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Title: My Studio Neighbors
Author: Gibson, William Hamilton, 1850-1896
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "My Studio Neighbors" ***

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  [Illustration (signed) W Hamilton Gibson]







  Copyright, 1897, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

  _All rights reserved._

  [Illustration: CONTENTS]


  _A Familiar Guest_                                                3

  _The Cuckoos and the Outwitted Cow-bird_                         23

  _Door-step Neighbors_                                            57

  _A Queer Little Family on the Bittersweet_                       87

  _The Welcomes of the Flowers_                                   105

  _A Honey-dew Picnic_                                            151

  _A Few Native Orchids and Their Insect Sponsors_                171

  _The Milkweed_                                                  227

  _Index_                                                         239

  [Illustration: LIST OF DESIGNS]


  _William Hamilton Gibson_                             _Frontispiece_

  _Initial. The Studio Door_                                        3

  _The Rose-bush Episode_                                           9

  _A Corner of My Table_                                           12

  _An Animated Brush_                                              14

  _A Specimen in Three Stages_                                     16

  _The Studio Table_                                               18

  _Initial_                                                        23

  _The European Cuckoo_                                            24

  _The Yellow-billed Cuckoo_                                       26

  _Browsing Kine_                                                  29

  _A Greedy Foster-child_                                          34

  _The Yellow Warbler_                                             44

  _A Blighted Home_                                                46

  _The Normal Nest of the Yellow Warbler_                          47

  _The Yellow Warbler at Home_                                     49

  _A Suspicious Nest of the Yellow Warbler_                        50

  _The Nest Separated_                                             52

  _Initial_                                                        57

  _The Door-step Arena, with its Pitfalls_                         60

  _Fishing for Tigers_                                             65

  _Tiger-beetle_                                                   68

  _The Spider Victim_                                              70

  _Filling the Spider's Grave_                                     71

  _Black Digger-wasp_                                              73

  _Black Digger-wasp and His Victim, Showing the Egg of the
    Wasp Attached_                                                 75

  _Protecting the Burrow while Searching for Prey_                 79

  _The "Cow-spit" Mystery Disclosed_                               81

  _The Tiger's Head, from the Victim's Stand-point_                84

  _Initial. Branch of the Bittersweet_                             87

  _A Bittersweet Covey_                                            90

  _Flushing the Game_                                              92

  _Specimen Twig_                                                  94

  _Building Froth-tent_                                           100

  _Butterflies and Flowers_                                       105

  _A Row of Stamens_                                              106

  _The Parts of a Flower_                                         109

  _Historical Series, Showing the Progress of Discovery of
    Flower Fertilization_                                         110

  _The Garden Sage_                                               120

  _Cross-fertilization of the Sage_                               121

  _Elastic Stamens. Anthers Inserted in their Pockets_            124

  _Elastic Stamens of Mountain-laurel_                            125

  _Andromeda Ligustrina_                                          127

  _Fertilisation of Andromeda_                                    128

  _The Laurel_                                                    130

  _Cross-fertilization of the Blue-flag_                          131

  _Blue-flag_                                                     132

  _Pogonia and Devil's-bit_                                       133

  _Devil's-bit_                                                   134

  _Horse-balm. Collinsonia_                                       135

  _Cross-fertilization of the Horse-balm--Flowers in Various
    Stages, and in the Order of their Visitation by the Bee_      136

  _The Cone-flower_                                               137

  _Cone-flower, Showing Numerous Florets, Some in Pollen,
    Others in Stigmatic Stage_                                    139

  _Cross-fertilization of Cone-flower_                            140

  _The Fertilization of the English Arum, 1st Stage_              141

  _The Fertilization of the English Arum. 2d, 3d, 4th,
    and 5th Stages_                                               142

  _Pogonia_                                                       145

  _Cross-fertilization_                                           146

  _A Pine Branch_                                                 151

  _Initial_                                                       151

  _The Picnic_                                                    159

  _Tail-piece_                                                    167

  _Habenaria Orbiculata_                                          171

  _Arethusa Bulbosa_                                              177

  _The Botanical Distribution of an Ordinary Flower and of
    the Orchid_                                                   182

  _The "Column" in Various Orchids_                               183

  _The Result of the Bee's Visit_                                 184

  _Cross-fertilization of Arethusa_                               188

  _Habenaria Orbiculata. A Single Flower Enlarged_                190

  _Orchis Spectabilis_                                            191

  _Cross-fertilization of H. Orbiculata (Sphinx-moth)_            193

  _The Flower and Column of Orchis Spectabilis, Enlarged_         195

  _Orchis Spectabilis_                                            195

  _Position of Pollen of Orchis Spectabilis Withdrawn on Pencil_  197

  _The Cross-fertilization of Orchis Spectabilis_                 197

  _The Purple-fringed Orchid_                                     199

  _The Ragged Orchid (Front Section)_                             200

  _The Ragged Orchid (Profile Section)_                           202

  _The Ragged Orchid (H. Lacera) and the Butterfly's
    Tongue. Cross-fertilization_                                  203

  _The Yellow Orchid (H. Flava)_                                  204

  _The Ragged Orchid (H. Lacera)_                                 205

  _Cypripedium Acaule_                                            207

  _Moccasin-flower (C. Acaule)_                                   208

  _The Bee Imprisoned in the Lips of Cypripedium_                 210

  _Moccasin-flower. Bee Sipping Nectar_                           211

  _The Bee Passing Beneath the Stigma_                            213

  _A Bee Receiving Pollen-plaster on His Thorax_                  214

  _Rattlesnake-Plantain--the Young and the Old_                   215

  _Cross-fertilization of the Rattlesnake-Plantain.
    Side Sections_                                                216

  _Cross-fertilisation of the Rattlesnake-Plantain. Front View_   217

  _The Tongue of a Bumblebee_                                     218

  _Goodyera, or Periamium Pubescens_                              221

  _Milkweed Captives_                                             231

  _The Pollen Masses and the Fissure_                             232

  _The Tragedy of the Bees_                                       235

  _A Moth Caught by the Tongue in Dogbane_                        237



Solitude! Where under trees and sky shall you find it? The more solitary
the recluse and the more confirmed and grounded his seclusion, the wider
and more familiar becomes the circle of his social environment, until at
length, like a very dryad of old, the birds build and sing in his
branches and the "wee wild beasties" nest in his pockets. If he fails to
be aware of the fact, more's the pity. His desolation is within, not
without, in spite of, not because of, his surroundings.

Here in my country studio--not a hermitage, 'tis true, but secluded
among trees, some distance isolated from my own home and out of sight of
any other--what company! What occasional "tumultuous privacy" is mine! I
have frequently been obliged to step out upon the porch and request a
modulation of hilarity and a more courteous respect for my hospitality.
But this is evidently entirely a matter of point of view, and, judging
from the effects of my protests at such times, my assumed superior air
of condescension is apparently construed as a huge joke. If the
resultant rejoinder of wild volapük and expressive pantomime has any
significance, it is plain that I am desired to understand that my exact
status is that of a squatter on contested territory.

There are those snickering squirrels, for instance! At this moment two
of them are having a rollicking game of tag on the shingled roof--a
pandemonium of scrambling, scratching, squealing, and growling--ever and
anon clambering down at the eaves to the top of a blind and peeping in
at the window to see how I like it.

A woodchuck is perambulating my porch--he was a moment ago--presumably
in renewed quest of that favorite pabulum more delectable than rowen
clover, the splintered cribbings from the legs of a certain pine bench,
which, up to date, he has lowered about three inches--a process in which
he has considered average rather than symmetry, or the comfort of the
too trusting visitor who happens to be unaware of his carpentry.

The drone of bees and the carol of birds are naturally an incessant
accompaniment to my toil--at least, in these spring and summer months.
The tall, straight flue of the chimney, like the deep diapason of an
organ, is softly murmurous with the flurry of the swifts in their
afternoon or vesper flight. There is a robin's nest close by one window,
a vireo's nest on a forked dogwood within touch of the porch, and
continual reminders of similar snuggeries of indigo-bird, chat, and
oriole within close limits, to say nothing of an ants' nest not far off,
whose proximity is soon manifest as you sit in the grass--and
immediately get up again.

Fancy a wild fox for a daily entertainment! For several days in
succession last year I spent a half-hour observing his frisky gambols
on the hillside across the dingle below my porch, as he jumped
apparently for mice in the sloping rowen-field. How quickly he
responded to my slightest interruption of voice or footfall, running to
the cover of the alders!

The little red-headed chippy, the most familiar and sociable of our
birds, of course pays me his frequent visit, hopping in at the door and
picking up I don't know what upon the floor. A barn-swallow occasionally
darts in through the open window and out again at the door, as though
for very sport, only a few days since skimming beneath my nose, while
its wings fairly tipped the pen with which I was writing. The chipmonk
has long made himself at home, and his scratching footsteps on my
door-sill, or even in my closet, is a not uncommon episode. Now and then
through the day I hear a soft pat-pat on the hard-wood floor, at
intervals of a few seconds, and realize that my pet toad, which has
voluntarily taken up its abode in an old bowl on the closet floor, is
taking his afternoon outing, and with his always seemingly inconsistent
lightning tongue is picking up his casual flies at three inches sight
around the base-board.

A mouse, I see, has heaped a neat little pile of seeds upon the top of
the wainscot near by--cherry pits, polygonum, and ragweed seeds, and
others, including some small oak-galls, which I find have been
abstracted from a box of specimens which I had stored in the closet for
safe-keeping. I wonder if it is the same little fellow that built its
nest in an old shoe in the same closet last year, and, among other
mischief, removed the white grub in a similar lot of specimen galls
which I also missed, and subsequently found in the shoe and scattered on
the closet floor?

I have mentioned the murmur of the bees, but the incessant buzzing of
flies and wasps is an equally prominent sound. Then there is the
occasional sortie of the dragon-fly, making his gauzy, skimming circuit
about the room, or suggestively bobbing around against wall or ceiling;
and that occasional audible episode of the stifled, expiring buzz of a
fly, which is too plainly in the toils of Arachne up yonder! For in one
corner of my room I boast of a prize dusty "cobweb," as yet spared from
the household broom, a gossamer arena of two years' standing, which
makes a dense span of a length of about two feet from a clump of dried
hydrangea blossoms to the sill of a transom-window, and which, of
course, somewhere in its dusty spread, tapers off into a dark tunnel,
where lurks the eight-eyed schemer, "o'erlooking all his waving snares

Sooner or later, it would seem, every too constant buzzing visitor
encroaches on its domain, and is drawn to its silken vortex, and is
eventually shed below as a clean dried specimen; for this is an
_agalena_ spider, which dispenses with the winding-sheet of the field
species--_epeira_ and _argiope_. Last week a big bumble-bee-like fly
paid me a visit and suddenly disappeared. To-day I find him dried and
ready for the insect-pin and the cabinet on the window-sill beneath the
web, which affords at all times its liberal entomological
assortment--Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera, and Lepidoptera. Many are
the rare specimens which I have picked from these charnel remnants of my
spider net.

Ah, hark! The talking "robber-fly" (_Asilus_), with his nasal, twangy
buzz! "_Waiow!_ Wha-a-ar are ye?" he seems to say, and with a suggestive
onslaught against the window-pane, which betokens his satisfied quest,
is out again at the window with a bluebottle-fly in the clutch of his
powerful legs, or perhaps impaled on his horny beak.

Solitude! Not here. Amid such continual distraction and entertainment
concentration on the immediate task in hand is not always of easy


Last week, after a somewhat distracted morning with some queer beguiling
little harlequins on the bittersweet-vine about my porch, of which I
have previously written, I had finally settled down to my work, and was
engaged in putting the finishing touches upon a long-delayed drawing,
when a new visitor claimed my attention--a small hornet, which alights
upon the window-sill within half a yard from my face. To be sure, she
was no stranger here at my studio--even now there are two of her yonder
beneath the spider-nest--and was, moreover, an old friend, whose ways
were perfectly familiar to me; but this time the insect engaged my
particular attention because it was not alone, being accompanied by a
green caterpillar bigger than herself, which she held beneath her body
as she travelled along on the window-sill so near my face. "So, so! my
little wren-wasp, you have found a satisfactory cranny at last, and have
made yourself at home. I have seen you prying about here for a week and
wondered where you would take up your abode."

The insect now reaches the edge of the sill, and, taking a fresh grip on
her burden, starts off in a bee-line across my drawing-board and towards
the open door, and disappears. Wondering what her whimsical destination
might be, my eye involuntarily began to wander about the room in quest
of nail-holes or other available similar crannies, but without reward,
and I had fairly settled back to my work and forgotten the incident,
when the same visitor, or another just like her, again appeared, this
time clearing the window-sill in her flight, and landing directly upon
my drawing-board, across which she sped, half creeping, half in flight,
and tugging her green caterpillar as before--longer than herself--which
she held beneath her body.

"This time I shall learn your secret," I thought. "Two such challenges
as this are not to be ignored." So I concluded this time to observe her
progress carefully. In a moment she had reached the right-hand edge of
my easel-board, from which she made a short flight, and settled upon a
large table in the centre of the room, littered with its characteristic
chaos of professional paraphernalia--brushes, paints, dishes, bottles,
color-boxes, and cloths--among which she disappeared. It was a hopeless
task to disclose her, so I waited patiently to observe the spot from
which she would emerge, assuming that this, like the window-sill and my
easel, was a mere way-station on her homeward travels. But she failed to
appear, while I busied my wits in trying to recall which particular item
in the collection had a _hole_ in it. Yes, there _was_ a spool among
other odds and ends in a Japanese boat-basket. That must be it! But on
examination the paper still covered both ends, and I was again at a
loss. What, then, can be the attraction on my table? My wondering
curiosity was immediately satisfied, for as I turned back to the board
and resumed my work I soon discovered another wasp, with its caterpillar
freight, on the drawing-board. After a moment's pause she made a quiet
short flight towards the table, and what was my astonishment to observe
her alight directly upon the tip of the very brush which I held in my
hand, which, I now noted for the first time, had a hole in its end! In
another moment she disappeared within the cavity, tugging the
caterpillar after her!


My bamboo brushes! I had not thought of them! By mere chance a few
years since I happened upon some of these bamboo brushes in a Japanese
shop--large, long-handled brushes, with pure white hair nicely stiffened
to a tapering point, which was neatly protected with a sheathing cover
of bamboo. A number of them were at my elbow, a few inches distant, in a
glass of water, and on the table by the vase beyond were a dozen or so
in a scattered bundle.

Normally each of these brushes is closed at the end by the natural pith
of the bamboo. I now find them _all_ either open or otherwise tampered
with, and the surrounding surface of the table littered with tiny balls,
apparently of sawdust. I picked up one of the nearest brushes, and upon
inverting it and giving it a slight tap, a tiny green worm fell out of
the opening. From the next one I managed to shake out seven of the
caterpillars, while the third had passed beyond this stage, the aperture
having been carefully plugged with a mud cork, which was even now moist.
Two or three others were in the same plugged condition, and
investigation showed that no single brush had escaped similar tampering
to a greater or less extent. One brush had apparently not given entire
satisfaction, for the plug had been removed, and the caterpillars, eight
or ten in number, were scattered about the opening. But the
dissatisfaction probably lay with one of these caterpillars rather than
with the maternal wasp, who had apparently failed in the full dose of
anæsthetic, for one of her victims which I observed was quite lively,
and had probably forced out the soft plug, and in his squirming had
ousted his luckless companions.


The caterpillars were all of the same kind, though varying in size,
their length being from one-half to three-quarters of an inch. To all
appearances they were dead, but more careful observation revealed signs
of slight vitality. Recognizing the species as one which I had long
known, from its larva to its moth, it was not difficult to understand
how my brushes might thus have been expeditiously packed with them. Not
far from my studio door is a small thicket of wild rose, which should
alone be sufficient to account for all those victimized caterpillars.
This species is a regular dependent on the rose, dwelling within its
cocoon-like canopy of leaves, which are drawn together with a few silken
webs, and in which it is commonly concealed by day. A little persuasion
upon either end of its leafy case, however, soon brings the little
tenant to view as he wriggles out, backward or forward, as the case may
be, and in a twinkling, spider-like, hangs suspended by a web, which
never fails him even in the most sudden emergency.

I can readily fancy the tiny hornet making a commotion at one end of
this leafy domicile and the next instant catching the evicted
caterpillar "on a fly" at the other. Grasping her prey with her legs and
jaws, in another moment the wriggling body is passive in her grasp,
subdued by the potent anæsthetic of her sting--a hypodermic injection
which instantly produces the semblance of death in its insect victim,
reducing all the vital functions to the point of dissolution, and then
holds them suspended--literally prolongs life, it would sometimes seem,
even beyond its normal duration--by a process which I might call ductile
equation. This chemical resource is common to all the hornets, whether
their victims be grasshoppers, spiders, cicadæ, or caterpillars. In a
condition of helpless stupor they are lugged off to the respective dens
provided for them, and then, hermetically sealed on storage, are
preserved as fresh living food for the young hornet larva, which is left
in charge of them, and has a place waiting for them all. The
developments within my brush-handles may serve as a commentary on the
ways and transformations of the average hornet.


