COMPOSITE FAMILY - Compositae: Pearly, or Large-flowered, Everlasting; Immortelle, Silver Leaf; Moonshine; Cottonweed; None-so-pretty
Flower-heads--Numerous pearly-white scales of the involucre holding tubular florets only; borne in broad, rather flat, compound corymbs at the summit. Stem: Cottony, 1 to 3 ft. high, leafy to the top. Leaves: Upper ones small, narrow, linear; lower ones broader, lance-shaped, rolled backward, more or less woolly beneath.
Preferred Habitat--Dry fields, hillsides, open woods, uplands.
Distribution--North Carolina, Kansas, and California, far north.
When the small, white, overlapping scales of an everlasting's oblong involucre expand stiff and straight, each pert little flower-head resembles nothing so much as a miniature pond lily, only what would be a lily's yellow stamens are in this case the true flowers, which become brown in drying. It will be noticed that these tiny florets, so well protected in the centre, are of two different kinds, separated on distinct heads: the female florets with a tubular, five-cleft corolla, a two-cleft style, and a copious pappus of hairy bristles; the staminate, or male, florets more slender, the anthers tailed at the base. Self-fertilization being, of course, impossible under such an arrangement, the florets are absolutely dependent upon little winged pollen carriers, whose sweet reward is well protected for them from pilfering ants by the cottony substance on the wiry stem, a device successfully employed by thistles also.
An imaginary blossom that never fades has been the dream of poets from Milton's day; but seeing one, who loves it? Our amaranth has the aspect of an artificial flower--stiff, dry, soulless, quite in keeping with the decorations on the average farmhouse mantelpiece. Here it forms the most uncheering of winter bouquets, or a wreath about flowers made from the lifeless hair of some dear departed.