PASSING from the river-sides to the spongy marshlands, or treading lightly over the dark hog, where " The golden-belted bees hummed in the air, The tall silk-grasses bent and waved along" the pathway, we shall find amongst the thick matted mosses the Sweet Gale, or Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale), with its yellowish catkins and refreshing fragrance, early in the year. It is easily known by its small and myrtle-like appearance. It is hung up in houses for its perfume, and where abundant it is frequently burnt for the sake of the sweet odour. When the sweet gale is boiled, a species of wax rises to the surface of the water. This, when gathered in quantities is used for tapers, and when burnt give out an agreeable fragrance. The plant is strongly astringent, and the berries are frequently used for spices in flavouring ale in Wales.
Perhaps the earliest of the marsh flowers is the Viola palustris, whose pale lilac blossoms have, in a slight measure, the perfume of the violet of our hedgerows; and by the side of the Marsh Violet we shall find the Marsh Stitchwort (Stellaria glauca), with its star-like flower. The smaller flowers of the Bog Stitchwort (Stellaria uliginosa) are also frequently found. The Golden Saxifrage (Chrysosplenium oppositi-foliuni) makes gay the boggy ground, and sometimes appears by the river-side. Its stem is not more than four or five inches high, and bears a close cluster of bright yellow flowers. This species of saxifrage is remarkable for its medicinal qualities.
By far the most striking, because they are more numerous, frequently covering acres of boggy ground, are the Cotton Grasses (Eriophorum), waving their hoary silver hair-like tufts to the wind. But though they look so soft and silky, they are useless, the fibre is brittle, and no means have yet been discovered of utilizing these pretty plants. Many a marsh boasts of the Flowering Fern (Osmunda regalis), and the hairy and hard grasses are abundant.