One after another of the little green caterpillars is packed into the
bamboo cell, which is about an inch deep, and plugged with mud at the
base. From seven to ten of the victims are thus stored, after which the
little wasp deposits an egg among them, and seals the doorway with a
pellet of mud. The young larva, which soon hatches from this egg, finds
itself in a land of plenty, surrounded with living food, and, being
born hungry, he loses no time in making a meal from the nearest victim.
One after another of the caterpillars is devoured, until his larder,
nicely calculated to carry him to his full growth, is exhausted. Thus
the first stage is passed. The second stage is entered into within a few
hours, and is passed within a silken cocoon, with which the white grub
now surrounds itself, and with which, transformed to a pupa, it bides
its time for about three weeks, as I now recall, when--third stage--out
pops the mud cork, and the perfect wasp appears at the opening of the
cell. I have shown sections of one of my brushes in the three stages.

This interesting little hornet is a common summer species, known as the
solitary hornet--one of them--_Odynerus flavipes_. The insect is about a
half-inch in length, and to the careless observer might suggest a
yellow-jacket, though the yellow is here confined to two triangular
spots on the front of the thorax and three bands upon the abdomen.

Like the wren among birds, it is fond of building in holes, and will
generally obtain them ready-made if possible. Burroughs has said of the
wren that it "will build in anything that has a hole in it, from an old
boot to a bombshell." In similar whim our little solitary hornet has
been known to favor nail-holes, hollow reeds, straws, the barrels of a
pistol, holes in kegs, worm-holes in wood, and spools, to which we may
now add bamboo brushes.


Ovid declared and the ancient Greeks believed that hornets were the
direct progeny of the snorting war-horse. The phrase "mad as a hornet"
has become a proverb. Think, then, of a brush loaded and tipped with
this martial spirit of Vespa, this cavorting afflatus, this testy
animus! There is more than one pessimistic "goose-quill," of course,
"mightier than the sword," which, it occurs to me in my now charitable
mood, might have been thus surreptitiously voudooed by the war-like
hornet, and the plug never removed.



How has that "blessed bird" and "sweet messenger of spring," the
"cuckoo," imposed upon the poetic sensibilities of its native land!

And what _is_ this cuckoo which has thus bewitched all the poets? What
is the personality behind that "wandering voice?" What the
distinguishing trait which has made this wily attendant on the spring
notorious from the times of Aristotle and Pliny? Think of "following the
cuckoo," as Logan longed to do, in its "annual visit around the globe,"
a voluntary witness and accessory to the blighting curse of its vagrant,
almost unnatural life! No, my indiscriminate bards; on this occasion we
must part company. I cannot "follow" your cuckoo--except with a gun,
forsooth--nor welcome your "darling of the spring," even though he were
never so captivating as a songster.


The song and the singer are here identical and inseparable, to my
prosaic and rational senses; for does not that "blithe new-comer," as
Tennyson says, "tell his name to all the hills"--"_Cuck_oo! _Cuck_oo!"

The poet of romance is prompted to draw on his imagination for his
facts, but the poet of nature must first of all be true, and
incidentally as beautiful and good as may be; and a half-truth or a
truth with a reservation may be as dangerous as falsehood. The poet who
should so paint the velvety beauty of a rattlesnake as to make you long
to coddle it would hardly be considered a safe character to be at large.
Likewise an ode to the nettle, or to the autumn splendor of the
poison-sumac, which ignored its venom would scarcely be a wise botanical
guide for indiscriminate circulation among the innocents. Think, then,
of a poetic eulogium on a bird of which the observant Gilbert could have

"This proceeding of the cuckoo, of dropping its eggs as it were by
chance, is such a monstrous outrage on maternal affection, one of the
first great dictates of nature, and such a violence on instinct, that
had it only been related of a bird in the Brazils or Peru, it would
never have merited our belief.... She is hardened against her young ones
as though they were not hers.... 'Because God hath deprived her of
wisdom, neither hath He imparted to her understanding.'"

America is spared the infliction of this notorious "cuckoo." Its nearest
congeners, our yellow-billed and black-billed cuckoos, while suggesting
their foreign ally in shape and somewhat in song, have mended their
ways, and though it is true they make a bad mess of it, they at least
try to build their own nest, and rear their own young with tender
solicitude. The nest is usually so sparse and flimsy an affair that you
can see through its coarse mesh of sticks from below, the fledglings
lying as on a grid-iron or toaster; and it is, moreover, occasionally
so much higher in the centre than at the sides that the chicks tumble
out of bed and perish. Still, it _is_ a beginning in the right


Yes, it would appear that our American cuckoo is endeavoring to make
amends for the sins of its ancestors; but, what is less to its credit,
it has apparently found a scapegoat, to which it would ever appear
anxious to call our attention, as it stammers forth, in accents of
warning, "c, c, cow, cow, cow! cowow, cowow!" It never gets any further
than this; but doubtless in due process of vocal evolution we shall yet
hear the "bunting," or "black-bird," which is evidently what he is
trying to say.

Owing to the onomatopoetic quality of the "kow, kow, kow!" of the bird,
it is known in some sections as the "kow-bird," and is thus confounded
with the _real_ cow-bird, and gets the credit of her mischief, even as
in other parts of the country, under the correct name of "cuckoo," it
bears the odium of its foreign relative.

For though we have no disreputable cuckoo, ornithologically speaking,
let us not congratulate ourselves too hastily. We have his counterpart
in a black sheep of featherdom which vies with his European rival in
deeds of cunning and cruelty, and which has not even a song to recommend
him--no vocal accomplishment which by the greatest of license could
prompt a poet to exclaim,

"I hear thee and rejoice,"

without having his sanity called in question.

The cow-blackbird, it is true, executes a certain guttural performance
with its throat--though apparently emanating from a gastric
source--which some ornithologists dignify by the name of "song." But it
is safe to affirm that with this vocal resource alone to recommend him
he or his kind would scarcely have been known to fame. The bird has yet
another lay, however, which has made it notorious. Where is the nest of
song-sparrow, or Maryland yellow-throat, or yellow warbler, or chippy,
that is safe from the curse of the cow-bird's blighting visit?

And yet how few of us have ever seen the bird to recognize it, unless
perchance in the occasional flock clustering about the noses and feet of
browsing kine and sheep, or perhaps perched upon their backs, the glossy
black plumage of the males glistening with iridescent sheen in the

"Haow them blackbirds doos love the smell o' thet caow's breath!" said
an old dame to me once in my boyhood. "I don't blame um: I like it
myself." Whether it was this same authority who was responsible for my
own similar early impression I do not know, but I do recall the surprise
at my ultimate discovery that it was alone the quest of insects that
attracted the birds.


Upon the first arrival of the bird in the spring an attentive ear might
detect its discordant voice, or the chuckling note of his mischievous
spouse and accomplice, in the great bird medley; but later her crafty
instinct would seem to warn her that silence is more to her interest in
the pursuit of her wily mission. In June, when so many an ecstatic
love-song among the birds has modulated from accents of ardent love to
those of glad fruition, when the sonnet to his "mistress's eyebrow" is
shortly to give place to the lullaby, then, like the "worm i' the bud,"
the cow-bird begins her parasitical career. How many thousands are the
bird homes which are blasted in her "annual visit?"

Stealthily and silently she pries among the thickets, following up the
trail of warbler, sparrow, or thrush like a sleuth-hound. Yonder a tiny
yellow-bird with a jet-black cheek flits hither with a wisp of dry grass
in her beak, and disappears in the branches of a small tree close to my
studio door. Like the shadow of fate the cow-bird suddenly appears, and
has doubtless soon ferreted out her cradle.

In a certain grassy bank not far from where I am writing, at the foot of
an unsuspecting fern, a song-sparrow has built her nest. It lies in a
hollow among the dried leaves and grass, and is so artfully merged with
its immediate surroundings that even though you know its precise
location it still eludes you. Only yesterday the last finishing-touches
were made upon the nest, and this morning, as I might have anticipated
from the excess of lisp and twitter of the mother bird, I find the first
pretty brown-spotted egg.

Surely our cow-bird has missed this secret haunt on her rounds. Be not
deceived! Within a half-hour after this egg was laid the sparrow and its
mate, returning from a brief absence to view their prize, discover two
eggs where they had been responsible for but one. The prowling foe had
already discovered their secret; for she, too, is "an attendant on the
spring," and had been simply biding her time. The parent birds once out
of sight, she had stolen slyly upon the nest, and after a very brief
interval as slyly retreated, leaving her questionable compliments,
presumably with a self-satisfied chuckle. The intruded egg is so like
its fellow as to be hardly distinguishable except in its slightly larger
size. It is doubtful whether the sparrow, in particular, owing to this
similarity, ever realizes the deception. Indeed, the event is possibly
considered a cause for self-congratulation rather than otherwise--at
least, until her eyes are opened by the fateful _dénouement_ of a few
weeks later. And thus the American cow-bird outcuckoos the cuckoo as an
"attendant on the spring," taking her pick among the nurseries of
featherdom, now victimizing the oriole by a brief sojourn in the
swinging hammock in the elm, here stopping a moment to leave her charge
to the care of an indigo-bird, to-morrow creeping through the grass to
the secreted nest of the Maryland yellow-throat, or Wilson's thrush, or
chewink. And, unaccountable as it would appear, here we find the same
deadly token safely lodged in the dainty cobweb nest of the vireo, a
fragile pendent fabric hung in the fork of a slender branch which in
itself would barely appear sufficiently strong to sustain the weight of
a cow-bird without emptying the nest.

Indeed, the presence of this intruded egg, like that of the European
cuckoo in similar fragile nests, has given rise to the popular belief
that the bird must resort to exceptional means in these instances. Sir
William Jardine, for instance, in an editorial foot-note in one of
Gilbert White's pages, remarks:

"It is a curious fact, and one, I believe, not hitherto noticed by
naturalists, that the cuckoo deposits its egg in the nests of the
titlark, robin, and wagtail by means of its foot. If the bird sat on the
nest while the egg was laid, the weight of its body would crush the nest
and cause it to be forsaken, and thus one of the ends of Providence
would be defeated. I have found the eggs of the cuckoo in the nest of a
white-throat, built in so small a hole in a garden wall that it was
absolutely impossible for the cuckoo to have got into it."

In the absence of substantiation, this, at best, presumptive evidence is
discounted by the well-attested fact that the cuckoo has frequently been
shot in the act of carrying a cuckoo's egg in its mouth, and there is on
record an authentic account of a cuckoo which was observed through a
telescope to lay her egg on a bank, and then take it in her _bill_ and
deposit it in the nest of a wagtail.

There is no evidence to warrant a similar resource in our cow-bird,
though the inference would often appear irresistible, did we not know
that Wilson actually saw the cow-bird in the act of laying in the
diminutive nest of a red-eyed vireo, and also in that of the bluebird.

And what is the almost certain doom of the bird-home thus contaminated
by the cow-bird?


The egg is always laid betimes, and is usually the first to hatch, the
period of incubation being a day or two less than that of the eggs of
the foster-parent. And woe be to the fledglings whom fate has associated
with a young cow-bird! He is the "early bird that gets the worm." His is
the clamoring red mouth which takes the provender of the entire family.
It is all "grist into his mill," and everything he eats seems to go to
appetite--his bedfellows, if not thus starved to death, being at length
crushed by his comparatively ponderous bulk, or ejected from the nest
to die. It is a pretty well established fact that the cuckoo of Europe
deliberately ousts its companion fledglings--a fact first noted by the
famous Dr. Jenner. And Darwin has even asserted that the process of
anatomical evolution has especially equipped the young cuckoo for such
an accomplishment--a practice in which some accommodating philosophic
minds detect the act of "divine beneficence," in that "the young cuckoo
is thus insured sufficient food, and that its foster-brothers thus
perish before they have acquired much feeling."

The following account, written by an eye-witness, bears the stamp of
authenticity, and is furthermore re-enforced by a careful and most
graphic drawing made on the spot, which I here reproduce, and fully
substantiates the previous statement by Dr. Jenner. The scene of the
tragedy was the nest of a pipit, or titlark, on the ground beneath a
heather-bush. When first discovered it contained two pipit's eggs and
the egg of a cuckoo.

"At the next visit, after an interval of forty-eight hours," writes Mrs.
Blackburn, "we found the young cuckoo alone in the nest, and both the
young pipits lying down the bank, about ten inches from the margin of
the nest, but quite lively after being warmed in the hand. They were
replaced in the nest beside the cuckoo, which struggled about till it
got its back under one of them, when it climbed backward directly up the
open side of the nest and pitched the pipit from its back on to the
edge. It then stood quite upright on its legs, which were straddled wide
apart, with the claws firmly fixed half-way down the inside of the nest,
and, stretching its wings apart and backward, it elbowed the pipit
fairly over the margin so far that its struggles took it down the bank
instead of back into the nest. After this the cuckoo stood a minute or
two feeling back with its wings, as if to make sure that the pipit was
fairly overboard, and then subsided into the bottom of the nest.

"I replaced the ejected one and went home. On returning the next day,
both nestlings were found dead and cold out of the nest.... But what
struck me most was this: the cuckoo was perfectly naked, without a
vestige of a feather, or even a hint of future feathers; its eyes were
not yet opened, and its neck seemed too weak to support the weight of
the head. The pipit had well-developed quills on the wings and back, and
had bright eyes, partially open, yet they seemed quite helpless under
the manipulations of the cuckoo, which looked a much less developed
creature. The cuckoo's legs, however, seemed very muscular; and it
appeared to feel about with its wings, which were absolutely
featherless, as with hands, the spurious wing (unusually large in
proportion) looking like a spread-out thumb."

Considering how rarely we see the cow-bird in our walks, her merciless
ubiquity is astonishing. It occasionally happens that almost every nest
I meet in a day's walk will show the ominous speckled egg. In a single
stroll in the country I have removed eight of these foreboding tokens of
misery. Only last summer I discovered the nest of a wood-sparrow in a
hazel-bush, my attention being attracted thither by the parent bird
bearing food in her beak. I found the nest occupied, appropriated,
monopolized, by a cow-bird fledgling--a great, fat, clamoring lubber,
completely filling the cavity of the nest, the one diminutive, puny
remnant of the sparrow's offspring being jammed against the side of the
nest, and a skeleton of a previous victim hanging among the branches
below, with doubtless others lost in the grass somewhere in the near
neighborhood, where they had been removed by the bereaved mother. The
ravenous young parasite, though not half grown, was yet bigger by
nearly double than the foster-mother. What a monster this! The "Black
Douglass" of the bird home; a blot on Nature's page!

As in previous instances, observing that the interloper had a voice
fully capable of making his wants known, I gave the comfortable little
beast ample room to spread himself on the ground, and let the lone
little starveling survivor of the rightful brood have his cot all to

And yet, as I left the spot, I confess to a certain misgiving, as the
pleading chirrup of the ousted fledgling followed me faintly and more
faintly up the hill, recalling, too, the many previous similar acts of
mine--and one in particular, when I had slaughtered in cold blood two of
these irresponsibles found in a single nest. But sober second thought
evoked a more philosophic and conscientious mood, the outcome of which
leading, as always, to a semi-conviction that the complex question of
reconciliation of duty and humanity in the premises was not thus easily
disposed of, considering, as I was bound to do, the equal innocence of
the chicks, both of which had been placed in the nest in obedience to a
natural law, which in the case of the cow-bird was none the less a
divine institution because I failed to understand it. Such is the
inevitable, somewhat penitent conclusion which I always arrive at on the
cow-bird question; and yet my next cow-bird fledgling will doubtless
follow the fate of all its predecessors, the reminiscent qualms of
conscience finding a ready philosophy equal to the emergency; for if,
indeed, this parasite of the bird home _be_ a factor in the divine plan
of Nature's equilibrium, looking towards the survival of the fittest and
the regulation of the sparrow and small-bird population, which we must
admit, how am I to know but that this righteous impulse of the human
animal is not equally a divine, as it is certainly a natural institution
looking to the limitations of the cow-bird? One June morning, a year or
two ago, I heard a loud squeaking, as of a young bird in the grass near
my door, and, on approaching, discovered the spectacle of a cow-bird,
almost full-fledged, being fed by its foster-mother, a chippy not more
than half its size, and which was obliged to stand on tiptoe to cram the
gullet of the parasite.

The victims of the cow-bird are usually, as in this instance, birds of
much smaller size, the fly-catchers, the sparrows, warblers, and vireos,
though she occasionally imposes on larger species, such as the orioles
and the thrushes. The following are among its most frequent dupes,
given somewhat in the order of the bird's apparent choice: song-sparrow,
field-sparrow, yellow warbler, chipping-sparrow, other sparrows,
Maryland yellow-throat, yellow-breasted chat, vireos, worm-eating
warbler, indigo-bird, least-flycatcher, bluebird, Acadian flycatcher,
Canada flycatcher, oven-bird, king-bird, cat-bird, phoebe, Wilson's
thrush, chewink, and wood-thrush.

