* Crocus vermis - Plate 6 A.
The Crocus flowers have three stamens, and a stigma which is dilated and fringed at the top. The long slender tube of the perianth, which is in fact the stalk-like portion that at length becomes visible, is a good deal hidden by the leaves and sheathing membranes which emerge with it from the ground; and the ovary, or young seed-vessel, is buried amongst the bases of the leaves.
And now having briefly adverted to these earliest of the early of Flora's offerings, which besides have afforded illustra^ tions of the groups of Monopetalous and Monocotyledonous plants, we will proceed to glance in something like order at a few other examples representative of the Vernal Flora, which have been selected as the subjects of our illustrations. We commence with the Dicotyledons, called also Exogens, from the external manner of accretion in their stem, a large group, known generally by their net-veined leaves, and sharing with the Monocotyledons and Cryptogams the whole Vegetable Kingdom.
At a very early period of the year, in moist woods and pastures, the surface of the ground will be found whitened with a multitude of small starry blossoms of a small Ranunculace-ous plant. These are the blossoms of the Wood Anemone,"* a dwarf herb, which has fleshy underground stems, from which spring up three-parted leaves and white cup-like flowers, below which latter an involucre or guard of three leafy parts resembling the true leaves is placed.
Here, then, we have an illustration of a very different kind of flower from any of those which have been previously noticed. We have in fact one of the group of Polypetalous (that is, many-petaled) Exogens or Dicotyledons. Passing over all but the flower itself, what do we find? There is first a single row of what look like petals and appear to form a corolla, and within these is a large tuft of small yellowish bodies, which are the stamens and pistils. The petal-like bodies are however in reality a coloured calyx, divided into many (about six) separate pieces or sepals, standing in place of petals, which are entirely wanting. It is because such flowers have several distinct and separate parts to form their floral envelopes that they are called polypetalous, and our subject represents one condition of a large group, in which however both calyx and corolla are generally present. The rule is, that when only one floral envelope is found - the calyx and corolla are called floral envelopes - it is regarded as a calyx, whether it be green or coloured. In our Wood Anemone the pistils will be found to be numerous and distinct, and they consequently grow up into a group of distinct fruits or carpels, which contain each one seed. This little spring flower can only be seen in perfection when the atmosphere is dry, for in humid weather and at night the petal-like calyx closes up.
A purple-flowered variety, with smaller flowers, generally formed of eight, rarely of six, narrow-ovate sepals, of a uniform deep purple, has been lately found at Pinner, and also at Chislehurst.
* Anemone nemorusa - Plate 1 A.
Growing in wet open places, and amongst the earliest of wild flowers, is another Ranunculaceous plant, petal-less like the foregoing, namely, the Marsh Marigold,* a specious-looking stout-growing perennial, with bold roundish leaves, hollowed at the base in what is called a heart-shaped form, and whose bright golden flowers have much the structure of those of the Wood Anemone, but are larger and more conspicuous from being elevated on a tall branching stem. They have a varying number of about five or six coloured sepals and no real petals, a tuft of numerous stamens, and a variable number of carpels or fruits, each one containing several seeds. Somewhat resembling this, and one of the same group, but dwarfer, and having both calyx and corolla present, so as to form a complete regular polypetalous or many-petaled flower, which for the purpose of comparison it may be useful to examine in connection with the Marsh Marigold, is the Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus Ficaria), found abundantly in moist waste places, and easily recognized by its glossy-looking yellow star-like flowers, and its white-mottled angular-lobed leaves.
The Ladies'-smock,+ during the months of early spring, imparts its own blush to the surface of moist low-lying meadow land, among the herbage of which it grows up. This plant, also a Polypetalous Exogen, sometimes called Bitter-cress and Cuckoo-flower, is a dwarf herb, growing erect to about a foot in height, and having pinnate leaves; the flowers are large and showy, and will serve to illustrate the structure of a considerable polypetalous regular-flowered group or Order, known as Cruciferous plants, or Cross-bearers, from the cir† Cardamine pratensiscumstance of their flowers having four equal petals arranged in opposite pairs so as to form a cross. The group may be known by this circumstance, and by having six stamens, two shorter than the rest. This Cruciferous Order, besides being an extensive one, is important, containing, amongst other subjects of utility, the whole Cabbage family.
* Caltha palustris - Plate 1 B.
To the same Order belongs the Wallflower,* "grey ruins' golden crown," a flower well known in every garden, and prized for its delicious fragrance, found here and there in a wild or semi-wild state on walls and old buildings, or in rocky situations, generally near habitations. In the Wallflower we have a plant of subshrubby growth, furnished with simple leaves, and its yellow or reddish-bronzy flowers are succeeded by what are called siliquose pods containing the seeds, as is also the case with the Ladies'-smock. In both these plants the inflorescence or collection of flowers forms a kind of corymb in the earlier stages, lengthening out by degrees into a more or less elongated raceme. This flower has been made the emblem of friendship in adversity, because, though Time, the rude and sacrilegious despoiler of consecrated places, may waste and overthrow the structures of the past, and leave them uninhabited, the Wallflower, "mantling o'er the battlement," still lends a melancholy grace "to haunts of old renown."