* Ophrys apifera - Plate 20 C.
Of the Liliaceous family, which differs from many of the foregoing Monocotyledons in having a superior ovary, the well-known Lily-of-the-Valley* affords a good example. This sweet little plant " Fair flower, chat lapt in lowly glade Dost hide beneath the greenwood shade, Than whom the vernal gale None fairer wakes on bank or spray, Our England's Lily of the May,
Our Lily of the Yale!"
This little gem among flowers, has a creeping rootstock, forming buds and tufts of roots at intervals. From these grow the radical leaves, two or three in a scaly sheath, and having the long stalks enclosed one within the other, so as to resemble a stem; they are four to six inches long, oblong, tapering to both ends, and somewhat striated. The flower-stalks issue from one of the lower scales, and are slender, shorter than the leaves, supporting the loose racemes of drooping, bell-shaped, pure white, deliciously scented blossoms. "No flower amid the garden fairer grows, than the sweet Lily of the lowly vale, the queen of flowers." Its blossoms consist of a bell-shaped shortly six-cleft perianth, six erect stamens, inserted near the base, and a simple style, with a blunt three-cornered stigma. The three-celled ovary becomes a scarlet berry, with one-seeded cells.
* Convallaria majalis - Plate 20 E.
Another extensive and important division of the Monocotyledons has what are called glumaceous flowers, that is to say, their parts are not at all petal-like, as in those we have been considering, but dry and husky-looking, as seen in the husks of the grasses and the corn plants. This, however, is not their chief peculiarity, or at least not that by which they may be most readily known, for in some of the groups to which we have already referred, something of the same texture in the parts of the flower has been spoken of. The most obvious and characteristic difference consists in the position of the parts of the flower, which in those we have already considered are arranged in whorls, whilst in the glumaceous series they are imbricated or arranged so as to overlap each other like the tiles of a roof, the endogenous structure common to all Monocotyledons being therewith combined.
Forming a considerable group in this glumaceous series is the family of the Cyperaceous plants, represented by the Great Common Sedge,* a tall grassy-looking plant found commonly by the sides of rivers and watercourses. It is a stout-growing erect perennial, with a creeping rootstock, triangular acute-angled leafy stems three to four feet high, and long broadish grassy leaves tapering to a narrow point. The flowers grow in longish spikelets, arranged in a racemose manner at the top of the stem, which from their weight they incline gracefully to one side. Of these spikelets, which are several in number, the two or three upper ones are composed of staminiferous or male flowers only, while the others consist entirely of pistilliferous or female flowers. The former are cylindrical, upwards of an inch long, formed of acute glumes (chaff-like scales) lying closely over each other, and each producing in its axil three stamens, the anthers of which have a long point, and while fresh impart to the spikelet a yellowish colour. The latter are cylindrical tapered at the point, purplish, the lower ones stalked, all having leafy bracts, and consisting of imbricated pointed glumes, each enclosing in its axil an oblong-ovate ovary; this is narrowed into a short, broad, cloven beak, terminated by a three-cleft style, and becomes hardened into a somewhat three-cornered nut. The Sedge family is a very extensive one, always having grasslike foliage and something of the aspect of the species here described, but differing considerably in stature, and in the details of growth and structure.
The other principal family of the glumaceous Monocotyledons is that of the Graminaceous plants or Grasses, one of the most important to man in the whole range of the vegetable world, as affording the staple food both of himself and the animals subservient to his use. It is a family presenting great variation of structure as well as of aspect, yet combined with certain constant and obvious characteristics which render the plants easily distinguishable from all others though they are by no means so readily distinguished among themselves. Some of these characteristic features are the hollow roundish stems or culms, separated into lengths by somewhat thickened joints or nodes, and the narrow alternate parallel-veined leaves or leaf-blades which sheath the stem by their base, the sheath being split open on the side opposite the blade, and usually terminated just within the base of the blade by a small scarious appendage called a ligule. The flowers are arranged in spike-lets consisting of chaffy scales imbricating over each other, the outer of which are called glumes, and the inner pales. The fruit is a seed-like grain, or caryopsis.
* Carex riparia - Plate 21 G.
Of this important race of plants we have an example in the Soft Brome-Grass,* which is one of our commonest species in open waste places. It is an annual or biennial plant, with a culm one to two feet high, everywhere clothed with soft short hairs, and producing an ovate slighly compound flowering panicle two to three inches long. The spikelets are ovate, somewhat compressed, pubescent, standing nearly erect; they are made up of a pair of glumes at the base, the outer of which is considerably the larger of the two, and within these from five to ten florets ranged alternately on either side of the axis of the spikelet, each floret consisting of two pales or paleae, the outer of which is larger, rounded on the back, and having a straight awn or bristle as long as the floret, growing from just below its bifid extremity, the inner one smaller and narrower and conspicuously ciliated or fringed on its ribs or nerves; these pales enclose three stamens, and a roundish ovary crowned by a pair of feathery styles.