But one egg is usually deposited in a single nest; the presence of two
eggs probably indicates, as in the case of the European cuckoo, the
visits of two cow-birds rather than a second visit from the same
individual--the presence of two cow-bird chicks of equal size being
rather a proof of this than otherwise, in that kind Nature would seem to
have accommodated the bird with an exceptional physiological resource,
which matures its eggs at intervals of three or more days, as against
the daily oviposition of its dupes, thus giving it plenty of time to
make its search and take its pick among the bird-homes. Whether the
process of evolution has similarly equipped our cow-bird I am not aware;
but the vicious habits of the two birds are so identical that the same
accommodating functional conditions might reasonably be expected. It is,
indeed, an interesting fact well known to ornithologists that our own
American cuckoos, both the yellow-billed and black-billed, although
rudimentary nest-builders, still retain the same exceptional interval in
their egg-laying as do their foreign namesake. The eggs are laid from
four days to a week apart, instead of daily, as with most birds, their
period of perilous nidification on that haphazard apology of a nest
being thus possibly prolonged to six weeks. Thus we find, in
consequence, the anomalous spectacle of the egg and full-grown chick,
and perhaps one or two fledglings of intermediate stages of growth,
scattered about at once, helter-skelter, in the same nest. Only two
years ago I discovered such a nest not a hundred feet from my house,
containing one chick about two days old, another almost full-fledged,
while a fresh-broken egg lay upon the ground beneath. Such a household
condition would seem rather demoralizing to the cares of incubation, and
doubtless the addled or ousted egg is a frequent episode in our cuckoo's

It is an interesting question which the contrast of the American and
European cuckoo thus presents. Is the American species a degenerate or a
progressive nest-builder? Has she advanced in process of evolution from
a parasitical progenitor building no nest, or is the bird gradually
retrograding to the evil ways of her notorious namesake?

The evidence of this generic physiological peculiarity in the intervals
of oviposition, taken in consideration with the fact of the rudimentary
nest, would seem to indicate the retention of a now useless
physiological function, and that the bird is thus a reformer who has
repudiated the example of her ancestors, and has henceforth determined
to look after her own babes.

With the original presumed object of this remarkable prolonged interval
in egg-laying now removed, the period will doubtless be reduced through
gradual evolution to accommodate itself to the newly adopted conditions.
The week's interval, taken in connection with the makeshift nest or
platform of sticks, is now a disastrous element in the life of the bird.
Such of the cuckoos, therefore, as build the more perfect nests, or lay
at shortest intervals, will have a distinct advantage over their less
provident fellows, and the law of heredity will thus insure the
continual survival of the fittest.

The cuckoo is not alone among British birds in its intrusion on other
nests. Many other species are occasionally addicted to the same
practice, though such acts are apparently accidental rather than
deliberate, so far as parasitical intent is concerned. The lapse is
especially noticeable among such birds as build in hollow trees and
boxes, as the woodpeckers and wagtails. Thus the English starling will
occasionally impose upon and dispossess the green woodpecker. In the
process of nature in such cases the stronger of the two birds would
retain the nest, and thus assume the duties of foster-parent. Starting
from this reasonable premise concerning the prehistoric cuckoo, it is
not difficult to see how natural selection, working through ages of
evolution by heredity, might have developed the habitual resignation of
the evicted bird, perhaps to the ultimate entire abandonment of the
function of incubation. Inasmuch as "we have no experience in the
creation of worlds," we can only presume.

Indeed, the similarities and contrasts afforded by a comparison of the
habits of all these birds--European cuckoo, American cuckoo, and
cow-bird--afford an interesting theme for the student of evolution. What
is to be the ultimate outcome of it all? for the murderous cuckoo must
be considered merely as an innocent factor in the great scheme of
Nature's equilibrium, in which the devourer and the parasite would seem
to play the all-important parts, the present example being especially
emphasized because of its conspicuousness and its violence to purely
human sentiment. The parasite would often seem to hold the balance of


Jonathan Swift's epitome of the subject, if not specifically true, is at
least correct in its general application:

                        "A flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite 'em;
And so proceed _ad infinitum_."

Even the tiny egg of a butterfly has its ichneumon parasite, a
microscopic wasp, which lays its own egg within the larger one, which
ultimately hatches a wasp instead of the baby caterpillar.

But who ever heard of anything but good luck falling to the lot of
cow-bird or cuckoo, except as its blighting course is occasionally
arrested by the outraged human? They always find a feathered nest.

In this connection it is interesting to note certain developments in
bird life upon the lines of which evolution might work with
revolutionary effect. Most of our birds are helpless and generally
resigned victims to the cow-bird, but there are indications of
occasional effective protest among them. Thus the little Maryland
yellow-throat, according to various authorities, often ousts the
intruded egg, and its broken remains are also occasionally seen on the
ground beneath the nests of the cat-bird and the oriole. The red-eyed
vireo, on the other hand, though having apparently an easier task than
the latter, in the lesser depth of her pensile nest, commonly abandons
it altogether to the unwelcome speckled ovum--always, I believe, if the
cow-bird has anticipated her own first egg.


But we have a more remarkable example of opposition in the resource of
the little yellow warbler, which I have noted as one of the favorite
dupes of the cow-bird--a deliberate, intelligent, courageous defiance
and frequent victory which are unique in bird history, and which, if
through evolutionary process they became the fashion in featherdom,
would put the cow-bird's mischief greatly at a discount. The identity
of this pretty little warbler is certainly familiar to most observant
country dwellers, even if unknown by name, though its golden-yellow
plumage faintly streaked with dusky brown upon the breast would
naturally suggest its popular title of "summer yellow-bird." It is one
of the commonest of the _mnio-tiltidæ_, or wood-warblers, though more
properly a bird of the copse and shrubbery than of the woods.


This nest is a beautiful piece of bird architecture. In a walk in search
of one only a day or two ago I procured one, which is now before me. It
was built in the fork of an elder-bush, to which it was moored by strips
of fine bark and cobweb, its downy bulk being composed by a fitted mass
of fine grass, willow cotton, fern wood, and other similar ingredients.
It is about three inches in depth, outside measurement. But this depth
greatly varies in different specimens. Our next specimen may afford
quite a contrast, for the yellow warbler occasionally finds it to her
interest to extend the elevation of her dwelling to a remarkable height.
On page 50 is shown one of these nests, snugly moored in the fork of a
scrub apple-tree. Its depth from the rim to the base, viewed from the
outside, is about five inches, at least two inches longer than necessity
would seem to require, and apparently with a great waste of material in
the lower portion, as the hollow with the pretty spotted eggs is of only
the ordinary depth of about two inches, thus hardly reaching half-way to
the base. Let us examine it closely. There certainly is a suspicious
line or division across its upper portion, about an inch below the rim,
and extending more or less distinctly completely around the nest. By a
very little persuasion with our finger-tip the division readily yields,
and we discover the summit of the nest to be a mere rim--a top story, as
it were--with a full-sized nest beneath it as a foundation. Has our
warbler, then, come back to his last year's home and fitted it up anew
for this summer's brood? Such would be a natural supposition, did we not
see that the foundation is as fresh in material as the summit. Perhaps,
then, the bird has already raised her first spring brood, and has simply
extended her May domicile, and provided a new nursery for a second
family. But either supposition is quickly dispelled as we further
examine the nest; for in separating the upper compartment we have just
caught a glimpse of what was, perhaps only yesterday, the hollow of a
perfect nest; and, what is more to the point of my story, the hollow
contains an egg--perhaps two, in which case they will be very
dissimilar, one of delicate white with faint spots of brown on its
larger end, the putting of the warbler, the other much larger, with its
greenish surface entirely speckled with brown, and which, if we have had
any experience in bird-nesting, we immediately recognize as the
mischievous token of the cow-bird. We have discovered a most interesting
curiosity for our natural-history cabinet--the embodiment of a
presumably new form of intelligence in the divine plan looking to the
survival of the fittest. It is not known how many years or centuries it
has taken the little warbler to develop this clever resource to outwit
the cow-bird. It is certain, however, that the little mother has got
tired of being thus imposed upon, and is the first of her kind on record
which has taken these peculiar measures for rising above her besetting



Who can tell what the future may develop in the nests of other birds
whose homes are similarly invaded? I doubt not that this crying cow-bird
and cuckoo evil comes up as a matter of consideration in bird councils.
The two-storied nest may yet become the fashion in featherdom, in which
case the cow-bird and European cuckoo would be forced to build nests of
their own or perish.

But have we fully examined this nest of our yellow warbler? Even now the
lower section seems more bulky than the normal nest should be. Can we
not trace still another faint outline of a transverse division in the
fabric, about an inch below the one already separated? Yes; it parts
easily with a little disentangling of the fibres, and another spotted
egg is seen within. A three-storied nest! A nest full of
stories--certainly. I recently read of a specimen containing four
stories, upon the top of which downy pile the little warbler sat like
Patience on a monument, presumably smiling at the discomfiture of the
outwitted cow-bird parasite, who had thus exhausted her powers of
mischief for the season, and doubtless convinced herself of the folly of
"putting all her eggs in one basket."


When we consider the life of the cow-bird, how suggestive is this
spectacle which we may see every year in September in the chuckling
flocks massing for their migration, occasionally fairly blackening the
trees as with a mildew, each one the visible witness of a double or
quadruple cold-blooded murder, each the grim substitute for a whole
annihilated singing family of song-sparrow, warbler, or thrush! What a
blessing, at least humanly speaking, could the epicurean population _en
route_ in the annual Southern passage of this dark throng only learn
what a surpassing substitute they would prove--on toast--for the
bobolinks which as "reed-birds" are sacrificed by the thousands to the
delectable satisfaction of those "fine-mouthed and daintie wantons who
set such store by their tooth"!

And what the cow-bird is, so is the Continental "cuckoo." Shall we not
discriminate in our employment of the superlative? What of the throstle
and the lark? Shall we still sing--all together:

"O cuckoo! I hear thee and rejoice!
Thrice welcome darling of the spring."



How little do we appreciate our opportunities for natural observation!
Even under the most apparently discouraging and commonplace environment,
what a neglected harvest! A back-yard city grass-plot, forsooth, what an
invitation! Yet there is one interrogation to which the local naturalist
is continually called to respond. If perchance he dwells in Connecticut,
how repeatedly is he asked, "Don't you find your particular locality in
Connecticut a specially rich field for natural observation?" The
botanist of New Jersey or the ornithologist of Esopus-on-Hudson is
expected to give an affirmative reply to similar questions concerning
his chosen hunting-grounds, if, indeed, he does not avail himself of
that happy aphorism with which Gilbert White was wont to instruct his
questioners concerning the natural-history harvest of his beloved
Selborne: "That locality is always richest which is most observed."

The arena of the events which I am about to describe and picture
comprised a spot of almost bare earth less than one yard square, which
lay at the base of the stone step to my studio door in the country.

The path leading to the studio lay through a tangle of tall grass and
weeds, with occasional worn patches showing the bare earth. As it
approached the door-step the surface of the ground was quite clean and
baked in the sun, and barely supported a few scattered, struggling
survivors of the sheep's-sorrel, silvery cinquefoil, ragweed, various
grasses, and tiny rushes which rimmed the border. Sitting upon this
threshold stone one morning in early summer, I permitted my eyes to scan
the tiny patch of bare ground at my feet, and what I observed during a
very few moments suggested the present article as a good piece of
missionary work in the cause of nature, and a suggestive tribute to the
glory of the commonplace. The episodes which I shall describe represent
the chronicle of a single day--in truth, of but a few hours in that
day--though the same events were seen in frequent repetition at
intervals for months. Perhaps the most conspicuous objects--if, indeed,
a hole can be considered an "object"--were those two ever-present
features of every trodden path and bare spot of earth anywhere,
ant-tunnels and that other circular burrow, about the size of a quill,
usually associated, and which is also commonly attributed to the ants.

As I sat upon my stone step that morning, I counted seven of these
smooth clean holes within close range, three of them hardly more than an
inch apart. They penetrated beyond the vision, and were evidently very
deep. Knowing from past experience the wary tenant which dwelt within
them, I adjusted myself to a comfortable attitude, and remaining
perfectly motionless, awaited developments. After a lapse of possibly
five minutes, I suddenly discovered that I could count but five holes;
and while recounting to make sure, moving my eyes as slowly as possible,
my numeration was cut short at four. In another moment two more had
disappeared, and the remaining two immediately followed in obscurity,
until no vestige of a hole of any kind was to be seen. The ground
appeared absolutely level and unbroken. Were it not for the circular
depression, or "door-yard," around each hole, their location would,
indeed, have been almost impossible. A slight motion of one of my feet
at this juncture, however, and, presto! what a change! Seven black
holes in an instant! And now another wait of five minutes, followed by
the same hocus-pocus, and the black spots, one by one, vanishing from
sight even as I looked upon them. But let us keep perfectly quiet this
time and examine the suspected spots more carefully. Locating the
position of the hole by the little circular "door-yard," we can now
certainly distinguish a new feature, not before noted, at the centre of
each--two sharp curved prongs, rising an eighth of an inch or more above
the surface and widely extended.


What a danger signal to the creeping insect innocent in its
neighborhood! How many a tragedy in the bug world has been enacted in
these inviting, clean-swept little door-yards--these pitfalls, so
artfully closed in order that their design may be the more surely
effective. As I have said, these tunnels are commonly called
"ant-holes," perhaps with some show of reason. It is true that ants
occasionally are seen to go into them, but not by their own choice,
while the most careful observer will wait in vain to see the ant come
out again. Here at the edge of the grass we see one approaching now--a
big red ant from yonder ant-hill. He creeps this way and that, and anon
is seen trespassing in the precincts of the unhealthy court. He crosses
its centre, when, click! and in an instant his place knows him no more,
and a black hole marks the spot where he met his fate, which is now
being duly celebrated in a supplementary fête several inches

A poor unfortunate green caterpillar, which, with a very little forcible
persuasion in the interest of science, was induced to take a short-cut
across this nice clean space of earth to the clover beyond, was the next
martyr to my passion for original observation. He might have pursued his
even course across the arena unharmed, but he too persisted in
trespassing, and suddenly was seen to transform from a slow creeping
laggard into the liveliest acrobat, as he stood on his head and
apparently dived precipitately into the hole which suddenly appeared
beneath him. A certain busy fly made itself promiscuous in the
neighborhood, more than once to the demoralization of my necessary
composure, as it crept persistently upon my nose. What was my delight
when I observed the fickle insect in curious contemplation of a pair of
calipers at the centre of one of the little courts! But, whether from
past experience or innate philosophy in the insect I know not, the
pronged hooks, though coming together with a click once or twice at the
near proximity of the tempter, failed in their opportunity, and the
trap was soon seen carefully set again, flush with the ground at the
mouth of the burrow.

The contrast of these clean-swept door-yards with the mound of débris of
the ants suggested an investigation of the comparative methods of
burrowing and the disposal of the excavated material. Here is a hole
evidently some inches in depth; what, then, has become of the earth
removed? Suiting action to the thought, I swept into the openings of two
or three of the holes quite a quantity of loose earth scraped from the
close vicinity, and thus completely obliterated the opening of burrow,
door-yard and all.

I awaited in vain any sign of returning activity at the surface, and, my
patience being somewhat taxed, I entered my studio, where I remained for
a quarter of an hour, perhaps. Upon stealing cautiously to the doorway,
I observed all the obliterated holes had reappeared, and upon taking
once more my original position I was soon rewarded with a demonstration
of the method of excavation. After a moment or two a pellet of earth
seemed suddenly to rise from within the cavity, and when arrived at the
level of the ground was suddenly shot forth a distance of five or six
inches, as though thrown from a tiny round flat shovel, which suddenly
flashed from the opening, and as quickly retired to its depths, though
not without a momentary display of two curved prongs and a formidable
show of spider-like legs.

After a short lapse of time the act was repeated, this time a tiny stone
being brought to the surface, and, after a brief pause at the doorway,
was jerked to a distance as from a catapult. I now concluded to try the
power of this propelling force, and taking a small stone, about
three-quarters of an inch in length and a quarter-inch in thickness,
laid it over the mouth of the tunnel. A few minutes passed, when I
noticed a slight motion in the stone, immediately followed by a forcible
ejectment, which threw it nearly an inch, the propelling instrument
retiring so quickly into the burrow beneath as to scarce afford a
glimpse. The stone appeared almost to have jumped voluntarily.

For an hour or more the bombardment of pellets and small stones
continued from the mouth of the pit, until a small pile of the spent
ammunition had accumulated at several inches distance, and at length the
hole entirely disappeared, the earth in its vicinity presenting an
apparently level surface--an armed peace, in truth, with the two touchy
curved calipers on duty, as already described.


Following the hint of past experience, I concluded to explore the depths
of one of these tunnels, especially as I desired a specimen of the wily
tenant for portraiture; and it is, indeed, an odd fish that one may land
on the surface if he be sufficiently alert in his angling. No hook or
bait is required in this sort of fishing. Taking a long culm of
timothy-grass, I inserted the tip into the burrow. It progressed without
impediment two, three, six, eight inches, and when at the depth of about
ten inches appeared to touch bottom, which in this kind of angling is
the signal for a "strike" and the landing of the game. Instantly
withdrawing the grass culm, I found my fish at its tip, from which he
quickly dropped to the ground. His singular identity is shown in my
illustration--an uncouth nondescript among grubs. His body is whitish
and soft, with a huge hump on the lower back armed with two small hooks.
His enormous head is now seen to be apparently circular in outline, and
we readily see how perfectly it would fill the opening of the burrow
like an operculum. But a close examination shows us that this operculum
is really composed of two halves, on two separate segments of the body,
the segment at the extremity only being the true head, armed with its
powerful, sharp, curved jaws. As he lies there sprawling on his six
spider-like legs, we may now easily test the skill of his trap, and gain
some idea of his voracious personality.

