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received its familiar name.
Unlike the generality of our British orchises, its root is not formed of bulbs, but of a number of fibres, crossing and entangling each other, like the sticks of a crow's nest. Its common companion in the wood, is another species, the green twayblade, (Listera ovata,) with its broadly ovate leaves and spike of small yellowish-green flowers. They are both of the orchis tribe, and persons accustomed to this family of plants would easily recognise them as belonging to it.
More conspicuous than these, and more beautiful also, is that species of orchis commonly called the lady orchis, which is the brownwinged orchis of the botanist, (Orchis fusca.) It is during May, very common in chalky woods, especially in Kent, and is the handsomest of our wild orchideous plants. The stem is sometimes two or three feet high, and the large and thickly set flowers form a cluster of the size of a bunch of grapes.
The upper part of the blossom-the helmet as it is called-is of a dark brown purple colour, but the lower lip is white and beautifully spotted. Gay enough it is to represent a lady delicately attired—for “ Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these,”—but in what other respects it resembles a lady, it would be hard to tell. A similar remark may be made of the man orchis, (Aceras anthropopheras,) which is as much like a man as an animal, and far more like some of the smaller insect tribe, as the gnat. One month later, and we may find on the chalky down
two or three species of the orchis plānt, which certainly much resemble the insects from which they are named. These are the bee, the fly, and the spider orchises. The latter, however, is so similar to the bee orchis, that many writers consider it merely a variety of the same plant.
The bee-orchis (Ophrys apifera) is abundant on some chalky and clayey soils, yet is so confined to peculiar spots, that it can hardly be called a common wild flower ; in Scotland it is almost unknown. In many parts of Kent and the Isle of Wight, it flourishes in profusion. The blossom is nearly as large as an humblebee, and so like that insect in form and colour, that it might mislead the passer-by into the belief that a bee was hovering on its stem. It never deceives the bee himself, for, on a warm day of June or July, a number of these busy creatures settle upon it, and rob its nectary of the sweet juice which it contains in abundance. The fly-orchis, too, (Ophrys muscifera,) grows on similar spots, and as nearly resembles the fly as this does the bee.
The resemblance of insects is far more striking in the orchideous plants of tropical countries. One species, the butterfly-orchis, (Oncidium papilio,) is so similar to our tortoiseshell butterfly, as continually to deceive the eye of the traveller. There is something so remarkable in these resemblances that the lovers of flowers usually feel much interested in the orchis tribe, and many exotic orchises have been of late years introduced into this country.
Our native orchises, which though not in bloom till next month, are now sending up from the earth their long glossy leaves. There are more than thirty species of our wild flowers, not all called orchis, but all of the orchideous tribe, and all much alike. The two most common species, which are found in almost every English county, are the early purple orchis, (Orchis mascula,) and the green-winged meadow orchis, (Orchis morio.) The former has its leaves marked with dark purple spots, and is very frequent in the woods in May. The latter is found in meadows at the same season. They are both of a pinkish-purple colour, and the wood species is sometimes deliciously fragrant. The meadow orchis often grows pretty thickly among
and has been found with fawncoloured blossoms. The roots of both these flowers are perfectly wholesome and nutritious. The marsh orchis, (Orchis latifolia,) and the spotted palmate orchis, (Orchis maculata,) are also common, but on moist places only. They have pale tinted lilac, or white flowers, and are thus quite distinct from the two kinds just mentioned. They are also taller and more slender, but by no means so general. In Essex and Cambridgeshire, they are abundant. On the bogs about Tunbridge Wells, they are among the most common flowers ; yet in many
districts in Kent, famous as it is for orchis plants, and possessing peculiarities of soil necessary for their production, not a single plant of these two species can be found.
The butterfly-orchis (IIabenaria bifolia) is another flower which by its beauty and frequency claims our notice. It has white fragrant blossoms, the scent of which is considerably increased in the evening. It blooms in June in the moist copse, and though much like a butterfly, yet resembles some smaller and more slender winged insect. No hothouse flower is more delicately beautiful than this simple tenant of the woods, which so often lives and dies unseen by the
eye A very pretty but very small species of orchis, called ladies' tresses, (Neottia spiralis,) is common on dry hilly pastures, but so uncertain in its appearance, that we cannot depend on finding a single plant in the next summer on a field decked this year with thousands. A field in the neighbourhood of Tunbridge Wells, was, in the summer of 1843, so full of it, that one might gather it at almost every step.
In the August following, not a stem or leaf indicated that it had ever grown there. This flower had several old names. It was called sweet-cods, sweet-cullins, and stander grass.
In considering the orchises we have rather anticipated the season of the year, as several of them grow in the later months. We
however, with tolerable certainty expect to find in the May woods, a pretty and well-known blossom the wild strawberry-flower, (Fragaria vesca,) which blows both now and in June. The patches of this meek white flower lie among its leaves on the grassy bank which skirts the wood, and
are still more numerous beneath the shelter of the overarching boughs. This flower is of the rosaceous family of plants, its shape being like that of the wild brier-rose, and all fruits grow. ing on a plant bearing this shaped flower, may be safely eaten. A more wholesome, or a sweeter fruit than this, cannot be gathered. The woodstrawberry is common throughout Great Britain. It is equally so in the woods of France ; and the Parisians esteem this small fruit, and that of the equally small alpine strawberry, as far superior to the hautboy.
The different kinds of strawberry are natives, of temperate, or cold climates, and are common in Europe, and the greater part of America. They also often present themselves to the eye of the traveller, on the hill-sides of Asia and Africa. In cold countries, berries generally are more abundant than in warmer regions, and the wild strawberry grows in great quantities in the woods of Sweden, and is much valued for desserts. Linnæus considered it the most wholesome of all fruits, and records that he, in two instances, was cured of fits of the gout by eating wild strawberries. It is commonly carried about the towns of Sweden for sale, and the great botanist desired his servants to purchase, at all times, the strawberries which were offered at his door, however large the quantity. Hoffman thought that, if eaten in the early stage of consumption, they would arrest the progress of that malady:
The hautboy strawberry (Fragaria elatior)