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.
Flower-heads - Composite, daisy-like, 1 to 1 1/2 in. across; the outer circle of about 50 pale bluish-violet ray florets; the disk florets greenish yellow. Stem: Simple, erect, hairy, juicy, flexible, from 10 in. to 2 ft. high, producing runners and offsets from base. Leaves: Spatulate, in a flat tuft about the root; stem leaves narrow, more acute, seated, or partly clasping.
Flowering Season - April - June.
Distribution - United States and Canada, east of the Mississippi.
Like an aster blooming long before its season, Robin's plantain wears a finely cut lavender fringe around a yellow disk of minute florets; but one of the first, not the last, in the long procession of composites has appeared when we see gay companies of these flowers nodding their heads above the grass in the spring breezes as if they were village gossips.
Robin's Plantain Or Blue Spring Daisy. (Erigeron pulchellus.)
Doubtless it was the necessity for attracting insects which led the Robin's plantain and other composites to group a quantity of minute florets, each one of which was once an independent, detached blossom, into a common head. In union there is strength. Each floret still contains, however, its own tiny drop of nectar, its own stamens, its own pistil connected with embryonic seed below; therefore, when an insect alights where he can get the greatest amount of nectar for the least effort, and turns round and round to exhaust each nectary, he is sure to dust the pistils with pollen, and so fertilize an entire flower-head in a trice. The lavender fringe and the hairy involucre and stem serve the end of discouraging crawling insects, which cannot transfer pollen from plant to plant, from pilfering sweets that cannot be properly paid for. Small wonder that, although the composites have attained to their socialistic practices at a comparatively recent day as evolutionists count time, they have become as individuals and as species the most numerous in the world; the thistle family, dominant everywhere, containing not less than ten thousand members. (Illustration, p. 40.)
Common or Philadelphia Fleabane, or Skevish (E. Philadel-phicus), a smaller edition of Robin's plantain, with a more finely cut fringe, its reddish-purple ray florets often numbering one hundred and fifty, may be found in low fields and woods throughout North America, except in the circumpolar regions.