"It was an eve of Autumn's holiest mood. The corn-fields, bathed in Cynthia's silver light, Stood ready for the reaper's gathering hand; And all the winds slept soundly. Nature seemed In silent contemplation to adore Its Maker. Now and then the aged leaf Fell from its fellows, rustling to the ground; And, as it fell, bade man think on his end. On vale and lake, on wood and mountain high, With pensive wing outspread, sat heavenly Thought, Conversing with itself. Vesper looked forth From out her western hermitage, and smiled; And up the east, unclouded, rode the moon With all her stars, gazing on earth intense, As if she saw some wonder working there."
At this season many summer flowers will be lingering on, some almost exhausted with their summer's bloom, and others blossoming anew at intervals with almost pristine vigour. These we must not stay to gather. Our object must be rather to pluck a few fresh illustrations from the Flora of the waning year; and we shall take them in the order which has been adopted in treating of the flowers of the foregoing seasons.
The Grass of Parnassus* is by some botanists elassed amongst the Thalamiflores, and referred to the Hypericaceous family already adverted to, but by others it is included with that of the Droseras, or removed to that of the perigynous Saxifrages. It is a very pretty dwarf perennial herb, producing a tuft of stalked smooth heart-shaped leaves, and slender erect flower scapes, six to ten inches high, bearing a single sessile leaf below the middle, and terminated by a rather large white spreading flower. This flower has a calyx of five ovate segments, a corolla of five distinct obovate petals; five stamens, which are perigynous, and alternating with them five fringed glands or nectaries, which may be taken to represent groups of imperfect stamens; these glands are short and thick, placed opposite the petals, and margined with ten or twelve white filaments, each bearing a small globular yellow gland. There is a one-celled four-valved ovary, tipped by four sessile stigmas, and growing into a roundish capsule. The plant is found not unfrequently in boggy and moist heathy situations, flowering in the wane of summer.
Belonging to the Calyciflores is the Dwarf Furze,† a humble and often prostrate plant found decorating heaths and sandy wastes during the latter part of the floral season, and belonging to the family of Leguminous plants, It differs from the Common Furze (Ulex europoeus) chiefly in its smaller size. This latter is, however, rather a spring or early summer-flowering plant. The present smaller species is, like the larger, a thorny shrub, but, instead of growing into an erect branching bush, its branches are procumbent, spreading along upon the surface of the heathy waste or stony bank on which it grows. The main branches are thickly clothed with short intricate branchlets, thorny at the points and branched at the base, slender, smooth, and striated. The leaves are, for the most part, reduced to thorns very much resembling the branch-lets, so that the stems seem to be formed of an intricate mass of sharp thorns. The flowers spring from the axils of the smaller thorns, which branch out from the primary ones, and are scarcely so long as the latter: indeed "Every flower has a troop of swords Drawn to defend it."
* Parnassia palustris - Plate 22 C. † Ulex nanus - Plate 22 D.
The flowers consist of a calyx, coloured yellow like the corolla, and divided nearly to the base into two concave segments, which are entire or minutely-toothed at the tips; a papilionaceous corolla, also yellow, the petals scarcely separating even when the flower is fully blown, but consisting of the usual standard keel and wings; ten stamens, united by their filaments into a complete sheath around the ovary, which becomes a turgid, few-seeded pod, scarcely longer than the calyx.
Nearly related to the Umbelliferous family, and like it one of the epigynous Calyciflores, is the common Ivy,* a woody evergreen climber, belonging to the Araliaceous family. The earlier-formed stems of this very beautiful plant climb up against trees or walls or rocks, clinging as they go by means of small root-like protuberances, and spreading out the leaves right and left flat against the body to which they adhere. In this way its stems cover a large space. The dark green glossy leaves borne on this part of the plant are angular and three- or five-lobed, this being the form to which the term ivy-leaved is applied. When the plants have grown to a considerable height, or to what may be considered mature age, they throw out bushy tufted branches, like those of other shrubs, and on these, which bear the flowers, the leaves are ovate. Sometimes the Ivy may be seen climbing flat against the surface of a wall till it reaches the top, and then developing a large branched head, as if planted on the wall top.
* Hedera Helix - Plate 22 E.
"Emong the rest, the clamb'ring yvie grew, Knitting his wanton arms with grasping hold, Lest that the poplar happely should rew Her brother's strokes, whose boughs she doth enfold With her lythe twigs, till they the top survew, And paint with pallid green her buds of gold."
The flowering branches bear a short raceme or panicle of several nearly globular umbels of yellowish-green flowers. These consist of a very slight entire calyx-border about half way up the ovary, five short broad petals, five erect stamens, and the styles cohering into a single mass. The cells of the ovary are from five to ten in number, and the berry, which is smooth and black, contains from two to five seeds. The Ivy is made the emblem of friendship, from the closeness of its adherence to the tree on which it has once fixed itself. It has also been called "the critic's ivy." The plant was dedicated by the ancients to Bacchus, whose statues were often found crowned with a wreath of its leaves. The priests of the Greeks, it is said, presented a wreath of Ivy to newly-married persons, as a symbol of the closeness of the tie which ought to bind them together.