THE golden tint of autumn is spread over the fields. The corn is garnered, and with it have gone many of our brightest flowers. A few remain, as if to remind us "How many plants - we call them weeds - Against our wishes grow, And scatter wide their various seeds To all the winds that blow."

The various Thistles are scattering to the autumn winds their " plumed seeds," for the greater part of their glory has departed with the summer. Their home is, however, in waste places, and they ought not to be found in cultivated fields. The Sow Thistle loves the fields and garden. who have kept rabbits, or possessed a garden, know the tall, upright, succulent Corn Sow Thistle (Sonchus arvensis), with its bright yellow flowers, which start from a long hairy seed-cup. The leaves clasp the stem, and are rougher than the annual variety (Sonchus oleraceus), which has smaller flowers, and the succulent stem is full of milky juice. The leaves are said to be eaten for salad on the continent, but in England they are only used to feed domestic animals and pets.

Sometimes, in the course of the summer, the thin thread-like stems of the Strangle "Weed, or Dodder, make their appearance in the clover-field, or disport by the hedge -side amongst the nettles. The latter is the Great Dodder (Cuscuta Europoea), and the Lesser Dodder (C. epithymum) frequently kills whole fields of clover. Both plants are parasitic, and spread with great rapidity from plant to plant, leaving their red threads round the stem, and at intervals show small clusters of minute pink flowers, which at first look like beads, but soon open and ripen their seeds.

The dark green moss-like tufts of the Camomile (Anthemis nobilis) spread along the ground, and in August send up their star-like flower from the commons, where it flourishes; and, as it is trodden on, gives out its aromatic odour and grows the faster. The camomile of the corn-field is the Stinking Camomile (Anthemis cotula). It carries its head high. Its leaves are smooth, and not downy like the camomile. Its daisy-like flower might be mistaken for the ox-eye.

The White Campion (Lychnis vespertina) sometimes grows in the corn-fields, and more rarely the Corn-bell Mower (Campanula hybrida) is seen therein. The useful Fuller's Teazle (Dipsacus fullonum), shows, too, its prickly foliage and tall stem, and bears its thistle-like oval head between the segments of the calyx. The blue flowers appear between the hooklike spines of the head, which are used for the raising of the nap on cloth. The leaves clasp the stem so as to form a water-cup. The Wild Teazle (Dipsacus sylvestris) is common in the early autumn. Its leaves are much smaller, and the head is nearly destitute of the hooks which give such value to the fuller's teazle. Occasionally the sharp spiky foliage and blue umbels of the Field Eryngo (Eryngium campestre) may be found. In Northamptonshire it is called the Daneweed, and was formerly common near Daventry and along the "Watling Street road, but is now nearly extinct.

In The Stubbles And Cultivated Fields 53


AS the autumn days close in the grassy meads begin to grow brown, many of our spring and summer flowers have fulfilled their mission, and have cast abroad their seed. Many a,

"Virgin daughter of the mead,

Wooed by the sun, the wind, the shower, In loveliness beyond compare,

It toils not, spins not, knows no care; Framed by the secret hand that brings

All beauty out of waste and rude, It blooms a season, dies, and flings

Its germs abroad in solitude."

The autumn meadow flowers are strangely like those of the early spring, where, if not for its tall stem, we might almost take the large and bright yellow star of the Goat's-beard (Tragopogon pratense), or, as it is called, "Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon," for the dandelion. If, however, we look closely at the flower, we shall find the florets with cut edges (in this instance slightly serrated), and set in a long flower-cup, quite smooth. Then, too, the plant stands some two or three feet high, and has long, large, and smooth leaves.

The seed-ball is larger than the dandelion, each seed is on a longer stalk, and altogether the ball is of a browner hue. The habit of the plant, which gave it its singular country name, is not peculiar to this plant, which formed a portion of the floral clock of Linnaeus, from its closing its eyes at noonday, when, in the language of Cowley, it " shuts its flowers at noon and goes to sleep." It does not open its petals during rainy weather.

Besides this giant species, there are thousands of yellow-rayed flowers in the meadows and by the wayside, from August to September, belonging to the Hawkbit or Hawkweed tribes. The former are distinguished from the latter by the long flower-cups being covered with long hairy scales. The Hawk-weeds (Hieracium) are very numerous, varying in size and colour, but all of a yellow tint, and having a general resemblance to the dandelion. The Mouse-ear Hawkweed (H. pilosella) is of a pale primrose hue, and, from its creeping habit, frequently appears in old pastures in great profusion. The old tradition runs, that the hawk fed on the hawkweed, and fed its young with it, in order that it might gain clearness of vision. Another small star-like plant is the Hairy Thrincia (Thrincia hirtd). The differences between these yellow flowers are so minute that it is impossible to describe them all in a popular manual.

