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.
Perennial; stem one to two feet high, simple, covered with loose silky deciduous hairs; lowest leaves spatulate-oblong, entire or slightly the upper ones lanceolate, sessile, entire; corymb small, mostly simple and umbellate, cone-like in the bud; peduncles and involucre glandular. (Chapman's Flers 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.)
THE natural orders into which plants are divided have, with but few exceptions, been named from some representative genus belonging to them. Thus the order of Rosacea received its name from Rosa, or the Rose Family; Ranuncu-lacecz from Ranunculus, the Crowfoot Family; and so on. Among the exceptions alluded to, the order which embraces Chrysopsis Mariana is generally found; for it is called Composite by most botanists, not from any of the genera belonging to it, but rather as descriptive of the compound character of its flowers, each flower, although having the appearance of but a single one, being in reality composed of an aggregate of a number of florets or small flowers, all placed on one common recep-tacle. Dr. Lindley, however, a well-known English writer on botany, endeavored to secure uniformity in this respect, and in his book entitled "The Vegetable Kingdom," he therefore dropped the few exceptional names, and replaced them by others modelled on the general rule. To the old order Composite he gave the name of Asteracece, from the large and celebrated genus Aster, which belongs to it. Most modern botanists, indeed, do not seem to have adopted Dr. Lindley's views, although the reasons advanced by him are certainly very good. Under these circumstances, we have thought it advisable to give both names a place at the head of our chapter.
The genus Chrysopsis is not far removed from the true Asters, and is intermediate between them and the European genus Inula, to which Elecampane belongs. The species to which this chapter is devoted was itself formerly looked upon as an Inula, and Miller, in his "Gardener's Dictionary," published in 1760, speaks of it as Inula Mariana. Nuttall was the first to point out the essential differences between the two genera in 1818, and to him we also owe the present name of our genus, Chrysopsis, which, as he tells us, he gave to it from the fact that, although it had some of the characters of a class of Asters with corymbose inflorescence, it always differed from the latter in the "prevailing yellow color of the flowers." In most cases,botanists regard color very slightly in establishing the characters of a genus, and the peculiarity must, therefore, have been very striking in this instance to have induced Nuttall to base a generic name on it. Chrysopsis is from the Greek words chrysos, gold, and opsis, aspect, appearance, sight. Our genus, however, differs from Inula not only in general appearance, which, as a matter of course, carries some weight in a natural system, but there is also a difference in the seeds. In our plants, they are compressed and ovate-oblong, while in Inula they are either four-sided or round.
As Inula is not a real native plant in the United States, although it grows wild in many localities, having escaped from gardens, it will not find a place in our work; but considering that it was so closely connected with our Chrysopsis for a long time, and as we may have no opportunity to refer to it again, we may perhaps be excused for dwelling for a moment on the history of the family name, which formerly used to be common to both. The botanical name of Elecampane is Inula Helenium. The attempts to trace the etymology of the generic appellation, Inula, have been given up as barren by most botanists, but it seems to us that Inula may be a corruption of the original name of the plant, winch, according to the earlier accounts, was probably dedicated to St. Helen by some of the Eastern nations. In Italy, also, it is often spoken of as "Elenio," and even as far north as Denmark, it is generally called "St Helen's Rood." It is hardly necessary to point out that the same name is still preserved in the specific appellation of the Elecampane, I. Helenium. Bauhin, one of the oldest botanical writers, says it is probably the plant referred to in some legend as having sprung from tears shed by the famous Helen of Troy. The oldest name found in the herbals, or books on herbs, appears to be "Ala campana," which name is based on the fact that the plant is abundantly found in the Campana, the country around Naples. We see that, whatever may have been the origin of Inula, the derivation of the common name, Elecampane, is clearly accounted for.
The Chrysopsis Mariana seems to have been the first of its genus known in England, where it was introduced in 1742, according to Philip Miller, by Dr. Thomas Dale, from Maryland, whence its specific name Mariana. Since that time a number of other species have been discovered, both in the .Atlantic and the Pacific regions of our country. Our present species is not found north of New York, but within that State it occurs in many places on Manhattan Island, and becomes very abundant in New Jersey, where it is one of the commonest plants in the dry and sandy barrens. It is not common in Pennsylvania, although not infrequent in the region drained by the Wissa-hickon, which supplied the specimen from which our drawing was made. Towards the West, it does not appear to extend north of Southern Ohio, but from there southward to Florida it is often met with on the lower elevations, becoming more abundant as it approaches the sea-coast. It is in no list from Kentucky, west of the mountains, as far as we know, but it probably grows in some of the Mississippi States. In Pennsylvania it is generally found in half-shaded woods, but in other states it seems to favor more open places.
In our description, as quoted from Dr. Chapman's work, we have spoken of the stem as being "covered with loose, silky, deciduous hairs," and the attentive reader may have noticed that this hardly corresponds with our drawing. The explanation of the apparent discrepancy is, however, foreshadowed in the word "deciduous." Our plant, in common with several other species of the same genus, has a peculiar, cobwebby appearance when young, which always attracts the attention of the observer. This appearance is due to the light and tangled hairs which then clothe the stem, but which are shed as the plant grows older. Thus, in the specimen chosen for our illustration, these silky hairs have all fallen off, and nothing is seen of a hairy appearance except a coarser, somewhat glandular kind of hair, which remain, as shown by the plate, not only on the stem, but also on the peduncles or flower-stalks. These two conditions of our species must be borne in mind by the collector, since the hair is usually referred to as characteristic in the descriptions given by botanists.
Like most of the plants allied to the Asters, our species is an autumn bloomer. In Pennsylvania, for instance, it flowers early in September. There is such an abundance of yellow flowers of the asteraceous order at this season that there is hardly a desire for new species, especially as many of them have rather a weedy look. But the Chrysopsis Mariana has a very elegant habit of growth, and it ought, therefore, to be welcome in gardens, although we do not know of any attempts to cultivate it.
We know of no generally accepted English common name for the genus. Dr. Gray names it "Golden Aster," which is very pretty, but apt to be misunderstood, as these plants are not true Asters. "Gold Flower" would be quite appropriate, but unfortunately this has been given to a sort of poppy in California. We may get out of the difficulty, however, by translating "Aster," and so we shall call our flower the "Maryland Golden Star."
1. Stalk with flowers.
2. Achene and pappus.