This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V23", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
We have noted in past issues the singular power possessed by the flowers of Asclepias, Physianthus albens (the proper name for which, by the way, is Aranja albens), and other plants. Mr. Peter Henderson contributes a further note on this to the Scientific American:
"On the 'cruel plant' (Physianthus albens), hundreds of moths, butterflies, and other insects may be seen any day in August, when the plant is in bloom - dead and dying, firmly held by their antennae. Professor George Thurber thus describes the trap contrivance by which the insect is caught: 'The anthers are so placed that spreading cells form a series of notches in their ring around the pistil. The insect in putting its proboscis down for the honey must pass it into one of these notches, and in attempting to withdraw it the end is sure to get caught in a notch, boot-jack fashion, as it were, and the more the insect pulls the more its trunk is caught.' Thus caught, the insect starves to death, hence the well deserved name of 'cruel plant.' Now, here is a trap nearly as wonderful as that of the Carolina fly-trap, and far more so than that of the viscid exudations of the Silene; yet even Mr. Darwin would hardly say that the 'cruel plant' feeds on these insects, any more than that the gnats caught by millions by the resinous exudations of the hemlock tend to augment their growth, or that the thistle or burdock of the wayside owe any part of their health and vigor to the scores of butterflies, moths, or bumble bees that are in their headlong flight impaled on their spines."