There comes a plant in late. May and early June, an inconspicuous plant with a short stem set with clasping, cupped leaves, which grows in waste places and dry woods. Not at all important-looking, no flower as yet . . . but now as June arrives, the stem grows taller, elongates so that the. cupped, scalloped leaves are further apart than at first they were, and there is a bud in each leaf-cup. In a few days the buds at the bottom of the stem open in the bright June sunshine. The Venus's looking-glass is in bloom. Those dozen or so oval leaves are the "mirrors", said the ancients who knew it long ago in Greece, and the five-parted, bright blue-purple flower set in each leaf is the bright face of Venus, the charmer, looking out.
Specularia perfoliata (L.) A. DC.
May - June Sunny banks, bottomlands.
Venus's looking-glass is one of the plants whose whimsical name sets it apart from ordinary flowers and makes it unusual and interesting. It is not actually an uncommon or rare plant; where it grows, it is abundant. But its charm lies not only in its delightful name and legend, but in the shining, pure purple of the flower with its white center and five calyx lobes standing out like a star between the oval petals. Not since violet time have there been such brilliantly blue-purple blossoms in the woods.
Venus's looking-glass is an annual which seeds itself abundantly each June when once again it becomes part of the early summer landscape of Illinois.