If with the point of our knife-blade, holding it in the direction of the
insect's body, we now touch its tail, what a display of vehement
acrobatics! Instantly the agile body is bent backward in a loop, while
the teeth fasten to the knife-blade with an audible click. If our
finger-tip is substituted for the steel, the force of the stroke and the
prick and grip of the jaws are unpleasantly perceptible.

In order to fully comprehend the make-up of this curious cave-dweller we
must turn biologists for the moment. He must be considered from the
evolutionary stand-point, or at least from the stand-point of
comparative anatomy.

The first discovery that we make is that as we now see him he is
crawling on his back--a fact which seems to have escaped his biographers
heretofore. It is, in truth, the underside of his head which is
uppermost at the mouth of the burrow, and his six zigzag legs are
distorted backward to enable him to keep this contrary position. And
what a hideous monster is this, whose flat, metallic, dirt-begrimed face
stares skyward from this circular burrow! Well might it strike terror to
the heart of the helpless insect which should suddenly find himself
confronted by the motionless stare of these four cruel, glistening black
eyes! But he is now a "fish out of water," and is about as helpless,
nature never having intended him to be seen outside of his burrow--at
least, in this present form. There he dwells, setting his circular trap
at the mouth of his pitfall, and waiting for the voluntary sacrifice of
his insect neighbors to fill his maw.

But this uncouth shape, which so courts obscurity, is not always thus so
reasonably retiring. A few glass tumblers inverted above as many of
these larger holes during the summer will intercept the winged sprite
into which he is shortly to be transfigured--a brilliant metallic-hued
beetle, perhaps flashing with bronzy gold or glittering like an
emerald--the beautiful _cicindela_, or tiger-beetle, known to the
entomologist as the most agile winged among the coleopterous tribe;
known to the populace, perhaps, simply as a bright glittering fly that
revels in the hot summer sands of the sea-shore or dusty country road,
making its short spans of glittering flight from the very feet of the


If we capture one of them with our butterfly-net he will be found to
bear a general resemblance to the portrait here indicated--a
slender-legged, proportionably large-headed beetle, with formidable jaws
capable of wide extension, and re-enforced by an insatiate carnivorous
hunger inherited from his former estate.

It will thus be seen that all the holes which we observe in the ground
are not ant-holes; nor, indeed, are they monopolized by the
tiger-beetles. There were other tunnels which I saw dug in my square
yard of earth on that morning, which, while not of quite such depth,
represented equally deep-laid plans.

While observing my cicindelas on that morning, my attention was at
length diverted by an old friend of mine, who gave promise of much
entertainment--a tiny black wasp, whose restless, rapid, zigzag,
apparently aimless wanderings over the ground brought him into continual
danger of contact with the snatching jaws of the cave-dwelling tiger,
from which, however, he somehow escaped, though I distinctly heard the
occasional clicking of the eager jaws.


With short abrupt flights or agile runs of a few inches, accompanied by
nervous periodic flirts of the folded wings, the insect had covered
pretty much of the ground in a short time, until she at length appeared
to have discovered the object of her search, as she withdrew from
beneath a sorrel leaf a big fat spider several times as large as
herself. Its legs were folded beneath its body, and it was perfectly
plain that this was not the first time that it had been in the toils of
the wasp, which had evidently stung it into submission and stupor some
minutes previous. Tugging bravely at her charge, the little black Amazon
dragged her burden nimbly over the ground, pulling it after her in
entire disregard of obstacles, now this way, now that, with the same
exasperating disregard of eternity which she at first displayed, and at
length deposited it on the top of a little flat weed, where it was
left, while for five minutes more she pursued the same zigzag,
apparently senseless meandering over the entire field of earth. Now she
seems again to stumble upon her neglected prey, and taking it once more
in her formidable jaws, she lugs it again for a long helter-skelter
jaunt, this time depositing it in the neighborhood of a hole, which at
first sight might have been considered an "ant-hole," from the débris
which lay scattered about in its vicinity. After considerable needless
delay, she is seen for once motionless, so far as her legs are
concerned, but with her head over the tunnel, while, with flipping wings
and rapidly waving antennæ, she investigates its depths. Satisfied that
all is well, she again reaches her drowsy spider, by a tangled circuit
of about a quarter of a mile--wasp measurement--and taking the victim in
her teeth for the third time, finally succeeds in reaching the burrow,
into which, without a particle of ceremony, she instantly retreats,
dragging her helpless burden after her. Both wasp and spider are soon
out of sight, and so remain perhaps for a space of two minutes, when the
tips of the nervous antennæ appear at the doorway and the wasp emerges.
What now follows is most curious and interesting. With an energy and
directness in striking contrast to her previous proceedings, she
proceeds to fill the cavity, biting the earth with her mandibles, and
with her spiked legs kicking and shoving in the loose soil thus
collected, ever and anon backing up to the hole and inserting the tip of
her tail to force down the mass. As the filling is nearly completed,
with the fore feet and jaws the surrounding earth is scraped for
material, which she immediately proceeds to pack by a rhythmic tamping
motion of the tail, until, at the end of five minutes, perhaps, the
ground-level is finally reached, the surface smoothed, and no sign
remains to mark the grave of the stupefied spider victim.


Not an hour after this episode I was treated to another of even more
interest. As I took my seat upon the door-step I started into flight a
big black wasp, upon whose doings I had evidently been intruding.

This wasp was much larger than the one just described, being about an
inch in length. Its wings were pale brown and its body jet-black, with
sundry small yellowish spots about the thorax. But its most conspicuous
feature, and one which would ever fix the identity of the creature, was
the long, slender, wire-like waist, occupying a quarter of the length of
its entire body.

In a moment or two the wasp had returned, and stood at the mouth of the
shallow pit. Eying me intently for a space, and satisfied that there was
nothing to fear, she dived into the hollow and began to excavate,
turning round and round as she gnawed the earth at the bottom, and
shovelling it out with her spiked legs. Now and then she would back out
of the burrow to reconnoitre, and her alert attitude at such times was
very amusing--her antennæ drooping towards the burrow and in incessant
motion; the abdomen on its long wire stem bobbing up and down at regular
intervals, accompanied by a flipping motion of the wings; the short fore
legs, one or both, upraised with comical effect.


As the tunnel was deepened a new method of excavation was employed. It
has now reached a depth of an inch, only the extremity of the insect's
body appearing, and the two hindermost legs clinging to surrounding
earth for purchase. The deep digging is now accompanied by a continual
buzzing noise, resembling that produced by a bluebottle fly held captive
between one's fingers. At intervals of about ten or fifteen seconds the
wasp would quickly back out of the burrow, bringing a load of sand,
which it held between the back of the jaws and its thorax, sustained at
the sides by the two upraised fore legs. After a moment's pause with
this burden, the insect would make a sudden short darting flight of a
foot or more in a quick circuit, hurling the sand a yard or more distant
from the burrow. At the end of about fifteen minutes the burrow was sunk
to the depth of an inch and a half, the wasp entirely disappearing, and
indicated only by the continuous buzzing.

At this time, the luncheon hour having arrived, I was obliged to pause
in my investigations, and in order to be able to locate the burrow in
the event of its obliteration by the wasp before my return, I scratched
a circle in the hard dirt, the hole being at its exact centre.


Upon my return, an hour later, I was met with a surprise. The ways of
the digger-wasps of various species were familiar, but I now noted a
feature of wasp-engineering which indeed seems to await its chronicler,
as I find no mention of it by the wasp-historians.

At the exact centre of my circle, in place of a cavity, I now found a
tiny pile of stones, supported upon a small stick and fragment of leaf,
which had been first drawn across the opening.

This was evidently a mere temporary protection of the burrow, I
reasoned, while the digger had departed in search of prey, and my
surmise was soon proved to be correct, as I observed the wasp, with
bobbing abdomen and flipping wings, zigzagging about the vicinity.
Presently disappearing beneath a small plantain leaf, she quickly
emerged, drawing behind her not a spider, as in the case of her smaller
predecessor, but a big green caterpillar, nearly double her own length,
and as large around as a slate-pencil--a peculiar, pungent,
waspy-scented species of "puss-moth" larva, which is found on the elm,
and with which I chanced to be familiar.

The victim being now ready for burial, the wasp sexton proceeded to open
the tomb. Seizing one stone after another in her widely opened jaws,
they were scattered right and left, when, with apparent ease and prompt
despatch, the listless larva was drawn towards the burrow, into whose
depths he soon disappeared. Then, after a short and suggestive
interval, followed the emergence of the wasp, and the prompt filling in
of the requisite earth to level the cavity, much as already described,
after which the wasp took wing and disappeared, presumably bent upon a
repetition of the performance elsewhere. But she had not simply buried
this caterpillar victim, nor was the caterpillar dead, for these wasp
cemeteries are, in truth, living tombs, whose apparently dead inmates
are simply sleeping, narcotized by the venom of the wasp sting, and thus
designed to afford fresh living food for the young wasp grub, into whose
voracious care they are committed.

By inserting my knife-blade deep into the soil in the neighborhood of
this burrow I readily unearthed the buried caterpillar, and disclosed
the ominous egg of the wasp firmly imbedded in its body. The hungry
larva which hatches from this egg soon reaches maturity upon the
all-sufficient food thus stored, and before many weeks is transformed to
the full-fledged, long-waisted wasp like its parent.

The disproportion in the sizes of the predatory wasps and their insect
prey is indeed astonishing. The great sand-hornet selects for its most
frequent victim the buzzing cicada, or harvest-fly, an insect much
larger than itself, and which it carries off to its long sand tunnels
by short flights from successive elevated points, such as the limbs of
trees and summits of rocks, to which it repeatedly lugs its clumsy prey.
In the present instance the contrast between the slight body of the wasp
and the plump dimensions of the caterpillar was even more marked, and I
determined to ascertain the proportionate weight of victor and victim.
Constructing a tiny pair of balances with a dead grass stalk, thread,
and two disks of paper, I weighed the wasp, using small square pieces of
paper of equal size as my weights. I found that the wasp exactly
balanced four of the pieces. Removing the wasp and substituting the
caterpillar, I proceeded to add piece after piece of the paper squares
until I had reached a total of twenty-eight, or seven times the number
required by the wasp, before the scales balanced. Similar experiments
with the tiny black wasp and its spider victim showed precisely the same
proportion, and the ratio was once increased eight to one in the
instance of another species of slender orange-and-black-bodied digger
which I subsequently found tugging its caterpillar prey upon my
door-step patch.


The peculiar feature of the piling of stones above the completed burrow
was not a mere individual accomplishment of my wire-waisted wasp. On
several occasions since I have observed the same manoeuvre, which is
doubtless the regular procedure with this and other species. The smaller
orange-spotted wasp just alluded to indicated to me the location of her
den by pausing suggestively in front of a tiny cairn. In this instance a
small flat stone, considerably larger than the tunnel, had been laid
over the opening, and the others piled upon it. On two occasions I have
surprised this same species of wasp industriously engaged in the
selection of a suitable flat foundation-stone with which to cover her
burrow: her widely extended slender jaws enable her to grasp a pebble
nearly a third of an inch in width.

In my opening vignette I have indicated two other door-step neighbors
which bore my industrious wasps company in their arena of one square
yard. To the left, surrounding a grass stem, will be seen an object
which is unpleasantly familiar to most country folks--that salivary mass
variously known by the libellous names of "snake-spit," "cow-spit,"
"cuckoo-spit," "toad-spit," and "sheep-spit," or the inelegant though
expressive substitute of "gobs." The foam-bath pavilion of the
"spume-bearer," with his glittering, bubbly domicile of suds, is
certainly familiar to most of my readers; but comparatively few, I find,
have cared to investigate the mysterious mass, or to learn the identity
of the proprietor of the foamy lavatory.

The common name of "cow-spit," with the implied indignity to our "rural
divinity," becomes singularly ludicrous when we observe not only the
frequent generous display of the suds samples, thousands upon thousands
in a single small meadow, but the further fact that each mass is so
exactly landed upon the central stalk of grass or other plant--"spitted"
through its centre, as it were. The true expectorator is within, laved
in his own home-made suds. If we care to blow or scrape off the bubbles,
we readily disclose him--- a green speckled bug, about a third of an
inch in length in larger specimens, with prominent black eyes, and
blunt, wedge-shaped body.


In the appended sketch I have indicated two views of him, back and
profile, creeping upon a grass stalk. A glance at the insect tells the
entomologist just where to place him, as he is plainly allied to the
cicadæ, and thus belongs to the order _Hemiptera_, or family of "bugs,"
which implies, among other things, that the insect possesses a "beak for
sucking." To what extent this tiny soaker is possessed of such a beak
may be inferred from the amount of moisture with which he manages to
inundate himself, which has all been withdrawn from the stem upon which
he has fastened himself, and finally exuded from the pores of his body.

This is the spume-bearer, _Aprophora_, in his first or larval estate,
which continues for a few weeks only. Erelong he will graduate from
these ignominious surroundings, and we shall see quite another sort of
creature--an agile, pretty atom, one of which I have indicated in
flight, its upper wings being often brilliantly colored, and re-enforced
by a pair of hind feet which emulate those of the flea in their powers
of jumping, which agility has won the insect the popular name of
"froghopper." They abound in the late summer meadow, and hundreds of
them may be captured by a few sweeps of a butterfly-net among the grass.

My other remaining claimant for notice, shown upon the plant at the
right margin of page 60, is a modest and inconspicuous individual, and
might readily escape attention, save that a more intent observer might
possibly wonder at the queer little tubular pinkish blossoms upon the
plant--a rush--while a keen-eyed botanist would instantly challenge the
right of a _juncus_ to such a tubular blossom at all, especially at
seed-time, and thus investigate. But the entomologist will probably
classify this peculiar blossom at a glance, from its family resemblance
to other specimens with which he is familiar. He will know, for
instance, that this is a sort of peripatetic or nomadic blossom that
will travel about on the plant, with which its open end will always
remain in close contact. Many of the individuals are seen apparently
growing upright out of the rounded seed-pod of the rush; and when the
pink or speckled tube finally concludes to take up its travels, a clean
round hole marks the spot of its tarrying, and an empty globular shell
tells the secret of this brief attachment.

For this petal-like tube, so commonly to be seen upon the little rush of
our paths, is, in truth, a tiny silken case enclosing the body of a
small larva--a diminutive psychid, or sack-bearer, which I have not
chanced to see described. Only the head and six prolegs of the occupant
ever emerge from its case. Dragging its house along upon the plant, it
attaches the open mouth of the sack close to the green seed-pod, after
which the shell is gnawed through at the point of contact, and the young
seeds devoured at pleasure, when a new journey is made to the next
capsule, and thus until the maturity of the larva. At this time the
case is about half an inch in length. It is now firmly attached to the
plant. The opening is completely spun over with silk, and the case
becomes a cocoon for the winter; and a few of these September cocoons
are well worth gathering, if only to see the queer little moth which
will emerge from them the following spring.




In a recent half-hour's relaxation, while comfortably stretched in my
hammock upon the porch of my country studio, I was surprised with a
singular entertainment. I soon found myself most studiously engaged.
Entwining the corner post of the piazza, and extending for some distance
along the eaves, a luxuriant vine of bittersweet had made itself at
home. The currant-like clusters of green fruits, hanging in pendent
clusters here and there, were now nearly mature, and were taking on
their golden hue, and the long, free shoots of tender growth were
reaching out for conquest on right and left in all manner of graceful
curves and spirals. Through an opening in this shadowy foliage came a
glimpse of the hill-side slope across the valley upon whose verge my
studio is perched, and as my eye penetrated this pretty vista it was
intercepted by what appeared to be a shadowed portion of a rose branch
crossing the opening and mingling with the bittersweet stems. In my idle
mood I had for some moments so accepted it without a thought, and would
doubtless have left the spot with this impression had I not chanced to
notice that this stem, so beset with conspicuous thorns, was not
consistent in its foliage. My suspicions aroused, I suddenly realized
that my thorny stem was in truth merely a bittersweet branch in
masquerade, and that I had been "fooled" by a sly midget who had been an
old-time acquaintance of my boyhood, but whom I had long neglected.

Every one knows the climbing-bittersweet, or "waxwork" (_Celastrus
scandens_), with its bright berries hanging in clusters in the autumn
copses, each yellow berry having now burst open in thin sections and
exposed the scarlet-coated seeds. Almost any good-sized vine, if
examined early in the months of July and August, will show us the
thorns, and more sparingly until October, and queer thorns they are,
indeed! Here an isolated one, there two or three together, or perhaps a
dozen in a quaint family circle around the stem, their curved points
all, no matter how far separated, inclined in the same direction, as
thorns properly should be. Let us gently invade the little colony with
our finger-tip. Touch one never so gently and it instantly disappears.
Was ever thorn so deciduous? And now observe its fellows. Here one
slowly glides up the stem; another in the opposite direction; another
sideways. In a moment more the whole family have entirely disappeared,
as if by hocus-pocus, until we discover, by a change of our point of
view, that they have all congregated on the opposite side of the stem,
with an agility which would have done credit to the proverbial gray

This animated thorn is about a quarter of an inch long, and dark brown
in color, with two yellowish spots on the edge of its back.

