This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Flowers - Purplish pink, I to 1 1/2 in. across, pedicelled, clustered at top of stem. Calyx 4-lobed, tubular or urn-shaped, narrowest at neck; 4 rounded, spreading petals, joined for half their length; 8 equal, prominent stamens in 2 rows; 1 pistil. Stem: 1 to 1 1/2 ft. high, square, more or less hairy, erect, sometimes branching at top. Leaves: Opposite, ascending, seated on stem, oval, acute at tip, mostly 5-nerved, the margins saw-edged.
Preferred Habitat - Sandy swamps or near water.
Flowering Season - July - September.
Distribution - United States, chiefly east of Mississippi.
Suggesting a brilliant magenta evening primrose in form, the meadow-beauty is likewise a rather niggardly bloomer, only a few flowers in each cluster opening at once; but where masses adorn our marshes, we cannot wonder so effective a plant is exported to European peat gardens. Its lovely sister, the Maryland Meadow-beauty (R. Mariana), a smaller, less brilliant flower, found no farther north than the swamps and pine barrens of New Jersey, also goes abroad to be admired; yet neither is of any value for cutting, for the delicate petals quickly discolor and drop off when handled. Blossoms so attractively colored naturally have many winged visitors to transfer their pollen. All too soon after fertilization the now useless petals fall, leaving the pretty urn-shaped calyx, with the large yellow protruding stamens, far more conspicuous than some flowers. "Its seed-vessels are perfect little cream pitchers of graceful form," said Thoreau. Within the smooth capsule the minute seeds are coiled like snail-shells.