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.
Smoothish or pubescent, much branched, two to three feet high, very leafy; calyx five-cleft, the lobes often toothed; corolla yellow; the tube elongated, woolly inside, as well as the anthers and filaments; anthers all alike, scarcely included, the cells awn-pointed at the base; leaves ovate-lanceolate, pinnatifid, and the lobes cut and toothed; peduncles longer than the hairy, mostly serrate calyx-lobes. (Gray's Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States. See also Chapman's Flora of the Southern United States, and Wood's Class-Book of Botany.)
THE genus Gerardia is so named in honor of one of the most celebrated English botanists, who, as "Gerarde the Herbalist," is constantly referred to in both botanical and horticultural works. To a certain extent, Gerarde may be regarded as the Linnaeus of the sixteenth century, and the great Swede recognized the services which his English predecessor had rendered to botany, by dedicating a genus to him when he recast the genera of plants according to the system afterwards known as the Linnaean. What the particular thought was in the mind of Linnaeus, which induced him to perpetuate the old English author's name by attaching it to a genus so completely American, does not appear. Modern botanists have made attempts to deprive him of some of his honors; and Rafinesque, whom Dr. Baldwin, in his correspondence with Dr. Darlington, styles a "literary madman," endeavored to make several genera out of Gerardia. He calls some of them Dasau-thcra, others Dasystoma, others Eugerardia, and others, again, Pagcsia. Some botanists still retain these names. Dr. Gray, however, whom we have credited with our leading description, does not regard the characters which Rafmesque took as generic to be of sufficient importance to divide the genus established by Linnaeus, although he retains some as of sectional value. Thus our plant, in Chapman's "Southern Flora" and in Wood's "Class-Book," is classed as Dasystoma pedicularia, but in Gray's "Manual" it is Gerardia pedicularia, in section Dasystoma, Dasystoma seems to be from the Greek dasys, thick, and stoma, a mouth; but unless it be that the corolla is generally of a thicker texture in the species classed as Dasystoma than in those placed in the other sections, it is difficult to guess at the application. Dasystoma includes all the perennial Gerardias.
The Gerardias are said to be more or less parasitic on the roots of other plants; but we have been unable to find any clear evidence of the fact in any personal examination, or to find the full proof of it in any published account. All that we have read on the subject seemed to leave room for further observations. One of the reasons given is that no attempts to cultivate it have been successful; but then the same is said of the Trailing Arbutus, - Epigaea repens, - which no one pretends is a parasite. Johnson, an English writer, tells us that "Gerardia pedicularia was introduced into England in 1826, and all the perennial species can be raised from cuttings as well as by seed, and G. quercifolia (a closely related species to G. pedicularia) by dividing the rootstocks in spring." If this is the result of actual observation, and not merely assumed because it is the case with perennials in general, it would seem to be established that the Gerardias can be grown in gardens. Mr. Thomas Moore, however, of the Chelsea Botanical Garden, London, and one of the best of English practical writers, remarks of the whole family of Gerardias that "all attempts to cultivate them in England have failed." But it would be well worth while to try them again. There certainly are large numbers of roots on our plant which have no attachment to other plants, and which must derive nutrition directly from the soil. In the specimen taken up for our illustration, a number of the rootlets had small cellular granules at the end, and it is just possible that these are intended for attachment and suction on roots with which they may come in contact.
An interesting observation in connection with Gerardia pedi-cularia, and the visits of bees to its flowers, has been placed on record, in the "Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club" for 1871, by Mr. W. W. Bailey, of Providence, R. I. He found that the humblebees visited the flowers in great numbers; but instead of entering the flowers by their mouths for the nectar, they rested on the upper surface, and then cut a slit, near the base, through which they sipped their sweets. They do this in the petunia, the red clover, the wistaria, and indeed in a large number of other cases in which it is clearly seen that it is difficult for them to enter by the regular "door" of the flower; but as the mouth of the flower of Gerardia is so large, it would seem more convenient for the bees to enter by it than to take the trouble of making a slit; and this is the point of Mr. Bailey's observation. But it is evident that it is easier for the bee to stand on the flower and cut it, which it can do without effort, than to sustain itself on the lower part of the mouth and thrust its head down the throat, and it is only reasonable to suppose that insects have the power, to a certain extent, of finding out the easiest ways of doing things.
The flowers have a deliciously sweet odor, which makes them very attractive to the wild-flower gatherer; but they are poor material for bouquets, as they wither very rapidly after gathering. It is remarkable, also, that, in drying specimens for the herbarium, is is almost impossible to preserve the green color. They invariably turn black, even with the greatest care.
"The foxgloves and the fern, How gracefully they grow, With grand, old oaks above them And wavy grass below! "
These lines of the poet were particularly appropriate to the locality, near Philadelphia, where we gathered the specimen of False Foxglove which served as the original for our illustration. It was in a piece of rather open wood, where the "grand old oaks" of the red, scarlet, and white species waved their branches above, while, somewhat lower down, on ground that was a little more moist, grew the cinnamon fern and numerous sedges, which latter might have been taken for the "wavy grass below." The Fern-leaved False Foxglove generally grows in situations like the one just described in Pennsylvania, in which State it finds itself very much at home, being, perhaps, the most common of the perennial species. Dr. Gray, in his "Manual of Botany," speaks of it as being "common in dry copses." In New Jersey it seems to be found in more open places, and, according to Chapman, it appears to occur in similar locations in dry, sandy soil.
Gerardias in general seem to be confined to the Atlantic States, although some of the annual species are found beyond the Mississippi. Our False Foxglove, however, keeps to the east of this river, where it is found, we believe, in all the States of the Union from Canada to Florida.
The name pedicularia was suggested by the great resemblance of the root-leaves to the Pedicularis. Our plant has had no common name given to it that we know of, and we have, therefore, ventured to call it the "Fern-leaved False Foxglove."
It blooms in August, and from its branching character keeps a long while in flower.
1. Tart of the panicle.
2. Stamen, showing the awned anther cells.
3. Seed-vessel and leafy calyx divisions.
4. Root, with granular-tipped rootlets.