Nor is this all the witchery of this bittersweet thorn. It is well worth
our further careful study. Seen collectively, the thorny rose branch is
instantly suggested, but occasionally, when we observe a single isolated
specimen, especially in the month of July, he will certainly masquerade
in an entirely new guise. Look! quick. Turn your magnifier hither on
this green shoot. No thorn this. Is it not rather a whole covey of
quail, mother and young creeping along the vine? Who would ever have
thought of a thorn! Turning now to our original group, how perfectly do
they take the hint, for are they not a family of tiny birds with long
necks and swelling breasts and drooping tails, verily like an autumn
brood of "Bob Whites"?


But the little harlequin is as wary a bird as he was a thorn! No sooner
do we touch his head with our finger than with an audible "click" he is
off on a most agile jump, which he extends with buzzing wings, and is
even now perhaps aping a thorn among a little group of his fellows
somewhere among the larger bittersweet branches.

It is only as we capture one of the little protean acrobats between our
finger-tips and examine him with a magnifier that we can really make
"head or tail" of his queer anatomy. Even thus enlarged it is difficult
to get entirely rid of the idea of a bird. I have shown a group of the
insects in various attitudes, the position of the eyes alone serving as
a starting-point for our comprehension of his singular make-up. The tall
neck-like or thorn-like prominence is then seen to be a mere elongated
helmet, which is prolonged into a steep angle behind, so as to cover the
back of the creature like a peaked roof, a feature from which the
scientific name of this particular group of insects is derived,
_Membracis_, meaning sharp-edged, the sides of the slope being covered
by the close-fitting wings, which, though apparently compact with the
body of the insect, are nevertheless always available for instant and
most agile flight. We now discover two pairs of stout legs just beneath
the edge of the wings, a third more slender pair being concealed behind,
ready for immediate use in association with these buzzing wings when the
whim of the midget prompts it to leap.


This insect is the tree-hopper, and is but one of many equally curious
and mimetic species to be found among the smaller branches of various
trees and shrubs.

Our largest membracis is to be seen--with difficulty--on the terminal
twigs of the locust-tree, its outlines so exactly imitating the thorny
growths of the branch as to escape detection even by the closest
scrutiny. Another remarkable species is a protégé of the oak, so closely
simulating the warty bark of the smaller branches upon which it is
found that our eyes may rest upon it repeatedly without recognizing it.
The life history of these singular insects is quite similar, and is soon
told. The membracis belongs to the tribe of "Bugs," Hemiptera, which
implies that it possesses a beak instead of jaws, by which it sucks the
sap of plants, precisely like the aphis, or plant-louse. This tiny beak
we can readily distinguish bent beneath the body of our bittersweet
hopper. Inserting it deep into the succulent bark, the parasite remains
for hours as motionless as the thorn it imitates, the lower outline of
its body hugging close against the bark. The curious suggestion of the
thorn is produced not only by the outline, but by the curious fact that
the hopper never sits _across_ the twig, but always in the direction of
its length; and, what is more, the projecting point of the thorax is
always directed towards the end of the branch, or direction of growth.
It is no easy thing even for the casual botanist to determine this nice
point in a given segment of a bittersweet branch placed in his hand, the
position of the chance leaf or leaf scar being his only guide. But the
_Membracis binotata_ rarely--indeed never, so far as I have
examined--makes a mistake. Thus the wandering spray of bittersweet,
recurve and twist upon itself as it may, will always disclose the
little hopper or colony of them headed for its tip.


But I have omitted to mention one singular feature which is the usual
accompaniment of my group of hoppers, and is, indeed, the most
conspicuous sign of their presence on any given shrub. In the cut below
I have indicated a short section of a bittersweet branch as it commonly
appears, the twig apparently beset with tiny tufts of cotton,
occasionally so numerous as to present a continuous white mass, usually
on the lower side of the branch, where its direction is horizontal. They
are thus easily seen from below, and a closer examination will always
reveal one or more of the black animated thorns in their immediate
vicinity, suggesting the responsible source. These tufts are pure
white, a little over an eighth of an inch in length, and semicircular in
vertical outline. The natural presumption is the idea of maternity, the
mother hopper guarding her bundles of white eggs, or her infant hoppers,
perhaps, snugly tucked up in their downy swaddling-clothes. But a closer
examination completely dispels this illusion. Instead of the supposed
fluffy cotton, we now discover the white substance to be of firm though
somewhat sticky consistency, its surface, moreover, beautifully ridged
from base to summit in parallel rounded flutings, which meet and
interfold like a braid along the summit. If with a sharp knife we now
cut downward through and across the mass, we find our tuft to be a mere
frothy shell containing two hollow compartments, with a thin central
partition extending through the whole length of the cavity. But there is
no sign of an egg or other life to be disclosed anywhere, either in its
substance or its concealment. What, then, is the office of this tiny
fragile house of congealed foam, with its snowy aerated structure, its
double arched chambers, its corrugated walls and ceilings, and missing
tenant or host? Such was the riddle which it propounded to me, and
guided by some previous knowledge of the habits of allied insects, I
was soon enabled to witness a solution of at least a part of its

This little thorn-like tree-hopper and all of its queer harlequin tribe
are near relatives to the buzzing cicada, or harvest-fly, whose whizzing
din in the dog-days has won it the popular misnomer of "locust."

To the average listener this insect is a mere "wandering voice and a
mystery," and its singular form, wide prominent eyes, glassy wings, and
double drums are always a surprise to the tyro who first identifies the
grotesque as his well-known "locust." Its musical accomplishments during
this brief period of its life are known to all, but few have cared to
interest themselves in the early history of the singer, ere it perfected
its musical resources "for the delight of man." But the naturalist, and
especially the arboriculturist and fruit-grower, know to their cost of
other tricks of the cicada, or rather of Mrs. Cicada, immortalized by
Zenarchus the Rhodian as his "noiseless wife"--

"Happy the cicadas' lives,
Since they all have noiseless wives."

I have alluded to the egg of the cicada "inserted in the bark of a
twig." This act is accomplished by a knife-like ovipositor, which
literally gouges a deep gash into the tender wood of various twigs, a
number of the eggs being implanted in its depths, often causing the
death of the branch. Shortly after hatching, the young cicadas leap for
the ground, and burrowing beneath the surface, remain for a period
varying from three to seventeen years, according to the species, to
complete their transformations. Now the habits of my little tree-hopper
are somewhat modelled after its big cousin. Knowing that the little
insect was provided with a keen-edged ovipositor, and was in the habit
of thrusting its tiny eggs beneath the bark, and realizing, too, that
these strange tufts were of course in some way connected with the
maternal instinct, I was led to investigate. Selecting a branch where
the tufts and hoppers seemed most prolific, I brought my
magnifying-glass to bear upon them at a respectful distance. Was ever
actual thorn more motionless or non-committal than most of these?--their
under surfaces hugging close against the bark, their telltale feet
closely withdrawn, and all their pointed helmets inclined in the same
parallel direction. One after another of the sly little family was
examined without a revelation. Not until I had reached the upper limit
of the group did I get any encouragement. Here I discovered one of the
midgets in a new position, its pointed helmet inclined farther downward,
and its other extremity correspondingly raised, so that I could see
beneath its body. I now observed what at first appeared to be the hind
leg of the farther side of the body protruding beneath, but in another
moment noted my error, and saw that its sharp point had penetrated the
bark, into which it soon sank quite deeply, and I realized that the
ovipositor was now conducting its tiny eggs into the cambium layer of
the bark. Without waiting for this particular individual to finish her
labors, which might be extended for hours for aught I knew, I turned my
glass upon its nearest neighbor, and a most accommodating specimen she
proved, disclosing all the mysteries of the little froth house, its
strange material, and unique method of construction. What I saw reminded
me irresistibly of the technique of the cake-frosting art of the fancy
baker, with its flowing tube of white condiment, and its following
tracery of questionable design in high relief. This accommodating
specimen had apparently just completed her egg-laying, or had perhaps
just filled one nest; and while her attitude was precisely similar to
that of her neighbor, I noticed a tiny ball of glistening froth at the
tip of the ovipositor. This was attached to the bark by a touch, and
from this starting-point the construction of the glistening house was
continued, the apex of the ovipositor pouring out its endless puffy roll
of aerated cement, which seemed to set as soon as laid.

And what a convenient implement this for a froth-house builder who is
compelled to work behind her back--mortar-feeder, trowel, darby,
compass, and level all in one! Beginning with the first touch of the
cement, the flowing point describes a very small half-circle to the
right, again meeting the bark. It is now carried inward and upward,
describing a very close circle with scarcely any space intervening, a
similar circle being repeated on the left side. A new tier is then begun
in the same manner, only this time a little larger in the sweep, and
leaving a perceptible opening at the right as the central wall is
carried upward with slightly decreased material. Returning down the
central wall again, the white coil is carried to the left along the
bark, and up again on the other outer edge, until it once more meets its
fellow at the ridge-pole, where the two coils appear to interlock as in
a braid. And thus the little builder continues, enlarging the cavity
with each circuit, until the full height is reached, and then decreasing
proportionately until the glistening braided dome is tapered off again
against the bark.


Now what is the object of this frothy pavilion? The life history of the
insect, in contrast to that of the cicada, will perhaps throw a little
light on that question. In the cicada, as I have shown, the eggs are
inserted in the bark, but the young, hatching about six weeks later,
immediately forsake the parent tree and enter the ground. But the young
of our bittersweet membracis are not thus fickle, the entire life of the
insect being spent on the plant. Moreover, its eggs are laid in late
summer, and do not hatch until the following spring. What, then, is
this canopy of the tree-hopper but the provision of a thoughtful mother,
a pavilion about her offspring as a shelter through the winter storms?
In early July the tiny hoppers emerge from their egg-cases, and
presumably creep out from their luminous domicile, and later on in the
season these broods of varying numbers and all sizes are to be seen
among the young stems of the plant, their beaks inserted, their pointed
heads invariably in the same direction--towards the top of the branch.
Even though in flight one of the midgets is seen to alight in violence
to the rule, he instantly recognizes his mistake, and quickly glides
round to the orthodox position.

This curious insect is chiefly confined to the bittersweet, though he is
occasionally found in the company of a much bigger cousin of his on the
branches of the locust, where these same telltale corrugated frothy
pavilions are often seen to clothe the young twigs in their white tufts,
the similar product of the larger species, which thus also presumably
spends its entire life upon the locust-tree.



It is now some thirty years since the scientific world was startled by
the publication of that wonderful volume, "The Fertilization of
Orchids," by Charles Darwin; for though slightly anticipated by his
previous work, "Origin of Species," this volume was the first important
presentation of the theory of cross-fertilization in the vegetable
kingdom, and is the one that is primarily associated with the subject in
the popular mind. The interpretation and elucidation of the mysteries
which had so long lain hidden within those strange flowers, whose
eccentric forms had always excited the curiosity and awe alike of the
botanical fraternity and the casual observer, came almost like a divine
revelation to every thoughtful reader of his remarkable pages. Blossoms
heretofore considered as mere caprices and grotesques were now shown to
be eloquent of deep divine intention, their curious shapes a
demonstrated expression of welcome and hospitality to certain insect
counterparts upon whom their very perpetuation depended.

Thus primarily identified with the orchid, it was perhaps natural and
excusable that popular prejudice should have associated the subject of
cross-fertilization with the orchid alone; for it is even to-day
apparently a surprise to the average mind that almost any casual wild
flower will reveal a floral mechanism often quite as astonishing as
those of the orchids described in Darwin's volume. Let us glance, for
instance, at the row of stamens below (Fig. 1), selected at random from
different flowers, with one exception wild flowers. Almost everybody
knows that the function of the stamen is the secretion of pollen. This
function, however, has really no reference whatever to the external form
of the stamen. Why, then, this remarkable divergence? Here is an anther
with its two cells connected lengthwise, and opening at the sides,
perhaps balanced at the centre upon the top of its stalk or filament, or
laterally attached and continuous with it; here is another opening by
pores at the tip, and armed with two or four long horns; here is one
with a feathery tail. In another the twin cells are globular and closely
associated, while in its neighbor they are widely divergent. Another is
club-shaped, and opens on either side by one or more upraised lids; and
here is an example with its two very unequal cells separated by a long
curved arm or connective, which is hinged at the tip of its filament;
and the procession might be continued across two pages with equal

[Illustration: Fig. 1]

As far back as botanical history avails us these forms have been the
same, each true to its particular species of flower, each with an
underlying purpose which has a distinct and often simple reference to
its form; and yet, incredible as it now seems to us, the botanist of the
past has been content with the simple technical description of the
feature, without the slightest conception of its meaning, dismissing it,
perhaps, with passing comment upon its "eccentricity" or "curious
shape." Indeed, prior to Darwin's time it might be said that the flower
was as a voice in the wilderness. In 1735, it is true, faint
premonitions of its present message began to be heard through their
first though faltering interpreter, Christian Conrad Sprengel, a German
botanist and school-master, who upon one occasion, while looking into
the chalice of the wild geranium, received an inspiration which led him
to consecrate his life thence-forth to the solution of the floral
hieroglyphics. Sprengel, it may be said, was the first to exalt the
flower from the mere status of a botanical specimen.

This philosophic observer was far in advance of his age, and to his long
and arduous researches--a basis built upon successively by Andrew
Knight, Köhlreuter, Herbert, Darwin, Lubbock, Müller, and others--we owe
our present divination of the flowers.

In order to fully appreciate this present contrast, it is well to
briefly trace the progress, step by step, from the consideration of the
mere anatomical and physiological specimen of the earlier botanists to
the conscious blossom of to-day, with its embodied hopes, aspirations,
and welcome companionships.

Most of my readers are familiar with the general construction of a
flower, but in order to insure such comprehension it is well, perhaps,
to freshen our memory by reference to the accompanying diagram (Fig. 2)
of an abstract flower, the various parts being indexed.

[Illustration: Fig. 2]

The calyx usually encloses the bud, and may be tubular, or composed of
separate leaves or sepals, as in a rose. The corolla, or colored
portion, may consist of several petals, as in the rose, or of a single
one, as in the morning-glory. At the centre is the pistil, one or more,
which forms the ultimate fruit. The pistil is divided into three parts,
ovary, style, and stigma. Surrounding the pistil are the stamens, few or
many, the anther at the extremity containing the powdery pollen.

Although these physiological features have been familiar to observers
for thousands of years, the several functions involved were scarcely
dreamed of until within a comparatively recent period.

In the writings of ancient Greeks and Romans we find suggestive
references to sexes in flowers, but it was not until the close of the
seventeenth century that the existence of sex was generally recognized.

[Illustration: Fig. 3]

In 1682 Nehemias Grew announced to the scientific world that it was
necessary for the pollen of a flower to reach the stigma or summit of
the pistil in order to insure the fruit. I have indicated his claim
pictorially at A (Fig. 3), in the series of historical progression. So
radical was this "theory" considered that it precipitated a lively
discussion among the wiseheads, which was prolonged for fifty years, and
only finally settled by Linnæus, who reaffirmed the facts declared by
Grew, and verified them by such absolute proof that no further doubts
could be entertained. The inference of these early authorities regarding
this process of pollination is perfectly clear from their statements.
The stamens in most flowers were seen to surround the pistil, "and of
course the presumption was that they naturally shed the pollen upon the
stigma," as illustrated at B in my series. The construction of most
flowers certainly seemed designed to fulfil this end. But there were
other considerations which had been ignored, and the existence of color,
fragrance, honey, and insect association still continued to challenge
the wisdom of the more philosophic seekers. How remarkable were some of
those early speculations in regard to "honey," or, more properly,
nectar! Patrick Blair, for instance, claimed that "honey absorbed the
pollen," and thus fertilized the ovary. Pontidera thought that its
office was to keep the ovary in a moist condition. Another botanist
argued that it was "useless material thrown off in process of growth."
Krunitz noted that "bee-visited meadows were most healthy," and his
inference was that "honey was injurious to the flowers, and that bees
were useful in carrying it off"! The great Linnæus confessed himself
puzzled as to its function.

For a period of fifty years the progress of interpretation was
completely arrested. The flowers remained without a champion until 1787,
when Sprengel began his investigations, based upon the unsolved
mysteries of color and markings of petals, fragrance, nectar, and
visiting insects. The prevalent idea of the insect being a mere idle
accessory to the flower found no favor with him. He chose to believe
that some deep plan must lie beneath this universal association. At the
inception of this conviction he chanced to observe in the flower of the
wild geranium (_G. sylvaticum_) a fact which only an inspired vision
could have detected--that the minute hairs at the base of the petal,
while disclosing the nectar to insects, completely protected it from
rain. Investigation showed the same conditions in many other flowers,
and the inference he drew was further strengthened by the remarkable
discovery of his "honey-guides" in a long list of blossoms, by which the
various decorations of spots, rings, and converging veins upon the
petals indicated the location of the nectar.

