We generally think of fruits as sweet and edible, while seeds are for sowing. That is not the true difference, but it will suffice for us at present. Fleshy fruits are found on many kinds of plants, both herbaceous and shrubby. The N.O. Rosaceae (Group xvii) is the chief fruit-bearing family. Fruits vary in colour. We have one white berry, that of the mistletoe. Another is often found in hedges and gardens, but it (Fig. 26) is a foreigner (snowberry, Symphoria). A large number are crimson, scarlet, or some other shade of red. Among the herbs we find red berries on lily of valley, asparagus, strawberry, arum, bryony, and bittersweet; while the holly, yew, honeysuckle, rowan, guelder rose, butcher's broom, arbutus, cranberry, rose, bramble, hawthorn, sea buckthorn, cherry, and raspberry are a few of the shrubs and trees whose fruits are red. Fruits of a deeper hue are found on the blackthorn, bilberry, elder, juniper, privet, buckthorn, ivy, crowberry, deadly nightshade (Plate III), and other plants.
Fig. 9. - Butterwort and Round-leaved Sundew.
Fig. 10. - Long-leaved Sundew.
Seeds are of many kinds, and are dispersed in various ways. We have pappus attached to the seeds of many composites (Group viii), such as the thistles and dandelion (Fig. 30), as well as to those of the willow, the willow-herb (Fig. 18), the valerian, and a few others. Hooked seeds, which can lay hold of the hair of animals or the dress of pedestrians, are found on avens (Fig. 25), goosegrass, hound's-tongue, woodruff, corn crowfoot, burdock, some trefoils, and other plants. A few plants eject their seeds in different ways, and the geraniums (Group xiv), gorse, broom, violet, and impatient bittercress are specially interesting in this connexion. Others, like the ash, maple, and elm, the lime and fir, have samarae, or winged seeds, which float on the breeze. The fruits or seeds of the different umbels, geraniums, legumes, crucifers, and buttercups are of great value as means by which to distinguish one species from another.
Many plants can be identified at once by their leaves alone, and all can be arranged under two headings. Those with parallel veins are monocotyledons (Group ix), those whose veins are netted are dicotyledons. A very few leaves are round, as in pennywort; others are heart-or spear-shaped, oval, oblong, or palmate. We must observe whether they are opposite to each other or alternate, whether they are in whorls or scattered, simple or compound, entire or cut into segments, with plain edges or notched. Thus the umbels (Group vi) almost all have much-divided leaves ; in the labiates (Group iv) they are opposite, frequently on a square stem, and the lip-shaped flowers have four stamens. Sometimes the leaves are modified and form bracts or stipules, and the presence or absence of these is of great importance. A few plants seem to have no leaves. The coltsfoot and saffron (86) bear flowers and leaves at different seasons. In the butcher's broom (85) the leaves are replaced by phyllodes, which carry the flowers.
The stems may be smooth or rough, and the roughness may be due to stings, as in the nettle, hairs of different kinds, hooks, prickles, thorns, tendrils and other outgrowths. These all have their uses, chiefly to protect the plants from their foes, or to enable them to secure a suitable hold and sufficient air and sunshine. Hairs may keep insects from climbing to the honey-pots and stealing the nectar; they may prevent rain and dew from lodging on the plant and causing decay, or may serve to check evaporation. Nature reaches her ends by many means. Sometimes a smooth, glossy surface keeps off the dangerous moisture, as in the leaves of holly and most evergreens, the celandine, marsh marigold, bog bean and water lily; while at other times hairs serve the same end. The prickles of the rose grow from the bark; the spines of the white and black thorn are woody. In the holly, butcher's broom, gorse, and other plants, the thorns and prickles are formed by the hardening of the leaf portions.
Fig. 11. - Fertilization of Orchids by Bees.
Fig. 12. - Guelder Rose. With outer ray of florets for purposes of attraction.
Many plants may be recognized by their habits. Some stand upright, others trail on the ground, and others use various means for reaching a height. Hooks and prickles, or stiff bristles, are used by brambles, roses, goosegrass, and a few other plants. The convolvulus, hop, honeysuckle, dodder (Fig. 7), bindweed, twine round and round; while vetches, white fumitory, and others throw out tendrils.
Many of the monocotyledons (Group ix) have bulbous roots, which are made up of layers of fleshy leaves. If we find a bulbous plant with six petals and stamens, and the veins of the leaves parallel, we may be sure it belongs to this group. Other plants have corms or tubers, as many of the orchids (p. 35), the pig-nut, bulbous crowfoot, arum (Plate IV), and moschatel. Some of the umbels and crucifers lay up much material in their roots, and by encouraging this habit we get our garden carrot and parsnip, radish and turnip. So starch is obtained from the arum (176) and potato, which is represented in our flora by the bittersweet (68).
Fig. 13. - Catkins of Willow.
Fig. 14. - Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea).
Some plants are harmless, others useful, and others poisonous. It is well to remember a few general facts. Nearly all the crucifers (Group x) are safe, and, if boiled, may be eaten as vegetables, even when found in a wild state. Cultivated, they yield cress and mustard, cabbage and cauliflower, radish and turnip, horse-radish and watercress. Most of the labiates (Group iv) are aromatic, and from them we obtain mint and thyme, sage, pennyroyal, and balm. The umbels (Group vi) are also inclined to be aromatic, but are often very poisonous. The order contains the deadly hemlock, but under cultivation we get from it celery, carrots and parsnips, fennel and samphire, as well as caraway seeds, and a substitute for anise from sweet cicely. The rose family (Group xvii) yields many valuable fruits, the buttercups (Group xviii) such useful medicines as aconite, the poppies (Plate I) opium and laudanum, the composites (Group viii) the lettuce, chicory, tansy, chamomile, and other useful herbs and roots.
Plate IV. - Arum.
A few plants get their living, in whole or part, by trapping insects and living things. One family known as bladderworts (5) lives in ditches and sluggish water. There are three species, with yellow blossoms, and bladders on the leaves (Fig. 8), which float in the water, and are cut into many segments. Closely related, although very different in appearance and habit, are the four butterworts (4), with single violet flowers and greasy, glandular leaves, which curl their edges and so capture their prey (Fig. 9). Then we have the three sundews (82), with their red leaves covered with dewy glands (Fig. 10). Among the pink family we also find some plants known as catchfly (126), on account of the viscid hairs with which they are covered, and to which insects are often to be seen adhering. The curious toothwort (45) and teasel (10) are also guilty.
Fig. 15. - Campanula, oR Bluebell.