an ovoid or pitcher-shaped, waxy-looking corolla, of a greenish-white often tinged with pink, ten enclosed stamens, and a five-celled ovary, which becomes a globular berry, red and granulated on the surface, and thus having, when seen at a distance, considerable resemblance to a strawberry, whence the name of Strawberry Tree. The flowers have been compared by Miss Twamley to pearls: " Small bell-shaped flowers, each of an orient pearl Most delicately modelled, and just tinged With faintest yellow, as if, lit within, There hung a fairy torch in each lamp-flower."
* Arbutus Unedo - Vme 23 B.
A beautiful autumnal flower is the Caiathian Violet, or Marsh Gentian,* a type of the Gentianaceous family. It is a perennial herb, growing in moist heaths and pastures, with an upright stem, six inches to a foot high, bearing opposite oblong-lanceolate leaves on the lower part of the stem, and linear ones above, all blunt at the point and rather thick in texture. The flowers are nearly sessile, and grow in pairs from the axils of the upper leaves. The calyx is tubular, with five narrow lobes; and the corolla has a narrowly-bell-shaped tube an inch and a half long, without hairs in the throat, and a five-lobed limb, with short, broad, spreading lobes, of a deep blue within, marked with a broad greenish band down the middle of each segment, and yellowish towards the base. There are five stamens affixed to the corolla tube, two stigmas, and a one-celled ovary. This genus contains some of the most beautiful of dwarf herbaceous plants known, some of which are met with in gardens. One of them, G. acaulis, the Gentianella of gardens, a native of the South of Europe, is not uncommon, and a good deal resembles one of our native species, G. verna.
* Gentiana Pneumonanthe - Plate 23 C.
Our autumnal flora furnishes us with another illustration of the Labiate family, in the Pennyroyal,"* one of the Mint genus, and a familiar medicinal herb. It is a prostrate, powerfully-scented plant, with slender stems rooting at the joints as they slowly spread over the surface, ascending at the points, and furnished with small ovate-obtuse, slightly-crenated leaves, which become still smaller towards the top, where they serve as bracts to the axillary verticillasters or half-whorls of flowers. The flowers are small, with a tubular calyx, divided into five regular lobes, the throat closed with hairs, and a labiate corolla, tubular below and somewhat bell-shaped above, with a four-lobed limb, the upper lobe broader and sometimes slightly notched; within the corolla are four equal stamens, a single style cleft at top into two stigmatic lobes, and rising up from the centre of the four-lobed ovary, which becomes developed into four smooth nuts. To the same genus belong the various Mints, several of which are familiar as culinary or medicinal herbs.
Among the Monochlamyds occur a group of plants of weedy character, called the Chenopodiaceous family. An example of it is seen in the Many-seeded Goosefoot,† an annual weed found in the southern and central parts of England. It is a spreading, much-branched plant, variable in size, with entire ovate-elliptic leaves, and clusters of minute flowers in short axillary spikes. As usual in the family, the perianth consists of five thin green sepals, within which are five stamens, and an ovary crowned by two styles. This ovary grows into a lenticular fruit, enclosed within, but not covered by, the perianth. Though an inconspicuous and weedy race, so far as our native species are concerned, the Chenopodiaceous plants are not without their beauty and utility; for amongst them are comprised the Spinach and Beet of our culinary gardens, and the Mangel-Wurzel of our fields; while others yield abundance of soda, and some are famous anthelmintics.
* Mentha Pulegium - Plate 23 D.
† Chenopodium polyspermum - Plate 23 E.
Of autumnal Monocotyledons, we find the Meadow Saffron,* which illustrates the family of Melanthaceous plants. It has considerable first-sight resemblance to the autumn-flowering Crocuses (Crocus sativus and C.nudiflorus), but is at once distinguished by the flowers having six stamens instead of three, and by other peculiarities. The plant is one of those with that kind of solid bulb-stem called a corm, which is large and ovate. At the flowering period there are no leaves, the corm ending in a sheath of brown scales which enclose the base of the flowers. These flowers have a funnel-shaped six-parted perianth, like that of Crocus, with a long slender tube running down in a stalk-like form, and enclosing in its base the ovary, which is underground; the colour is a bright light purple. There are six stamens inserted in the throat of the tube of the perianth, and three long filiform styles running up from the ovary the full length of the long tube, and terminating in somewhat cla-vate stigmas. The capsule is three-celled, containing numerous seeds. The leaves are produced in spring along with the capsules, which are elevated above ground by the lengthening of the stalks. These leaves are broadly lance-shaped, eight or ten inches long, not unlike those of the tulip, except that they are smooth dark green instead of glaucous. The corms and the seeds of this plant, which is found abundantly in moist rich pastures in various parts of England, are very powerful medicinal agents, extensively employed in modern practice.
* Colchicum autumnale - Plate 24 A.
The little family of Restiaceous plants is represented in our flora by a small aquatic tufted plant, found in the Hebrides and in Ireland, and called the Jointed Eriocaulon.* The plant has a slender rootstock, creeping in the mud under water, and forming tufts of linear, soft, pellucid, beautifully-cellular leaves, one to three inches long, from among which rises the peduncle, two inches to a foot high, bearing a head of numerous compact small flowers, the central of which are chiefly males, and the outer ones chiefly females, all intermixed with small bracts, of which the outer ones are rather larger, forming an involucre round the head. The perianth is very delicate, of four segments, with a minute black gland on the two inner ones; the male flowers contain four stamens, and the females a two-lobed ovary, with two long subulate stigmas.
A more detailed summary of the flowers of the pleasant autumn season, when vegetation becomes languid with its summer's efforts, will be given in the following pages; meanwhile we may ask with the poet "Who loves not Autumn's joyous round, Where corn and wine and oil abound? Yet who would choose, however gay, A year of unreserved decay?"