His labors were now concentrated on the work of interpretation, until at
length his researches, covering a period of two or three years, were
given to the world. In a volume bearing the following victorious title,
"The Secrets of Nature in Forms and Fertilization of Flowers
Discovered," he presented a vast chronicle of astonishing facts. The
previous discoveries of Grew and Linnæus were right so far as they
went--viz., "the pollen must reach the stigma"--but those learned
authorities had missed the true secret of the process. In proof of which
Sprengel showed that in a great many flowers, as I have shown at C (Fig.
3), this deposit of pollen is naturally impossible, owing to the
relative position of the floral parts, and that the pollen could not
reach the stigma except by artificial aid. He then announced his
startling theory:

1. "Flowers are fertilized by insects."

2. Insects in approaching the nectar brush the pollen from the anthers
with various hairy parts of their bodies, and in their motions convey it
to the stigma.

But Sprengel's seeming victory was doomed to be turned to defeat. The
true "secret" was yet unrevealed in his pages. He had given a poser to
Linnæus (C), yet his own work abounded with similar strange
inconsistencies, which, while being scarcely admitted by himself, or
ingeniously explained, were nevertheless fatal to the full recognition
of his wonderful researches. For seventy years his book lay almost

"Let us not underrate the value of a fact; it will one day flower in a
truth." The defects in Sprengel's work were, after all, not actual
defects. The error lay simply in his interpretation of his carefully
noted facts. As Hermann Müller has said, "Sprengel's investigations
afford an example of how even work that is rich in acute observation and
happy interpretation may remain inoperative if the idea at its
foundation is defective." What, then, was the flaw in Sprengel's work?
Simply that he had seen but _half_ the "secret" which he claimed to have
"discovered." Starting to prove that insects fertilize the flowers, his
carefully observed facts only served to demonstrate in many cases the
reverse--that _insects could not fertilize_ flowers in the manner he had
declared. He was met at every hand, for instance, by floral problems
such as are shown at E and F, where the pollen and the stigma in the
same flower matured at different periods; and even though he recognized
and admitted that the pollen must in many cases be transferred from one
flower to another, he failed to divine that such was actually the common
vital plan involved. It may readily be imagined that his great work
precipitated an intense and prolonged controversy, and incited emulous
investigation by the botanists of his time. Though a few of the more
advanced of his followers, among them Andrew Knight (1799), Köhlreuter
(1811), Herbert (1837), Gärtner (1844), clearly recognized the principle
and foreshadowed the later theory of cross-fertilization, it was not
until the inspired insight of Darwin, as voiced in his "Origin of
Species," contemplated these strange facts and inconsistencies of
Sprengel that their full significance and actual value were discovered
and demonstrated, and his remarkable book, forgotten for seventy years,
at last appreciated for its true worth. Alas for the irony of fate!
Under Darwin's interpretation the very "defects" which had rendered
Sprengel's work a failure now became the absolute witness of a deeper
truth which Sprengel had failed to discern. One more short step and he
had reached the goal. But this last step was reserved for the later
seer. He took the fatal double problem of Sprengel--as shown at E and F,
to express the consummation pictorially--and by the simple drawing of a
line, as it were, as indicated between G and H, instantly reconciled all
the previous perplexities and inconsistencies, thus demonstrating the
fundamental plan involved in floral construction to be not merely
"_insect_ fertilization," the fatal postulate assumed by Sprengel, but
_cross_-fertilization--a fact which, singularly enough, the latter's
own pages proved without his suspicion.

Thus we see the four successive steps in progressive knowledge, from
Grew in 1682, Linnæus, 1735, Sprengel, 1787, to Darwin, 1857-1858, and
realize with astonishment that it has taken over one hundred and
seventy-five years for humanity to learn this apparently simple lesson,
which for untold centuries has been noised abroad on the murmuring wings
of every bee in the meadow, and demonstrated in almost every flower.

This infinite field now open before him, Darwin began his
investigations, and the whole world knows his triumphs. He has been
followed by a host of disciples, to whom his books have come as an
inspiration and ennobling impulse. Hildebrand, Delpino, Axell, Lubbock,
and, latest and perhaps most conspicuous, Hermann Müller, to whom the
American reader is especially referred. "The Fertilization of Flowers,"
by this most scholarly and indefatigable chronicler, presents the most
complete compendium and bibliography of the literature on the subject
that have yet appeared. Even to the unscientific reader it will prove
full of revelations of this awe-inspiring interassociation and
interdependence of the flower and the insect.

Many years ago the grangers of Australia determined to introduce our
red clover into that country, the plant not being native there. They
imported American seed, and sowed it, with the result of a crop
luxuriant in foliage and bloom, but not a seed for future sowing! Why?
Because the American bumblebee had not been consulted in the
transaction. The clover and the bee are inseparable counterparts, and
the plant refuses to become reconciled to the separation. Upon the
introduction and naturalization of the American bumblebee, however, the
transported clover became reconciled to its new habitat, and now
flourishes in fruition as well as bloom.

Botany and entomology must henceforth go hand-in-hand. The flower must
be considered as an embodied welcome to an insect affinity, and all
sorts of courtesies prevail among them in the reception of their invited
guests. The banquet awaits, but various singular ceremonies are enjoined
between the cup and the lip, the stamens doing the hospitalities in
time-honored forms of etiquette. Flora exacts no arbitrary customs. Each
flower is a law unto itself. And how expressive, novel, and eccentric
are these social customs! The garden salvia, for instance, slaps the
burly bumblebee upon the back and marks him for her own as he is ushered
in to the feast. The mountain-laurel welcomes the twilight moth with an
impulsive multiple embrace. The desmodium and genesta celebrate their
hospitality with a joke, as it were, letting their threshold fall
beneath the feet of the caller, and startling him with an explosion and
a cloud of yellow powder, suggesting the day pyrotechnics of the
Chinese. The prickly-pear cactus encloses its buzzing visitor in a
golden bower, from which he must emerge at the roof as dusty as a
miller. The barberry, in similar vein, lays mischievous hold of the
tongue of its sipping bee, and I fancy, in his early acquaintance,
before he has learned its ways, gives him more of a welcome than he had
bargained for. The evening primrose, with outstretched filaments,
hangs a golden necklace about the welcome murmuring noctuid, while the
various orchids excel in the ingenuity of their salutations. Here is one
which presents a pair of tiny clubs to the sphinx-moth at its threshold,
gluing them to its bulging eyes. Another attaches similar tokens to the
tongues of butterflies, while the cypripedium speeds its parting guest
with a sticking-plaster smeared all over its back. And so we might
continue almost indefinitely. From the stand-point of frivolous human
etiquette we smile, perhaps, at customs apparently so whimsical and
unusual, forgetting that such a smile may partake somewhat of
irreverence. For what are they all but the divinely imposed conditions
of interassociation? say, rather, interdependence, between the flower
and the insect, which is its ordained companion, its faithful messenger,
often its sole sponsor--the meadows murmuring with an intricate and
eloquent system of intercommunings beside which the most inextricable
tangle of metropolitan electrical currents is not a circumstance. What a
storied fabric were this murmurous tangle woven day by day, could each
one of these insect messengers, like the spider, leave its visible trail
behind it!

As a rule, these blossom ceremonies are of the briefest description.
Occasionally, however, as in the cypripedium and in certain of the
arums, or "jack-in-the-pulpit," and aristolochias, the welcome becomes
somewhat aggressive, the guest being forcibly detained awhile after tea,
or, as in the case of our milkweed, occasionally entrapped for life.


From this companionable point of view let us now look again at the
strange curved stamen of the sage. Why this peculiar formation of the
long curved arm pivoted on its stalk? Considered in the abstract, it can
have no possible meaning; but taken in association with the insect to
which it is shaped, how perfect is its adaptation, how instantly
intelligible it becomes! Every one is familiar with the sage of the
country garden, its lavender flowers arranged in whorls in a long
cluster at the tips of the stems. One of these flowers, a young one from
the top of the cluster, is shown at A (Fig. 4), in section, the long
thread-like pistil starting from the ovary, and curving upward beneath
the arch of the flower, with its forked stigma barely protruding (B).
There are two of the queer stamens, one on each side of the opening of
the blossom, and situated as shown, their anthers concealed in the hood
above, and only their lower extremity appears below, the minute growth
near it being one of the rudiments of two former stamens which have
become aborted. If we take a flower from the lower portion of the
cluster (D), we find that the thread-like pistil has been elongated
nearly a third of an inch, its forked stigma now hanging directly at the
threshold of the flower. The object of this will be clearly demonstrated
if we closely observe this bee upon the blossoms. He has now reached the
top of the cluster among the younger blossoms. He creeps up the
outstretched platform of the flower, and has barely thrust his head
within its tube when down comes the pair of clappers on his back (C).
Presently he backs out, bearing a generous dab of yellow pollen, which
is further increased from each subsequent flower. He has now finished
this cluster, and flies to the next, alighting as usual on the lowermost
tier of bloom. In them the elongated stigma now hangs directly in his
path, and comes in contact with the pollen on his back as the insect
sips the nectar. Cross-fertilization is thus insured; and, moreover,
cross-fertilization not only from a distinct flower, but from a separate
cluster, or even a separate plant. For in these older stigmatic flowers
the anther as it comes down upon his back is seen to be withered, having
shed its pollen several days since, the supply of pollen on the bee's
body being sufficient to fertilize all the stigmas in the cluster, until
a new supply is obtained from the pollen-bearing blossoms above. And
thus he continues his rounds.

[Illustration: Fig. 4]

The sage is a representative of the large botanical order known as the
Mint family, the labiates, or gaping two-lipped flowers, the arched hood
here answering to the upper lip, the spreading base forming the lower
lip, which is usually designed as a convenient threshold for the insects
while sipping the nectar deep within the tube. This mechanism of the
sage is but one of many curious and various contrivances in the Mint
family, all designed for the same end, the intercrossing of the flowers.

While each family of plants is apt to favor some particular general
plan, the modifications in the various species seem almost without

Let us now look at the Heath family. The family of the heath, cranberry,
pyrola, Andromeda, and mountain-laurel--how do these blossoms welcome
their insect friends? This group is particularly distinguished by the
unusual exception in the form of its anthers, which open by pores at
their tips, instead of the ordinary side fissures. Two or three forms of
these anthers are shown in my row of stamens (Fig. 1).

Seen thus in their detached condition, how incomprehensible and
grotesque do they appear! And yet, when viewed at home, in their
bell-shaped corollas, their hospitable expression and greeting are seen
to be quite as expressive and rational as those of the sage. Take the
mountain-laurel, for instance; what a singular exhibition is this which
we may observe on any twilight evening in the laurel copse, the dense
clusters of pink-white bloom waited upon by soft-winged fluttering
moths, and ever and anon celebrating its cordial spirit by a mimic
display of pyrotechnics as the anthers hurl aloft their tiny showers of

Every one is familiar with the curious construction of this flower, with
its ten radiating stamens, each with its anther snugly tucked away in a
pouch at the rim of its saucer-shaped corolla. Thus they appear in the
freshly opened flower, and thus will they remain and wither if the
flower is brought indoors and placed in a vase upon our mantel. Why?
Because the hope of the blossom's life is not fulfilled in these
artificial conditions; its natural counterpart, the insect, has failed
to respond to its summons.


But the twilight cluster in the woods may tell us a pretty story.

Here a tiny moth hovers above the tempting chalice, and now settles upon
it with eager tongue extended for the nectar at its centre. What an
immediate and expressive welcome! No sooner has this little feathery
body touched the filaments than the eager anthers are released from
their pockets, and, springing inwards, clasp their little visitor, at
the same time decorating him with their compliments of webby pollen (A,
Fig. 5).

The nectary now drained of its sweets, the moth creeps or flutters to a
second blossom, and its pollen-dusted body thus coming in contact with
its stigma, cross-fertilization is accomplished. The pollen of the
laurel differs from that of most of the Heath blooms, its grains being
more or less adherent by a cobwebby connective which permeates the mass
as indicated in my magnified representation (B, Fig. 5).

[Illustration: Fig. 5]

It is probable that an accessory cross-fertilization frequently results
from a mass of the pollen falling directly upon the stigma of a
neighboring blossom, or even upon its own stigma, but even in the
latter case, as has been absolutely demonstrated as a general law by the
experiments of Darwin, the pollen from a separate flower is almost
invariably prepotent, and leads to the most perfect fruition, and thus
to the survival of the fittest--the cross-fertilized. And, in any event,
the insect is to be credited for the release of the tiny catapults by
which the pollen is discharged. But the laurel may be considered as an
exceptional example of the Heath family. Let us look at a more perfect
type of the order to which it belongs, the globular blossom of the
Andromeda (_A. ligustrina_).


Only a short walk from my studio door in the country I recently observed
its singular reception to the tiny black-and-white banded bee, which
seems to be its especial companion, none the less constant and forgiving
in spite of a hospitality which, from the human stand-point, would
certainly seem rather discouraging. Fancy a morning call upon your
particular friend. You knock at the door, and are immediately greeted at
the threshold with a quart of sulphur thrown into your face. Yet this is
precisely the experience of this patient little insect, which manifests
no disposition to retaliate with the concealed weapon which on much less
provocation he is quick to employ. Here he comes, eager for the fray.
He alights upon one of the tiny bells scarce half the size of his body.
Creeping down beneath it, he inserts his tongue into the narrowed
opening. Instantly a copious shower of dust is poured down upon his face
and body. But he has been used to it all his life, and by heredity he
knows that this is Andromeda's peculiar whim, and is content to humor it
for the sweet recompense which she bestows. The nectar drained, the
insect, as dusty as a miller, visits another flower, but before he
enters must of necessity first pay his toll of pollen to the drooping
stigma which barely protrudes beneath the blossom's throat, and the
expectant seed-pod above welcomes the good tidings with visions of

[Illustration: Fig. 6]

And how beautiful is the minute mechanical adaptation by which this end
is accomplished! This species of Andromeda is a shrub of about four feet
in height, its blossoms being borne in close panicled clusters at the
summit of the branches. The individual flower is hardly more than an
eighth of an inch in diameter. From one of three blossoms I made the
accompanying series of three sectional drawings (Fig. 6). The first
shows the remarkable interior arrangement of the ten stamens surrounding
the pistil. The second presents a sectional view of these stamens,
showing their peculiar S-shaped filaments and ring of anthers--one of
the latter being shown separate at the right, with its two pores and
exposed pollen. The freshly opened blossom discloses the entire ring of
anthers in perfect equilibrium, each with its two orifices closed by
close contact with the style, thus retaining the pollen. It will readily
be seen that an insect's tongue, as indicated by the needle, in probing
between them in search for nectar, must needs dislocate one or more of
the anthers, and thus release their dusty contents, while the position
of the stigma below is such as to escape all contact.


In most flowers, with the exception of the orchids, the stamens and
pollen are plainly visible; but who ever sees the anthers of the
blue-flag? Surely none but the analytical botanist and the companion
insect to whom it is so artfully adjusted and so demonstrative. This
insect is likely to be either a bumblebee or a species of large fly. In
apt illustration of Sprengel's theory of the "path-finder" or
honey-guide, the insect does not alight at the centre of the flower, but
upon one of the three large drooping sepals, whose veins, converging to
the narrow trough above, indicate the path to the nectar. Closely
overarching this portion is a long and narrow curved roof--one of three
divisions to the style, each surmounting its veined sepals. Beneath this
our visiting bee disappears, and a glance at my sectional drawing shows
what happens. Concealed within, against the ridge-pole, as it were, the
anther awaits his coming, and in his passage to and from the nectar
below spreads its pollen over his head and back. Having backed out of
this segment of the blossom (A, Fig. 7), he proceeds to the next; but
the shelf-like stigma awaits him at the door, and scrapes off or rubs
off a few grains of the pollen from his back (B). Thus he continues
until the third segment is reached, from which he carries away a fresh
load of pollen to another flower. It will be seen that only the outer
side of this appendage is stigmatic, and that it is thus naturally
impossible for the blue-flag to self-fertilize--only one instance of
thousands in which the anther and stigma, though placed in the closest
proximity, and apparently even in contact--seemingly with the _design_
of self-fertilization--are actually more perfectly separated
functionally than if in separate flowers, the insect alone consummating
their affinity.

[Illustration: Fig. 7]


In some flowers this separation is effected, as I have shown, by their
maturing at different periods; in others, as in the iris, by mere
mechanical means; while in a long list of plants, as in the willow,
poplar, hemp, oak, and nettle, the cross-fertilization is absolutely
necessitated by the fact of the staminate and stigmatic flowers being
either separated on the same stalk or on different plants, the pollen
being carried by insects or the wind. We may see a pretty illustration
of this in the little wild flower known as the devil's-bit (_Chamælirium
luteum,_), whose long, white, tapering spire of feathery bloom may often
be seen rising above the sedges in the swamp. Two years ago I chanced
upon a little colony of four or five plants at the edge of a bog. The
flowers, all of them, were mere petals and stamens (B, Fig. 8). I looked
in vain for a single stigmatic plant or flower; but far across the
swamp, a thousand feet distant, I at length discovered a single spire,
composed entirely of pistillate flowers, as shown in A (Fig. 8), and my
magnifying-glass clearly revealed the pollen upon their
stigmas--doubtless a welcome message brought from the isolated affinity
afar by some winged sponsor, to whom the peculiar fragrance of the
flower offers a special attraction, and thus to whom the fortunes of the
devil's-bit have been committed.


