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.
Flowers - Blue, 1 in. broad or less, irregular, grouped at end of stem, and upheld by long leaf-like bracts. Calyx of 3 unequal sepals; 3 petals, 1 inconspicuous, 2 showy, rounded. Perfect stamens 3; the anther of 1 incurved stamen largest; 3 insignificant and sterile stamens; 1 pistil. Stem: Fleshy, smooth, branched, mucilaginous. Leaves: Lance-shaped, 3 to 5 in. long, sheathing the stem at base; upper leaves in a spathe-like bract folding like a hood about flowers. Fruit: A 3-celled capsule, 1 seed in each cell.
Preferred Habitat - Moist, shady ground.
Flowering Season - June - September.
Distribution - "Southern New York to Illinois and Michigan, Nebraska, Texas, and through tropical America to Paraguay." - Britton and Browne.
Delightful Linnaeus, who dearly loved his little joke, himself confesses to have named the day-flowers after three brothers Commelyn, Dutch botanists, because two of them - commemorated in the two showy blue petals of the blossom - published their works; the third, lacking application and ambition, amounted to nothing, like the inconspicuous whitish third petal! Happily Kaspar Commelyn died in 1731, before the joke was perpetrated in " Species Plantarum."
In the morning we find the day-flower open and alert-looking, owing to the sharp, erect bracts that give it support; after noon, or as soon as it has been fertilized by the female bees, that are its chief benefactors while collecting its abundant pollen, the lovely petals roll up, never to open again, and quickly wilt into a wet, shapeless mass, which, if we touch it, leaves a sticky blue fluid on our finger-tips.
The Slender Day-flower (C. erecta), the next of kin, a more fragile-looking, smaller-flowered, and narrower-leaved species, blooms from August to October, from Pennsylvania southward to tropical America and westward to Texas.