In all old greensward, particularly in old churchyards, we find the Milfoil or Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), one of the commonest of common plants. Its long leaves, cut into a thousand segments, may be found all the year round, and shortly after midsummer it sends up a thick stem, some eight or nine inches high, which bears a close cluster of white flowers, sometimes tinged with lilac, and at other times with pink. It forms an ingredient in herb tobacco, and is sold at all the herb-shops, for its ancient reputation as a vulnerary yet survives. Yarrow ointment is still made, but its old names of soldier's woundwort and knighten milfoil have ceased to be used. There is another and larger variety, in which each flower is as large as a daisy, and perfectly white. This is the Sneezewort Yarrow (Achillea ptarmica). I have only met with this species once or twice in Lancashire, where it is used as tea for headaches. The Yellow-flowered Yarrow (A. serrata) is still more rarely met with. The old name of the yarrow was nose-bleed.

Another famous vulnerary, common in meadows and on hedgerow-banks is the Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris). It grows plentifully in the neighbourhood of old hermitages and monasteries. Its dark maroon flower-cups, studded with rich violet-tinted flowers, distinguish it from other labiate plants. The square stem is not more than six inches high. Its country name of sickle herb points to its use and time of flowering.

Though it flowers much earlier, Caliban's treat and the schoolboy's luxury, the Earth or Pig Nut (Bu-nium flexuosum) must be considered as belonging to the autumn months. Its small white flowers, arranged on umbels on a nearly simple stem some eight inches in height, distinguish it when in flower; but boys find it easily by the finely-cut leaves. On limestone and chalky soils it is very plentiful, and I have never failed to find it. The nut is some two or three inches below the surface of the soil, and is frequently as large as a chestnut. It has a slightly bitter taste, but otherwise pleasant, at all events to childrens' palates.

On meadow lands, stretching across the whole of the middle of England, the purplish crocus-like flowers of the Meadow Saffron (Colchicum autumnale) may be found here and there. They have been noted as habiting certain spots for more than three centuries, and are so abundant as to tint the fields with their naked blossoms. The leaves appear in the spring, when the seed-stalks may be found, but in September the flower is in its glory. It is very poisonous, though it has many medicinal properties.

None of the crocuses can be said to be old English wild flowers, though the purple Spring Crocus frequently appears in meadows as if naturalized. The Saffron Crocus may be found also in some localities, and the Snowdrop has been found apparently wild. The ragged leaves and yellow blossoms of the Ragwort (Senecio Jacolcea) may be found until nearly the end of September.

In The Stubbles And Cultivated Fields 54


THE glory of the moorland has departed before the autumn winds. No longer do we find "The balm, the beauty, and the bloom " of summer days. The "blue-bell of Scotland," the Harebell {Campanula rotundifolia) is common over the United Kingdom. The fragile flower-stems dance in the wind, and the fairy bells nod in the breeze. Its leaves have withered before the flower comes, but its young leaves may be found clustering round its root. The White Harebell, cultivated in gardens, is common in the meadows of France, where it is called the "nun of the fields."

Though so late, we shall find on chalky downs one of the smaller species of Orchis (Neottia spiralis), known as the lady tresses. Its spikes of whitish flowers are fragrant, and all point one way, on a grey green flower-cup and stem. The leaves are of a bright green. It is only a few inches high.

In August and September, by the solitary mountain lake, when the ground is moist and boggy, we may see the Blue Lobelia (Lobelia Dortmanna). It some times grows in the water, which reflects its pretty blue bells. It is common in the Cumberland lakes, which sometimes appear filled with its foliage.

Another autumnal plant is the Field Gentian (Gen-tiana campestris). Its branched and somewhat erect stem bears a cluster of four cleft bell-shaped flowers and flower-cups. The dull bluish-purplish hue of the corolla is relieved by a little fringe in the centre of the bell. Its strongly-veined leaves are very bitter, of a bright green colour. This was the Baldmoyne of Chaucer's time, and the plant was early used for medicinal purposes, and for bittering ale instead of hops.

The Yellowwort (Chloraperfoliata) has long, pointed egg-shaped leaves, which are covered with a sea-green bloom. The stem, which runs through the leaves, is about a foot high. The large beautiful yellow flowers only open during the time the sun is shining. In the morning the centre flower opens, and when it closes at noon, the side flowers open, and remain so until the evening. This is also a bitter plant, with some tonic properties, and it has also been used for dyeing. Many a wanderer on the heath sees it as he searches for the wild berries, or for the herbs, blooming late into September, when the equinoctial gales tell of the advent of winter, as they moan along the uplands like the wail of the wild flowers.

In The Stubbles And Cultivated Fields 55