AS we emerge from the woodlands, and gaze over hill and vale, and cross the fields where the spring wheat hardly veils the rough soil, we shall find many an early wild flower, half hiding its modest head. The boldest among them is the Common Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). Its thistle-like but bright yellow head dots the side of the railway cutting, and delights in strong clayey soils. Its short thick stalk and solitary appearance distinguish it from the dandelion, for its big leaves do not appear until the flower has perished. The village housewife may be found gathering these yellow blossoms, for they have a wonderful reputation for curing colds and coughs when candied with sugar; and, indeed, they are used for making wine, and were a few years ago hawked by country people for that purpose. Its name of colt's foot, or foal's foot, is derived from the shape of its leaves, which are of dull green. The under part of the leaves is covered with a thick cotton-like down, which was formerly in some request for tinder, but the leaves are gathered and dried by the villagers for the purpose of making herb tobacco, when it is mixed with yarrow, rose-leaves, and some sweet herbs, and is said to be useful in cases of asthma. In the cornfields, in the early spring, we shall find the Ivy-leaved Speedwell (Veronica liederifolia). It is easily known by its trailing stem and thick ivy-shaped leaves. Its long shoots twine among the young corn, and when the March sun shines genially, its small blue flowers are easily distinguished, and its seed-vessel is formed of two lobes. It, like Grey Field Speedwell (V. agrestis), flowers throughout the summer. The latter has, however, a paler blossom, and is white in the centre of the blossom. Its notched heart-shaped leaves and procumbent stems lie along the farrows of the tilled field or creep over the sunny bank at the side. There is one distinguishing feature of the Veronica tribe - the lower of the four petals is in all cases narrower than the other three, and the colour in all the seventeen varieties is blue of greater or less intensity. A larger variety of speedwell has been noted on some lands, and is known as Buxbaum's Speedwell (Veronica Bux~ baumi). It flowers much later, and is altogether a larger and more handsome plant than its earlier relatives. This variety, though becoming common, is not supposed to be indigenous to the country, but to have been imported with the seed-corn from foreign lands. Another early flowering plant is the Corn-salad, or Lamb's Lettuce (Valerianella olitoria). On light soils, its thick compact clusters of tiny lilac flowers, crowning a stem about six inches high, will surely be noticed. Its branches spread out, and its long pale green leaves become broader at the extremity. This was one of the edible plants of our forefathers, and is still called monk's salad by the French (Salade de chamine). The old country name was the white potherb, and Gerarde, the old Elizabethan botanist, says "that it was eaten with vinegar, salt, and oile, as other salades be, among which it is none of the worst." Alas for the degeneracy of modern days! it is now neglected.

Deep in the furrows on the south side we shall have no difficulty in finding a spray of Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis). Its somewhat graceful sea-green leaves are divided into slender segments, and a spike of purplish rose-coloured tubular flowers, each with a small black spot upon it, grows on the upper portion of the stem. When this pretty plant is frequent it is looked upon as a sign of bad husbandry, and it soon takes possession of a neglected field.

"Her fallow leas The darnel, hemlock, and rank fumitory, Doth root upon."

And gentle Cordelia speaks of her father as

"Crowned with rank fumiter, and furrow weeds, With harlocks, hemlocks, nettles, cuckoo flowers, Darnel, and all the idle weeds that grow In our sustaining corn."

The name of fumitory is supposed to be derived from Fume-de-terre - earth-smoke - from the thin vapour-like appearance which its pale green leaves gives to the naked soil. Indeed, in the Northern counties it is called earth-smoke; and a larger variety (F. capreolata), Ramping Fumitory, is common in highly cultivated ground. The plant has a very strong saline flavour, and, when boiled in whey or milk, is used by village belles as a cosmetic. Clare speaks of old dames sparing the plant when reaping, from the remembrance of the service it had rendered to their youthful charms. The "harlocks" mentioned by Shakespeare is doubtless the Common Charlock, the Sinapis arvensis of botanists. In Ireland, where it is known as the "Pushoch dwee," or yellow weed, it blooms early in the spring, and, as Hooker remarks, is "too frequent" in the corn-fields. Its provincial name varies in different localities - kerlock, kadlock, and chad-lock. It is a species of mustard, and the young leaves are frequently gathered and used as greens by villagers. It is somewhat difficult to distinguish this plant from the turnip, or the Black Mustard (Sinapis nigra), which is largely cultivated in Durham for its seeds, which, when ground, form the mustard of commerce. The flowers of all these are of a pale sulphur colour, and are cross-shaped.

In the early spring, on dry sandy soils, we find the Long Scorpion Grass (Myosotis collina), though it properly belongs to the dry walls. It has very bright blue blossoms, which have entirely disappeared by midsummer, when its place is taken by the Field Mouse-ear or Scorpion Grass (Myosotis arvensis), the true inhabitant of our cultivated fields. This plant is nearly allied to the forget-me-not, and is frequently mistaken for it; but its little cluster of light blue flowers have not the golden centre of the flower of remembrance. When the days lengthen the fields become the poor man's garden, and furnish forth the most brilliant of our wild flowers.

Amongst the flowers of the spring corn-fields, the Heartsease or Wild Pansy (Viola tricolor) may he found, its yellow face "freaked with jet." Shakespeare calls it " love in idleness," and it still hears that name in "Warwickshire. Another midland name is "pink-o'-my-John," and it also once bore the name of herb trinity. Frequent mention is made of it in connection with "lover's thoughts" by the old dramatists.

The Corn Buttercup (Ranunculus arvensis) flowers during May amongst the young corn. It is distinguished by its three cleft leaves and singular prickly seed-vessels, from which it derives its common name of hedgehog. Its acrid properties are remarkable even in the Ranunculus tribe.

The beautiful Santfoin (Onobrychis sativa) blooms in May on a chalky soil, where it is frequently cultivated, though undoubtedly naturalized on Salisbury and other Wiltshire downs. Its name signifies holy hay, and it is known by the name of cock's-head grass and French grass. Its crimson tint contrasts forcibly with the blue purple of the cultivated Lucerne (Medicago sativa), which is hardly a wild plant. Its relative, the Yellow-flowered Medic - the Black Nonsuch (Medicago lupulina) - is, however, a native. Its yellow butterfly-shaped flowers, and single-seeded kidney-shaped seed-vessels, turn black when ripe, and hence its name.

As the season advances, the small Bugloss (Anchusa arvensis') shows its bright blue flowers in many a cornfield. It is a bee-loved flower; its foliage is rough and prickly. The roots contain a great quantity of mucilage. It can hardly be mistaken for any other flower of the field. The flowers are white in the centre. The Rest Harrow {Ononis arvensis) begins to show its pink butterfly-shaped blossom at the same time; but good husbandry has banished this pretty plant from the corn-fields to the waste ground, where we shall find it.

Flowers Of The Field 29