Fumaria officinalis. - Fumariaceae. The flowers, too, are larger than those of the Furze, though similar in structure. The calyx is two-lipped, the petals five, unequal in size and shape. The very large upper petal erects itself somewhat, and is known as the "standard." The two lateral ones are called "wings," and the lower pair are united all along their lower edges, to form a boat-shaped body, called the "keel." In this keel lie the stamens and pistil, which are curved, and the former have the filaments united into a tube within which lies the ovary. The stamens also vary in length, and should a bee alight on a newly-opened blossom in quest of pollen - for the Broom produces no honey - the pressure of the "wings" upon the "keel" forces out the shorter stamens, and they dust the bee's abdomen with pollen. Should, however, the insect visit a flower lower down the stem and consequently a day or two older, the long stamens and the pistil spring out with some force, and the hairs on the pistil brush out the shed-pollen from the "keel" and sprinkle it on the bee's back. Then the pistil curls so that the stigmatic surface shall come in contact with the abdomen of the next bee that arrives, probably with pollen from another flower. Thus fertilized the ovary develops into a valved pod like that of the garden pea, but smaller, of course, and black. When ripe the valves separate, twist up and scatter the seeds. Press down the wings with the finger in the position a bee would occupy, and observe the action of this remarkable mechanism, which, with variations, is common to all Leguminous plants {see pages 43, 44, 47, 48, 49, 52, 73, 94, 101, 132). The Broom flowers from April to June, and is widely distributed throughout the kingdom.



I have frequently found that the grace and lightness of the Fumitory suggest to the non-botanical mind some kind of relationship with the Maidenhair-fern ; more especially is this the case with the lower portion of the plant. The leaves are thin and much divided. The flowers are peculiarly formed, and their arrangement is known as a raceme. Each consists of a couple of small sepals, and four petals arranged in two unequal pairs; the upper petal is spurred at the base, the lateral pair connected by their tips and completely enclosing the stamens and pistil.

The plant is common in dry fields and waste places throughout the three kingdoms, and indeed over a great part of the earth, for it is a plant that has followed close in the wake of cultivation. The name is an ancient one, derived from the Latin, fumus, smoke, some have said on account of the light unsubstantial character of the plant; but, according to Pliny, because the watery juice brought on such a flow of tears that the sight was dimmed as by smoke. This is not very satisfactory; but nothing better in the way of explanation has been offered, so we must be content with it. It had formerly a great reputation in medicine. Flowers from May till September.

There are three other British species:Rampant Fumitory (F. capreolate) which climbs to a height of 1 to 2 feet by means of its twisting leaf-stalks. Its cream-coloured flowers are more loosely borne in the raceme than in F. officinalis. Small-flowered Fumitory (F. densi-flora), similar to F. officinalis, but smaller and weaker, flowers paler, racemes short, leaflets smaller and narrower.

Least-flowered Fumitory (F. parzriflora), with small pale flowers and minute sepals; racemes dense.

These three species are rare, the last especially so.