This section is from the book "Nature's Garden", by Neltje Blanchan. Also available from Amazon: Nature's Garden; An Aid To Knowledge Of Our Wild Flowers And Their Insect Visitors.
Fhnvers - Fragrant, very small, white, lacking a perianth, bracted, densely crowded on peduncled, slender spikes 4 to 6 in. long and nodding at the tip. Stamens 6 to 8, the filaments white; carpels 3 or 4, united at base, dangling. Stem: 2 to 5 ft. high, jointed, sparingly branched, leafy. Leaves: Heart-shaped, palmately ribbed, dark green, thin, on stout petioles.
Preferred Habitat - Swamps, shallow water.
Flowering Season - June - August.
Distribution - Southern New England to the Gulf, westward to Minnesota and Texas.
The fragrance arising from these curious, drooping, tail-like spikes of flowers, where they grow in numbers, must lure their insect friends as it does us, since no showy petals or sepals advertise their presence. Nevertheless they are what are known as perfect flowers, each possessing stamens and pistils, the only truly essential parts, however desirable a gayly colored perianth may be to blossoms attempting to woo such large land insects as the bumblebee and butterfly. Since flies, whose color sense is by no means so acute as their sense of smell, are by far the most abundant fertilizers of waterside plants, we can see a tendency in such to suppress their petals, for the flowers to become minute and massed in series that the little visitors may more readily transfer pollen from one to another, and to become fragrant - just what the lizard's tail has done.