Virginia, northward to New Jersey.
Flowers: growing on upcurved pedicels in loose panicles. Calyx: of five sepals strangely fashioned like a monk's hood. The helmet, one and a half inches long, broad and high, with turned-down vizor. Corolla: of two small petals that look like chin-tabs. Pistils: three to five. Leaves: on petioles; parted into three to five lobes. Stem: slender, bending at the top. Root: tuberous; containing a virulent poison.
We cannot grieve over the irregularity of feature of this flower, as it affords us an excellent study of one that is un-symmetrical, and delights us by the way in which it represents a monk's hood. Somewhere we imagine it has hidden a mischievous face that is longing to cast an eye out at the merry forbidden world. For we cannot believe much in its piety, it has had too varied an experience and has roved about in too many lands.
In Norse mythology, it is credited with the power of making one invisible at will, and is called Odin's helm, or Thor's hat. It was when the Benedictines invaded the domain of Thor that it became monkshood. The Dutch term is friar's cap; and in Germany it belongs exclusively to the devil, and is called devil's herb. It has been on most intimate terms with all the ancients, and witches have even used it for concocting their wicked spells. Our own Indians call it ativisha, the supreme poison; and children, who are really the wise-acres of the generation, pluck from it its petals and fancy that the remaining bloom and exposed nectaries resemble a car drawn by doves. It is then called Venus's chariot.