[Illustration: Fig. 8]

The presence of fragrance and honey in a dioecious flower may be
accepted in the abstract as almost conclusive of an insect affinity, as
in most flowers of this class, notably the beech, pine, dock, grasses,
etc., the wind is the fertilizing agent, and there is absence alike of
conspicuous color, fragrance, and nectar--attributes which refer alone
to insects, or possibly humming-birds in certain species.

Look where we will among the blossoms, we find the same beautiful plan
of intercommunion and reciprocity everywhere demonstrated. The means
appear without limit in their evolved--rather, I should say,
involved--ingenuity. Pluck the first flower that you meet in your stroll
to-morrow, and it will tell you a new story.


Only a few days since, while out on a drive, I passed a luxuriant clump
of the plant known as "horse-balm." I had known it all my life, and
twenty years previously had made a careful analytical drawing of the
mere botanical specimen. What could it say to me now in my more
questioning mood? Its queer little yellow-fringed flowers hung in
profusion from their spreading terminal racemes. I recalled their
singular shape, and the two outstretched stamens protruding from their
gaping corolla, and could distinctly see them as I sat in the carriage.
I had never chanced to read of this flower in the literature of
cross-fertilization, and murmuring, half aloud, "What pretty mystery is
yours, my Collinsonia?" prepared to investigate.

[Illustration: Fig. 9]

What I observed is pictured severally at Fig. 9, the flowers being
shown from above, showing the two spreading stamens and the decidedly
exceptional unsymmetrical position of the long style extending to the
side. A small nectar-seeking bumblebee had approached, and in alighting
upon the fringed platform grasped the filaments for support, and thus
clapped the pollen against his sides. Reasoning from analogy, it would
of course be absolutely clear that this pollen has thus been deposited
where it will come in contact with the stigma of another flower. So, of
course, it proved. In the bee's continual visits to the several flowers
he came at length to the younger blooms, where the forked stigmas were
turned directly to the front, while the immature stamens were still
curled up in the flower tubes. Even the unopened buds showed a number of
species where the early matured stigma actually protruded through a
tiny orifice in precisely the right position to strike the pollen-dusted
body of the bee, as he forced his tongue through the tiny aperture.[A]

[Footnote A: In numerous instances observed since the above was written
I have noted the larger bumblebees upon the blossom. These insects have
a different method of approach, hanging beneath the flower, the anthers
being clapped against their thorax at the juncture of the wings, instead
of the abdomen, as in the smaller bee.]


If their dainty mechanism excite our wonder, what shall be said of the
revelations in the great order of the Compositæ, where each so-called
flower, as in the dandelion, daisy, cone-flower, marigold, is really a
dense cluster of minute flowers, each as perfect in its construction as
in the examples already mentioned, each with its own peculiar plan
designed to insure the transfer of its own pollen to the stigma of its
neighbor, while excluding it from its own?

All summer long the cone-flower, Fig. 10 (_Rudbeckia hirta_), blooms in
our fields, but how few of us imagine the strange processes which are
being enacted in that purple cone! Let us examine it closely. If we
pluck one of the blossom's heads and keep it in a vase over-night, we
shall probably see on the following morning a tiny yellow ring of pollen
encircling the outer edge of the cone. In this way only are we likely
to see the ring in its perfection, as in a state of nature the wind and
insects rarely permit it to remain.

[Illustration: Fig. 10]

If we now with a sharp knife make a vertical section, as shown at A
(Fig. 3), we may observe the conical receptacle studded with its embryo
seeds, each bearing a tiny tubular blossom. Three distinct forms of
these flowers are to be seen. The lower and older ones are conspicuous
by their double feathery tails, the next by their extended anthers
bearing the pollen at their extremity, and above these again the buds in
all stages of growth. These various states are indicated in Fig. 11.

As in all the Compositæ, the anthers are here united in a tube, the
pollen being discharged within. At the base of this anther-tube rises
the pistil, which gradually elongates, and like a piston forces out the
pollen at the top. Small insects in creeping over the cone quickly
dislodge it. In the next stage the anthers have withered, the
flower-tube elongated, and the top of the two-parted pistil begins to
protrude, and at length expands its tips, disclosing at the centre the
stigmatic surface, which has until now been protected by close contact.
(See section.)

[Illustration: Fig. 11]

A glance at Fig. 11 will reveal the plan involved. The ring of pollen is
inevitably scattered to the stigmas of the neighboring flowers, and
cross-fertilization continually insured. Similar contrivances are to be
found in most of the Compositæ, through the same method being variously

Perhaps even more remarkable than any of the foregoing, which are more
or less automatic in their movements, is the truly astonishing and
seemingly conscious mechanism displayed in the wild arum of Great
Britain--the "lords and ladies" of the village lanes, the foreign
counterpart of our well-known jack-in-the-pulpit, or Indian-turnip, with
its purple-streaked canopy, and sleek "preacher" standing erect beneath
it. A representation of this arum is shown in Fig. 12, and a cross
section at A, properly indexed.

[Illustration: Fig. 12]

How confidently would the superficial--nay, even careful--examination of
one of the old-time botanists have interpreted its structure: "How
simple and perfect the structure! Observe how the anthers are placed so
that pollen shall naturally fall directly on the stigmas and fertilize
them!" Such would indeed appear to be intended, until it is actually
discovered that the _stigmas have withered_ when the pollen is shed--a
device which, acting in association with the little ring of hairs, tells
a strange story. It is not my fortune to have seen one of these singular
blossoms, but from the description of the process of fertilization given
in Hermann Müller's wonderful work, aided by a botanical illustration
of the structure of the flower, I am readily enabled to picture the
progressive stages of the mechanism.

[Illustration: Fig. 13]

In the first stage (B, Fig. 13) small flies with bodies dusted with
pollen from a previous arum blossom (for insects, as a rule, remain
faithful or partial to one species of flowers while it is in bloom) are
entering the narrowed tube, easily passing through the drooping fringe
of hairs. Nectar is secreted by the stigmas, and here the flies
assemble, thus dusting them with pollen. Their appetite temporarily
satisfied, the insects seek escape, but find their exit effectually
barred by the intruding fringe of hairs (C). In this second stage the
stigmas, having now been fertilized, have withered, at the same time
exuding a fresh supply of nectar, which again attracts the flies,
whereupon, as shown at D, the anthers open and discharge their pollen
upon the insects. In the fourth stage (E), all the functions of the
flower having now been fulfilled, the fringe of hairs withers, and the
imprisoned pollen-laden flies are permitted to escape to another flower,
where the beautiful scheme is again enacted.

In a paper of this kind it is of course possible only to hint at a few
representative examples of floral mechanisms, but these would be indeed
incomplete without a closing reference to that wonderful tribe of
flowers with which the theory of cross-fertilization will ever be
memorably associated. I have previously alluded to the absolute
dependence of the red clover upon the bumblebee. This instance may be
considered somewhat exceptional, though numerous parallel cases are
known. Among ordinary flowers this intervention of the insect is largely
a _preferable_ intention, and though almost invariably fulfilled, a
large proportion of flowers still retain, as a _dernier ressort_, the
power of at least partial self-fertilization and perpetuity in the
absence or neglect of their insect counterpart.

[Illustration: Fig. 14]

The numerous and conclusive demonstrations of Darwin, however, have
proved that in the competition for existence such self-fertilized
offspring quickly yield before the progeny of cross-fertilization.

But the distinctive feature of the orchids lies in the fact that this
dependence on the insect is wellnigh universally absolute. Here are a
great host of plants which are doomed to extinction if for any reason
their insect sponsors should permanently neglect them. The principal
botanical feature which differentiates the orchid from other plants lies
in the construction of the floral organs, the pistil, stigma, and
anthers here being united into a distinct part known as the column. The
pollen is, moreover, peculiar, being collected into more or less compact
masses, and variously concealed in the flower. Some of these are
club-shaped, with a viscid extremity, others of the consistency of a
sticking-plaster, and all are hidden from external view in pouches and
pockets, from which they never emerge unless withdrawn on the body of an
insect. The various devices by which this removal is insured are most
astonishing and awe-inspiring. Nor is it necessary to go to the
conservatory for a tropical specimen, as is commonly supposed. An orchid
is an orchid wherever it grows, and our native list of some fifty
species will afford examples of as strange mechanical adaptations as are
to be found among Darwin's pages. Indeed, a few of our American species
are there described. One example will suffice for present
illustration--the sweet-pogonia or grass-pink of our sedgy swamps
(_Pogonia ophioglossoides_). Its solitary rosy blossom, nodding on its
slender stem above the sedges, is always a welcome episode to the
sauntering botanist, and its perfume, suggesting ripe red raspberries,
is unique in the wild bouquet. One of these flowers is shown in profile
at Fig. 14, its various parts indexed. Concealed behind the petals is
the column, elsewhere indicated from various points of view. Attracted
by its color and fragrance, the insect seeks the flower; its
outstretched fringy lip offers a cordial invitation at its threshold,
and conducts its visitor directly to the sweets above. In his entrance,
as seen at D (Fig. 15), the narrowed passage compresses his back against
the underside of the column, forcing his head and back against the
stigma. The effect of this inward pressure, as will be seen, only serves
to force the anther more firmly within its pocket; but as the insect,
having drained the nectar, now backs out, note the result. The lip of
the anther catches upon the back, swings outward on its hinge, and
deposits its sticky pollen all over the insect's back, returning to its
original position after his departure. In another moment he is seen upon
another blossom, as at D again, his pollen-laden back now coming in
contact with the stigma, and the intention of the blossom is
accomplished; for without this assistance from the insect the little
lid remains close within its pocket, and the pollen is thus retained.

[Illustration: Fig. 15]

What startling disclosures are revealed to the inward eye within the
hearts of all these strange orchidaceous flowers! Blossoms whose
functions, through long eras of adaptation, have gradually shaped
themselves to the forms of certain chosen insect sponsors; blossoms
whose chalices are literally fashioned to bees or butterflies; blossoms
whose slender, prolonged nectaries invite and reward the murmuring
sphinx-moth alone, the floral throat closely embracing his head while it
attaches its pollen masses to the bulging eyes, or perchance to the
capillary tongue! And thus in endless modifications, evidences all of
the same deep vital purpose.

Let us then content ourselves no longer with being mere
"botanists"--historians of structural facts. The flowers are not mere
comely or curious vegetable creations, with colors, odors, petals,
stamens, and innumerable technical attributes. The wonted insight alike
of scientist, philosopher, theologian, and dreamer is now repudiated in
the new revelation. Beauty is not "its own excuse for being," nor was
fragrance ever "wasted on the desert air." The seer has at last heard
and interpreted the voice in the wilderness. The flower is no longer a
simple passive victim in the busy bee's sweet pillage, but rather a
conscious being, with hopes, aspirations, and companionships. The insect
is its counterpart. Its fragrance is but a perfumed whisper of welcome,
its color is as the wooing blush and rosy lip, its portals are decked
for his coming, and its sweet hospitalities humored to his tarrying; and
as it finally speeds its parting affinity rests content that its life's
consummation has been fulfilled.



Several of our notable as well as notorious human, social, and civic
customs find their prehistoric prototypes in the insect kingdom. The
monarchical institution sees its singular prophecy in the domestic
economy of the bees. War and slavery have always been carried on
systematically and effectually by ants, and, according to Huber and
other authorities, agriculture, gardening, and an industry very like
dairy farming have been time-honored customs among this same wise and
thrifty insect tribe, whose claims to thoughtful consideration were so
long ago voiced by Solomon of proverbial fame. Thévenot mentions
"Solomon's ant" as among the "beasts which shall enter paradise."
Indeed, the human saint as well as sluggard may "go to the ant" for many
suggestive hints and commentaries.

These are only a few of the more notable parallelisms which suggest
themselves. But others are not wanting if we care to follow the subject.
In addition to the many models of thrift and virtuous industry,
embodying types of many of the trade employments known to humanity, have
we not also among these "meadow tribes" our luxurious "idlers" and
"exquisites," the butterflies and flower-haunting flies and "dandy"
beetles; and, opposed to all these, the suggestive antithesis of the
promiscuous marauders, thieves, and brigands everywhere interspersed?

Thus we have our individual insect assassin and assassination organized
in war; so, on the other hand, have we our insect merrymakers; why not,
then, our picnic or carnival?

Such I am moved to call the singular episode which I observed last
summer, and which I have endeavored to picture as true to the life as
possible in the accompanying presentment The sceptic will perhaps
remark on examination that the scene is characterized by somewhat too
free a license to warrant the ideal of a "picnic." But he is
hypercritical. There are picnics and picnics--picnics of high and of low
degree. Do I not recall more than one notorious festive outing of the
"next lower than the angels" in which the _personnel_ seemed about
similarly proportioned, and the fun and attraction comparatively related
to the license?

One July afternoon a year ago I was returning home from one of my
botanizing strolls. I had just emerged from a deep wood, and was
skirting its border, when my attention was caught by a small fluttering
swarm of butterflies, which started up at my approach and hovered about
a blossoming blackberry bush a few yards in advance of me at the side of
my path. The diversity of the butterfly species in the swarm struck me
as singular, and the mere allurement of the blackberry blossoms--not
usually of especial attraction to butterflies--could hardly explain so
extensive a gathering. Here was the great yellow swallow-tail
(_Turnus_), red admiral (_Atlanta_), small yellow butterfly
(_Philodice_), white cabbage-butterfly, comma and semicolon, and
numerous small fry, fluttering about me in evident protest against my
intrusion. They showed no inclination to vacate the premises, so, in
pursuance of one of the first articles of my saunterer's creed, I
concluded to retreat softly a few paces and watch for developments. One
by one the swarm sought their original haunt, settling on the bramble,
and I now noticed that only in occasional instances did the insects seek
the flowers, the attraction seeming to be confined to the leaves. I
stole up softly for a nearer point of observation, and could now
distinctly see the beautiful yellow and black open wings of the
swallow-tail softly gliding or gently fluttering as it hung from the
edge of a leaf, while it explored its surface with its uncoiled
capillary tongue. Just beyond my _Turnus_, on another leaf, I now noted
a new presence, the orange Aphrodite butterfly, silvery spotted, its
nether wings being folded over its back, too much absorbed to have been
startled by my first approach. Occasionally, without any cause which I
could detect from my present position--certainly in no way connected
with my presence--a small swarm of the butterflies would rise in a
flutter above the bush, as though actuated by a common whim--a brief
winged tangle in which a beautiful sprite of velvety black hovering in a
globular halo, shot through with two white semicircular arcs, was always
a momentary feature.

Carefully stealing through the tall grass, I now approached to within
touching distance of the haunt, and was soon lost in mingled wonder,
amusement, and surprise at the picnic now disclosed, the occasional
butterfly swarm being now easily explained. From my first point of view
only the top of the bramble spray was visible above the grass, and by
far the most interesting portion of the exercises had been concealed
from view. The butterflies, while naturally the most conspicuous
element, were now seen to be in a small minority among the insect
gathering, the bramble leaves being peopled with a most motley and
democratic assemblage of insects. Class distinctions were apparently
forgotten in the common enthusiasm; the plebeian bluebottle and blowfly
now consorted with Aphrodite and sipped at the same drop. Many a leaf
was begemmed with the blue bodies closely set side by side or in a close
cluster. The meat-fly, house-fly, and horse-fly made themselves
promiscuous in every portion of the spray, and what with the
rainbow-eyed and ruby-eyed flies, black and silver-banded flower-flies,
and other tiny, restless, iridescent atoms of the fly fraternity, the
family of _Musca_ was well represented at the feast.

Nor were these all the guests at the banquet--for banquet there
certainly was, judging from the eager sipping and crowding everywhere
upon the leaves, the flowers even yet, as I first noticed, seeming to
have little attraction.

I have no direct means of knowing as to the social discrimination of the
host as shown in the entertainment, for that invitations were issued the
subsequent facts would show. But I have good reasons for believing, from
the course of events, that the gathering included a number of
questionable personages that were not counted upon.

Here, for instance, was an overwhelming contingent of the whole tough
gang of wasps and hornets--brown wasps from under the eaves and fences;
black hornets from the big paper nests; yellow-jackets from where you
please; deep steel-blue wire-waisted wasps from the mud cells in the
garret, to say nothing of an occasional longer-waisted digger-wasp, and
a host of their allied lesser associates scattered around generously
among the assemblage.

