This section is from the book "The Native Flowers And Ferns Of The United States ", by Thomas Meehan. Also available from Amazon: The Native Flowers and Ferns of the United States in Their Botanical, Horticultural, And Popular Aspects.
Smooth; stem slender, branching; leaves ovate to ovate-lanceolate, acute or acuminate, sharply serrate, three-ribbed at the base, on slender petioles; peduncles elongated; heads many-flowered, the ray flowers pistillate, those of the disk tubular, perfect, five-toothed; rays deciduous; scales of the involucre obtuse, in two to three rows, the exterior longer, leafy; chaff of the conical receptacle lanceolate, partly clasping the smooth four-angled truncated achenia; pappus none. Stem two to three feet high. Leaves two to three inches long, sometimes scabrous. (Chapman's Flora of the Southern United States. See also Gray's Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States, and Wood's Class-Book of Botany.)
H Eli Opsis Laevis
THIS very showy Asteraceous plant has very little history in the popular sense of the term. Our text-books tell us that its common name is "ox-eye," and it might be supposed that some popular idea was connected with this appellation. But we do not find that the people have this or any common name for it; and on examination we find that "ox-eye" is rather a common generic term, applied to a collection of species once included under the old genus Buphthalmum, a name derived from the Greek, and which literally means "ox-eye." In the time of Linnaeus our plant was known as Buphthalmum heli-anthoides, or sun-flower leaved ox-eye; and we can thus see how it derived the name proposed for it in our American works. The true distinction between it and Buphthalmum was first perceived by Christian Henry Persoon, and the plant was described by him as Heliopsis in 1806, the name being made up of two Greek words signifying like the sun, and evidently suggested by its old specific name helianthoides. As ox-eye is still retained as the common name for the whole genus Buphthalmum, under which there are a number of species still known; and as the name of ox-eye for our present species is not in common use, it may be well to drop it, and adopt that of " False Sun-flower," a name more related to its present botanical designation.
Its botanical characters render it a very welcome plant to the critical student. As compared with other American allies, it is closely related to the true sun-flowers or Helianthus on one side, and the cone-flower or Rudbeckia on the other. From Helianthus it will be found to differ in the ray flowers being pistillate and bearing seeds, while those of Helianthus are barren. Then a difference wall be found in the chaff or metamorphosed bracts which are on the receptacle at the base of the little florets. In Heliopsis these are very large, persistent, and embrace and almost wholly enclose the florets (Fig. 5); while in the other genus they are dry and membranous, and easily fall. It is in this long, persistent, pointed chaff, as well as in its oblong, conic receptacle, that it approaches Rudbeckia. Indeed, when the head is dry and the seeds ripe, the resemblance to this genus is very striking. The chaff, however, though persistent in Rudbeckia, is not so hard when dry as in Heliopsis. In this genus the florets or little flowers are comparatively large, and well formed for study; and here it may be observed that the multiplication of botanical terms, so necessary for scientific precision in description, may often mislead one as to the true character of the part described. We call the flowers of plants like these, compound flowers, and the order which contains them Composila; but they are no more compound than those of the Umbellifera or Valeri-auacca. In the belief that the head of a composite plant was the flower, the smaller parts became "florets;" or the little flowers, which go to make up the great flower. But, in fact, the single parts of the head, as Figs. 2, 3, are just as much perfect flowers as any of their more pretentious sisters in other orders would be. In most of the other orders the form of the corolla is well known to vary, and to give much of the character whereby we distinguish one kind from another, and the same will be found true of these little flowers in composite plants. In Heliopsis la-vis the divisions of the corolla are long and channelled in the centre; but they recurve nearly their whole length, and this gives the flower the appearance of having very short and notched lobes (Fig. 3). The united column of anthers is very long and slender, soon discharges its pollen, and fades away (see Fig. 2); when the deeply divided lobes of the pistil also rapidly recurve in like-manner with the lobes of the corolla, as seen in Fig. 3. These little flowers or florets in their several conditions make very beautiful objects in the arrangements of their lines and proportions, as may be noted in our Figs. 2 and 3, and it is doubtful whether any of the more showy representatives of the floral kingdom be better worth an artistic study. As a further point of botanical interest it will be noted that there is not any of the bristly or scaly appendage to the akene usually known as a pappus. The thickened bases of Figs. 1 and 2 are the akenes, and the pappus should arise from what seems to be the joint in the representation, and which is wholly wanting here. This condition occurs at times in other compositae; but taken together with other points, it aids in forming the generic character.
It is a plant well adapted to cultivation, and gives a gay attraction to the flower garden in August and September. The side flowers are on rather longer peduncles than the central ones, and this brings the flowers all to nearly one level, or, as the botanist would say, it is corymbosely-paniculate. In garden culture it grows from two to three, or sometimes nearly four feet high. It is a perennial plant, and readily increased either by seeds or dividing the root-stocks. Seed sown in the fall will bloom the next year. It seems to have been one of the earliest of our wild flowers to be introduced to English gardens and English botan-ists, for it is recorded as having been grown in the collection of the Duchess of Beaufort in 1714. It is referred to by the English botanist Ray, who perhaps received it from the Reverend John Banister, who sent to him a catalogue in 1080, with seeds and drawings of the plants of Virginia. In 1715 we find it noted in the work of another English botanist, Robert Morison, as Chrysanthemum Virginianum. Specimens were again sent from Virginia by Clayton to Gronovius, who then supposed it to be a Helianthus; but in his later edition of 1742 followed Linnaeus in calling it Buphthalmum. It has had other synonyms; but except some arising from variations, they are not worth recording here. The chief of these variations is in the roughness of the foliage and involucral scales. In their roughest condition the plant has been known as H. scabra. It covers a wide range of territory, extending from Maine to Florida, crossing the Mississippi, and almost reaching the Rocky Mountains. Our drawing was made from a Kansas specimen. In the eastern part of that State it is one of the elements that give so much character to the flowery prairies of tourists' letters.
It is of no known use in the arts, except that of gardening. The roots have a grateful perfume, and might perhaps be put to some good use.
1. Branchlet, showing the opposite character of the leaves and flower stems.
2. Floret enlarged before the maturity of the anthers.
3. The same subsequent to the maturity of the anthers.
4. Vertical section of the receptacle, showing its conical form, and young scale half embracing the floret.
5. Mature head, showing the persistent scales. 6. Outline of a full-sized leaf.