In the botanical zoo there are cattails, pussy toes, mouse-ear, mouse tail, rat-tailed plantain, and this - kitten-tails. And the softness and pliability of the. flowering stalks of Synthyris perhaps make it a logical name for a little-known plant.
Synthyris bullii (Eaton) Heller.
April - May Sandy woods.
It is a curious plant of the oak barrens and sand country, one which is never common nor is particularly beautiful, yet somehow because of its very rarity and its strange form and name, it is exciting to the amateur botanist to find a plant or two.
Synthyris seldom grows more than eight inches tall in the May sunshine. There are large, thick, heart-shaped, finely scalloped basal leaves covered with soft down and hairs. From the middle of the plant spring two or three stout, downy stems with small, stemless, clasping leaves, and flower buds which are arranged with as much order as the scales of a pine cone. The buds open to become greenish-yellow flowers with protruding, plump yellow stamens, and are somewhat fragrant.
There in the sandy woods where the hummingbirds busily whir to the scarlet and gold columbine flowers, and when the bright purple of wild larkspur is all about, and there are tanagers in the tress, the inconspicuous greenish-yellow flowers and lowly plant of kitten-tails nevertheless plays a part. It is not gaudy, but it is an item in springtime as it is expressed in the pattern of the wooded sand country, part of the picture of the oak barrens, the sandy woods near the Illinois River.