Stem. - Tall and slender. Leaves. - Lance-shaped, with a heart-shaped base, sometimes whorled in threes. Flowers. - Deep purple-pink, crowded and whorled in an interrupted spike. Calyx. - Five to seven-toothed, with little processes between the teeth. Corolla. - Of five or six somewhat wrinkled petals. Stamens. - Usually twelve, in two sets, six longer and six shorter. Pistil. - One, varying in size in the different blossoms, being of three different lengths.
One who has seen an inland marsh in August aglow with this beautiful plant, is almost ready to forgive the Old Country some of the many pests she has shipped to our shores in view of this radiant acquisition. The botany locates it anywhere between Nova Scotia and Delaware. It may be seen in the perfection of its beauty along the marshy shores of the Hudson and in the swamps of the Wallkill Valley.
Plate LXXI. Purple Loosestrife. - L. Salicaria
When we learn that these flowers are called " long purples," by the English country people, the scene of Ophelia's tragic death rises before us :
There is a willow grows aslant a brook,
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream,
There with fantastic garlands did she come,
Of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples
That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.
Dr. Prior, however, says that it is supposed that Shakespeare intended to designate the purple-flowering orchis, O. mascula, which is said to closely resemble the showy orchis (PL LXII.) of our spring woods.
The flowers of the purple loosestrife are especially interesting to botanists on account of their trimorphism, which word signifies occurring in three forms, and refers to the stamens and pistils, which vary in size in the different blossoms, being of three different lengths, the pollen from any given set of stamens being especially fitted to fertilize a pistil of corresponding length.