AS we climb the ivy-mantled ruin, and repose in the shady bower it has made, we shall find some of the most brilliant of our summer wild flowers in bloom.
"For who would sing the flowers of June" would find the task a long one even for a summer's day. The golden star-like flowers of the common biting Stonecrop (Sedum acre) sit, as the name implies, on many a stone wall, and reflect the sunshine on many a cottage roof. The flowers, it should be noted, do not grow on the leafy stems, but on leafless stalks. The old names of gold-dust, gold chain, wall-pepper, Jack of the buttery, have died out, except wall-pepper, which it retains from its pungency. There are eleven wild kinds of stonecrop, many of which do not differ materially to the eye from the common Sedum. The Tasteless Stonecrop (Sedum sexangulare) and the crooked Yellow Stonecrop (Sedum reflexum) are common on walls and roofs of houses. The latter has large yellow cymes, and the leaf-stem is covered with thick recurved leaves. Two other yellow stonecrops are frequent in "Wales and on the Cheddar rocks. The White Stonecrop or Orphine (Sedum album) is sometimes pickled as samphire. The English Stonecrop (Sedum Anglicum), common in Wales, and on the sea-shore, is very lovely. The flowers are but few, but they shine like stars. In the centre their purple anthers are conspicuous. The foliage is tinged with purple. It flowers early, and its branched stems are seldom more than three or four inches high. One species of Stonecrop (Sedum telephium) is often found on field borders and amongst bushes. Its stem is spotted, the leaves broad and oval-shaped, and its clustered flowers are purple. Its common name is orphine or livelong.
The interesting House Leek (Sempervirum tectorum) is well known from its rosette-like foliage and pinkish flowers, which shed their alleged protecting influence from lightning and calamity over many a cottage roof. The flowers are very interesting to botanic students, and the leaves are used by the villager as a cosmetic, and as a dressing to burns and scalds.
The Wall Germander (Teucrium chamoedrys) is sometimes found in the early summer on old castle walls. Its ovate, deeply-cut leaves gave it its common name of ground oak. The bright pink flowers are something like the white dead nettle in shape, and grow between the leaves and the stem.
1. Purple Loosestrife. 2. Forget-me-not. 3. Avens. 4. Corn Poppy. 5. Succory. 6. Lesser Bindweed. 7. Primrose. 8. White Water Lily. 9. Stonecrop. 10. Pimpernel.
We all know the common purple, pink, or white Snapdragon, or Dragon's Mouth (Antirrhinum majus) from its frequent cultivation in gardens. It bends its wild head to the wind on churchyard walls in July, though probably not truly indigenous. Its large capsules and plentiful seeds (from which an oil can be extracted) have probably aided its extension. The flowers are perfect insect traps: the mouth of the corolla closes when an insect enters in search of the nectar which lies at the foot of the cup, and the imprisoned creature has no means of escape, save gnawing an aperture through the walls of its prison.
All the summer long we shall find the Hemlock Stork's-bill (Erodium cicutariuni) peering out of the crevices of the walls, while its small umbels of purplish flowers peep from its deeply-cut foliage and hairy stem. The tapering awn of the seed-vessel gave the name to the species.
"We must look on waste ground and on mountain pastures for the Musky Stork's-bill (Erodium moscha turn). It has much larger foliage - the cut leaflets are placed on either side of a leaf-stalk. The flowers are purplish, sometimes white, and the whole plant has so strong an odour of musk that it is sometimes cultivated for the sake of its fragrance.
All around, not only on waste places, but on field borders and by the road-sides, is the Thistle tribe found. More than a dozen species claim our attention. On dry stony soils the Musk Thistle (Cardials nutans) will be found. Its solitary purple blossom is really beautiful as it nods on its tall cottony stem in July. The stem is somewhat winged by the oblong leaves running down it. The whole plant is prickly, and in the evening gives out a fragrant odour. The Milk Thistle (Carduus marianus) may be distinguished by the white milky veins running down its large leaves. A drop of the Virgin Mary's milk is said, by the old legends, to have caused these white veins. This is sometimes called the Scotch thistle, but the true Scotch thistle is the beautiful Cotton Thistle (Onor-pordon acanthium). Its spiny leaves, globulous seed-cup, purple plume, tall branched stem, all point to it as the original of that defiant motto which is associated with it.
The most common of the wayside thistles is the Creeping Plume Thistle (Cuicus arvensis), the horse thistle of the country-side, the plague of the fields. Its spiny leaves, dull purple flowers, and angular stems are too well known. The thorny flower-cups and yellow flowers of the Carline Thistle (Carlina vulgaris) must not be looked for by the wayside. On the rocky pastures and upland fields it may be found in June and later in the summer. The stems are often coloured or reddish-brown, and there are a few purple florets in the centre of the flower, which closes before rain.
Quite as common as the thistles is the Dock tribe. The Fiddle Dock (Rumex pulcher) is not very common, but it may be known by its peculiar fiddle-shaped leaf. The brownish flowers are, like all the dock and sorrel tribe, not very beautiful to the eye, but often give variety to the village posy. The Bloody-veined Dock (Rumex sanguineus) is often a vexatious weed in gardens and fields, where it will grow, as well as by the wayside. Its somewhat long egg-shaped leaves are marked by deep red veins occasionally. The more common variety has green veins. This is not easily distinguished from the common Broad-leaved Dock (Rumex obtusifolius), the leaves of which are more obtuse, and somewhat wrinkled at the edges. The Alpine Dock, or Monks' Rhubarb (Rumex Alpinus), was frequently cultivated for the sake of its root in the abbey gardens, near which its large and very obtuse wrinkled leaves are sometimes found.