This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V26", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
This curious plant furnishes a remarkable illustration of an irregular flower, two of the petals having- advanced to huge proportions over the rest. A pansy might afford another illustration wherein the upper petals are larger or differently formed from the others. In a buttercup or a primrose we see the regular flower - the petals or the whole corolla being formed each part on the plan of the other.
Just why these variations should occur as they do, has never been investigated as far as we know.
There has been, indeed, a sort of vague guess that these various forms have been taken on or been given to the plant because of some special advantage the special form may be to it in what has been termed the struggle for life. But when we question each form separately it does not give satisfactory replies. In the present case, for instance, there are relatives which have not the enormous disproportion in the size of the petals which these have, and which get along just as well. But supposing there may be some advantage in great irregularity, why should there be two large petals? Why would not one do as well? or, why should these two not be irregular? Asking questions is no answer. They do not prove that irregularity is of no benefit to the species; but still they are fair questions to put, when a mere guess is offered to us for acceptance, as this guess of individual benefit is being put.
But there are evidences that peculiarities of form are of no special benefit. For instance, in some gesneraceous plants we have regular and irregular flowers in the same genus, and often on the same plant. We have gloxinias with bent and almost bilabiate flowers, and others with flowers as regular as a bell - upright gloxinias - and they do just as well. It may be said that this is the work of art. That Mr. Fyfe saved seed from a chance upright regular flower, and the hereditary influence gave us an upright race. But in Ges-neria elongata we have upright and bent flowers on the same plant in nature - the bent ones irregular and the upright ones regular, just as in the garden gloxinias. There can therefore be no special benefit to the plant from one form over another in this case.
And just here would seem to be a clue as to the laws of form. With the bent flower irregularity is associated, with the erect one regularity. If irregularity comes from the act of bending down, a discovery of the law which produces drooping may give the key to the whole history.
Aside from these suggestions we have in Euade-nia eminens a plant of great interest and beauty for our greenhouses. It was introduced to the notice of cultivators by Mr. Win. Bull, who gives us the following account of it: "A remarkably distinct and interesting plant, discovered in Liberia by one of my collectors; it is especially notable on account of its peculiar inflorescence, which resembles a candelabrum in its ramification, the yellow petals looking like a pair of gas jets on each branch. The plant is of branching habit, with alternate trifoliate glabrous leaves, which are com- i posed of three entire ovate-lanceolate deep green leaflets; the inflorescence is terminal and erect; the dorsal petals about four inches long, and of a clear sulphur-yellow color. Figured in the Botanical Magazine for September, 1881".