Every now and then a big darning-needle took a shimmering circuit about
the bush, and doubtless knew what he was about; as did also what at
first glimpse appeared to be a big bumblebee, which seemed to find
attraction in the neighborhood, although he seldom alighted upon the
leaves, preferring to sit upon a neighboring weed and watch his

I have thus described a few of the more prominent guests or personages
present at the feast. But I have reported little of their "goings on."
Doubtless there were appropriate toasts and responses, or what in bug
etiquette answered to this seemingly indispensable human fad, while as
to that other festive social essential of after-dinner speeches, coupled
in this case with most vigorous discussion, I am certain the air was
blue with something of this sort, if the eloquent pantomime bore any
significance. Here, for instance, is one isolated, but frequent,
episode. A peaceable little group of plain bluebottle-flies, with but a
single thought, are all sipping at the same drop in contentment. A brief
respite, for now the tips of a pair of inquisitive antennæ appear from
the under edge of the leaf upon which they are sipping, and gingerly
explore the upper surface. They are quickly followed by the covetous
almond-eyed gaze of a brown wasp, that now steals cautiously around to
the upper surface, and appears wholly engrossed in licking the leaf.
Nearer and nearer he sidles up to the group of flies, and now with
deliberate purpose and open jaws makes a dash among them. But they are
too quick for him, and are away in a glittering blue tangle, which
finally concentrates itself upon a neighboring leaf, where the eager
tippling is immediately resumed. The wasp now holds the fort, and seems
in no mood to be trifled with. With head and fore feet upraised and open
jaws he seems "spoiling for a fight," and ready to make war upon the
first comer. But no, he is evidently expecting a friend that, I now
observe, approaches him determinedly down the stem of the leaf. The
new-comer, a brown wasp like himself, is now at close range, and in an
instant more, without any visible courteous preliminaries, the two set
upon each other with a common enthusiasm, and with jaws working and
stings fencing the interlocked combatants fall to the ground for a
finish. I presume the affair was carried to the fourteenth round without
any undue interference.

Another and another of these friendly meetings between them and other
wasps took place in the half-hour in which I watched the sport. There
were lulls in hostilities, during which an atmosphere of perfect peace
and harmony seemed to reign around my bramble-bush. The flies were
motionless in their ecstasy, and the hornet element seemed by common
consent to keep temporarily shady, and even the butterflies seemed to
forget that they had wings. But not for long, for now with a shimmering
glitter our darning-needle invades the scene, and retires to a
convenient perch with a ruby-eyed fly in his teeth, while a swarm of
very startled butterflies tells conspicuously of the demoralization
which he has left in his path. Among the butterfly representatives I at
length observed one individual which at first had escaped me, an
exclusive white cabbage-butterfly which sipped quietly at his leaf in
the shade, and seemed to take little interest in the disreputable
actions of his associates. Nothing could move him or entice him away
from his convivial employment. But, alas! his folly soon found him out,
for, on happening to look again, I observed he had found a new
acquaintance--a hornet that had evidently been long desirous of meeting
him. One by one I saw my butterfly's dismembered wings fall to the
grassy jungle below, while a big black wasp proceeded to enjoy the
collected sweets which he had doubtless observed were being so carefully
stored away there in the shady retreat.


And now my pretty black butterfly--no, it proved to be the little
day-flying grape-vine-moth, the eight-spotted black _Alypia_--appeared
from some unseen source, and spun his crapy white-streaked halo among
the leaves, at length settling among a little company of flies. Softly
behind him creeps a brown wasp (_Polistes_), with his mouth watering,
while from the opposite quarter a steel-blue mud-wasp approaches, with
apparently similar designs. Neither invader sees the other.
Simultaneously, as though answering to a signal, the two make a dash at
the moth; but he is too quick for them. In a twinkling he is off in his
pretty halo again, while the two disappointed contestants have clinched,
and with stings and jaws vigorously plying fall to the jungle below, and
seek satisfaction in mortal combat.

Here is a pretty little yellow and black banded flower-fly, which is
having a quiet little picnic all by himself on a bed of yarrow bloom
close by. But a big black paper-hornet has suddenly seen an attraction
hither also, and is soon creeping stealthily among the blossoms with a
wild and hungry look. But the hornets seemed to waste their time on the
flies. Seemingly confident in their less complicated wing machinery, the
two-winged fly rarely sought escape until within very close range of his
enemy, and his resources never seemed to disappoint him at the critical

Among the insect assemblage was a large number of ants of all kinds and
sizes, the common large black species being conspicuous. Here is one
creeping and sipping along a grass stem. A small digger-wasp likes this
grass stem too, but instead of exchanging courtesies on the subject, the
wasp proceeds to bite the ant's head off without ceremony, and continues
sipping at the stem as though decapitation were a mere casual incident
in its daily walk.

On the same stem a big blowfly has alighted. Judging from appearances,
he has had his fill of good things, and is now making his leisurely
toilet in the peculiar fashion of his kind, rubbing down his back and
wings with his hind legs, twisting his front feet into spirals, and ever
and anon testing the strength of his elastic neck attachment as he
threatens to pull his head from his body.

This worldly act has been progressing for some moments under the gaze of
a big black digger-wasp, who now concludes to cut it short. When at
close range with his prey, the fly suddenly discovers the unhealthy
location which he occupies, and actually protruding his tongue by way of
parting salute, he is off with a buzz. He has barely taken wing,
however, when a still louder buzz is heard, while a great black
bumblebee follows closely in his wake, until the sounds of both are
lost in the distance. The hum of this bumblebee is a frequent musical
feature of the entertainment, and many is the dance that is set to its
minstrelsy, as the burly insect darts in among the merrymakers and is
off to his perch near by. It is only as we steal away and observe him
closely that we learn the secret of his occasional sorties. There on a
clover blossom he sits--sipping honey? Oh no. It is honey-dew that he is
enjoying, and second-hand at that, as he devours the satiated
bluebottle-fly which is empaled on his black horny beak. For this is
only a bumblebee in masquerade--a carnivorous fly, in truth, which, safe
in its disguise of respectability, hovers in the flowery haunts of the
innocents and, of course, reaps his reward.

And what is this? A yellow-jacket has found an ambrosial attraction here
upon the bramble leaf. Meanwhile a great black and white paper-hornet
has seen his opportunity, and is soon slyly approaching behind the
sipper. That he has designs on that jacket and its contents is apparent.
In a moment the onslaught is consummated, and in the struggle which
ensues the black assailant relieves his victim--of his watch presumably,
for he has captured the entire garment, which he soon rifles and
discards with some show of satisfaction.

And so my carnival proceeds. So it began with the dawn; so it will
continue till dusk; and through the night, with new revels, for aught I
know, and will be prolonged for days or weeks.

       *       *       *       *       *

Reflective reader, how often, as you have strolled through some nook in
the suburban wood, have you paused in philosophic mood at the motley
relics of good cheer which sophisticated the retreat, so pathetically
eloquent of pristine joys to which you had been a stranger? Here in my
present picnic is the suggestive parallel, for even though no such
actual episodes as those I have described had been witnessed by me, an
examination of the premises beneath my bramble were a sufficient
commentary. These were the unimpeachable witnesses of the pleasures
which I have pictured. Dismembered butterfly wings strewed the grassy
jungle, among which were a fair sprinkling from that black and white
halo already noted. Occasional dead wasps and detached members of wasp
and hornet anatomy were frequent, while the blue glitter of the bodies
of flies lit up a shadowy recess here and there, showing that Musca had
not always so correctly gauged his comparative wing resources as my
observation had indicated.

It was interesting to discover, too, down deep among the herbage,
another suggestive fact in the presence of a shrewd spider that showed a
keen eye to the main chance, and had spread his gossamer catch-all
beneath the bramble. It was all grist into his mill, and no doubt his
charnel-house at the base of his silken tunnel could have borne eloquent
testimony alike to his wise sagacity and his epicurean luxury.

I have pictured my picnic, and the question naturally arises, what was
it all about--what the occasion for this celebration? There was
certainly no distinct visible cause for the social gathering upon this
particular bramble-bush. There were a number of other bramble-bushes in
the near neighborhood which, it would seem, should possess equal
attractions, but which were ignored. In what respect did the one
selected differ from the others?

This bramble had become the scene of my carnival simply because it
chanced to be directly beneath an overhanging branch of pine some twenty
feet above. Here dwelt mine host who had issued the invitations and
spread the feast, the limb for about a foot space being surrounded by a
colony of aphides, or plant-lice, from whose distilling pipes the rain
of sweet honey-dew had fallen ceaselessly upon the leaves below. The
flies, butterflies, and ants had been attracted, as always, by its
sweets; the preoccupied convivial flies, in turn, were a tempting bait
for the wasps and hornets, and my dragon-fly and mock bumblebee found a
similar attraction in the neighborhood.

An examination of the trunk of the pine showed the inevitable double
procession of ants, both up and down the tree, with the habitual
interchange of comment; and could we but have obtained a closer glimpse
of the pine branch above, we might certainly have observed the queer
spectacle of the small army of ants interspersed everywhere among the
swarm of aphides. Not in antagonism; indeed, quite the reverse; herders,
in truth, jealously guarding their feeding flock, creeping among them
with careful tread, caressing them with their antennæ while they sipped
at the honeyed pipes everywhere upraised in most expressive and
harmonious welcome.

This intimate and friendly association of the ants and aphides has been
the subject of much interesting scientific investigation and surprising
discovery. Huber and Lubbock have given to the world many startling
facts, the significance of which may be gathered from the one statement
that certain species of ants carry their devotion so far as literally to
cultivate the aphides, carrying them bodily into their tunnels, where
they are placed in underground pens, reared and fed and utilized in a
manner which might well serve as a pattern for the modern dairy farm.
Indeed, after all that we have already seen upon a single bramble-bush,
would it be taking too much license with fact to add one more pictorial
chronicle--an exhilarated and promiscuous group of butterflies, ants,
hornets, wasps, and flies uniting in "a health to the jolly aphis"?




In a previous article I discussed the general subject of the
fertilization of flowers, briefly outlining the several historical and
chronological steps which ultimately led to Darwin's triumphant
revelation of the divine plan of "cross-fertilization" as the mystery
which had so long been hidden beneath the forms and faces of the

In the same paper I presented many illustrative examples among our
common wild flowers possessing marvellous evolved devices, mechanisms,
and peculiarities of form by which this necessary cross-fertilization
was assured.

Prior to Darwin's time the flower was a voice in the wilderness, heard
only in faintest whispers, and by the few. But since his day they have
bloomed with fresher color and more convincing perfume. Science brought
us their message. Demoralizing as it certainly was to humanity's past
ideals, philosophic, theologic, and poetic, it bore the spirit of
absolute conviction, and must be heard.

What a contrast this winged botany of to-day to that of a hundred years
ago! The flower now no longer the mere non-committal, structural,
botanical specimen. No longer the example of mere arbitrary, independent
creation, reverently and solely referred to the orthodox "delight of
man." The blossom whose unhappy fate was bemoaned by the poet because,
forsooth, it must needs "blush unseen," or "waste its sweetness on the
desert air," is found alone in that musty _hortus siccus_ of a blind and
deluded past. From the status of mere arbitrary creation, however
"beautiful," "curious," "eccentric," hitherto accepted alone on
faith--"it is thus because it is created thus: what need to ask the
reason why?"--it has become a part of our inspiring heritage, a
reasonable, logical, comprehensible _result_, a manifestation of a
beautiful divine scheme, and is thus an ever-present witness and prophet
of divine care and supervision.

The flower of to-day! What an inspiration to our reverential study! What
a new revelation is borne upon its perfume! Its forms and hues, what
invitations to our devotion! This spot upon the petal; this peculiar
quality of perfume or odor; this fringe within the throat; this curving
stamen; this slender tube! What a catechism to one who knows that each
and all represent an affinity to some insect, towards whose vital
companionship the flower has been adapting itself through the ages,
looking to its own more certain perpetuation!

The great Linnæus would doubtless have claimed to "know" the "orchid,"
which perhaps he named. Indeed, did he not "know" it to the core of its
physical, if not of its physiological, being? But could he have solved
the riddle of the orchid's persistent refusal to set a pod in the
conservatory? Could he have divined why the orchid blossom continues in
bloom for weeks and weeks in this artificial glazed tropic--perhaps
weeks longer than its more fortunate fellows left behind in their native
haunts--and then only to wither and perish without requital? Know the
orchid?--without the faintest idea of the veritable divorce which its
kidnapping had involved!

Thanks to the new dispensation, we may indeed claim a deeper sympathy
with the flower than is implied in a mere recognition of its pretty
face. We know that this orchid is but the half of itself, as it were;
that its color, its form, however eccentric and incomprehensible, its
twisted inverted position on its individual stalk-like ovary, its
slender nectary, its carefully concealed pollen--all are anticipations
of an insect complement, a long-tongued night-moth perhaps, with whose
life its own is mysteriously linked through the sweet bond of perfume
and nectar, and in the sole hope of posterity.

And the flower had been stolen from its haunt while its consort slept,
and had awakened in a glazed prison--doubtless sufficiently comfortable,
save for the absence of that one indispensable counterpart, towards whom
we behold in the blossom's very being the embodied expression of

Blooming day after day in anticipation of his coming, and week after
week still hoping against hope, we see the flower fade upon its stalk,
and with what one might verily believe to be evidences of
disconsolation, were it not that the ultra-scientist objects to such a
sentimental assumption with regard to a flower, which is unfortunate
enough to show no sign of nerves or gray matter in its composition. Who
shall claim to _know_ his orchid who knows not its insect sponsor?

To take one of our own wild species. Here is the _Arethusa bulbosa_ of
Linnæus, for instance. Its pollen must reach its stigma--so he
supposed--in order for the flower to become fruitful. But this is
clearly impossible, as the pollen never leaves its tightly closed box
unless removed by outside aid, which aid must also be required to place
it upon the stigma. This problem, which confronted him in practically
every orchid he met, Linnæus, nor none of his contemporaries, nor indeed
his followers for many years, ever solved.

Not until the time of Christian Conrad Sprengel (1735) did this and
other similar riddles begin to be cleared up, that distinguished
observer having been the first to discover in the honey-sipping insect
the key to the omnipresent mystery. Many flowers, he discovered, were so
constructed or so planned that their pollen could _not_ reach their own
stigmas, as previously believed. The insect, according to Sprengel,
enjoyed the anomalous distinction of having been called in, in the
emergency, to fulfil this apparent default in the plain intentions of
nature, as shown in the flower. Attracted by the color and fragrance of
the blossom, with their implied invitation to the assured feast of
nectar, the insect visited the flower, and thus became dusted with the
pollen, and in creeping or flying out from it conveyed the fecundating
grains to the receptive stigma, which they could not otherwise reach.
Such was Sprengel's belief, which he endeavored to substantiate in an
exhaustive volume containing the result of his observations pursuant to
this theory.

But Sprengel had divined but half the truth. The insect _was necessary_,
it was true, but the Sprengel idea was concerned only with the
_individual_ flower, and the great botanist was soon perplexed and
confounded by an opposing array of facts which completely destroyed the
authority of his work--facts which showed conclusively that the insect
could _not_ thus convey the pollen as described, because the stigma in
the flower was either not yet ready to receive it--perhaps tightly
closed against it--or was past its receptive period, even decidedly


This radical assumption of fertilization in the individual flower, which
lay at the base of Sprengel's theory, thus so completely exposed as
false, discredited his entire work. The good was condemned with the bad,
and the noble volume was lost in comparative oblivion--only to be
finally resurrected and its full value and significance revealed by the
keen scientific insight of Darwin (1859). From the new stand-point of
evolution through natural selection the _facts_ in Sprengel's work took
on a most important significance. Darwin now reaffirmed the Sprengel
theory so far as the necessity of the insect was concerned, but showed
that all those perplexing floral conditions which had disproved
Sprengel's assumption, instead of having for their object the conveying
of pollen to the stigma of the _same_ flower, implied its _transfer_ to
the stigma of _another_, cross-fertilization being the evident design,
or evolved and perpetuated advantage.

This solution was made logical and tenable only on the assumption that
such evolved conditions, insuring cross-fertilization, were of distinct
advantage to the flower in the competitive struggle for existence, and
that all cross-fertilized flowers were thus the final result of natural

The early ancestors of this flower were self-fertilized; a chance
seedling at length, among other continual variations, showed the
singular variation of ripening its stigma in advance of its pollen--or
other condition insuring cross-fertilization--thus acquiring a strain of
fresh vigor. The seedlings of this flower, coming now into competition
with the existing weaker self-fertilized forms, by the increased vigor
won in the struggle of their immediate surroundings, and inheriting the
peculiarity of their parent, showed flowers possessing the same
cross-fertilizing device. The seeds from these, again scattering,
continued the unequal struggle in a larger and larger field and in
increasing numbers, continually crowding out all their less vigorous
competitors of the same species, at length to become entire masters of
the field and the only representatives left to perpetuate the line of

Thus we find in almost every flower we meet some astonishing development
by which this cross-fertilization is effected, by which the
transferrence of the pollen from one flower to the stigma of another is
assured, largely through the agency of insects, frequently by the wind
and water, occasionally by birds. In many cases this is assured by the
pollen-bearing flowers and stigmatic flowers being entirely distinct,
as in cucumbers and Indian-corn; perhaps on different plants, as in the
palms and willows; again by the pollen maturing and disseminating before
the stigma is mature, as already mentioned, and _vice versa_.

From these, the simplest forms, we pass on to more and more complicated
conditions, anomalies of form and structure--devices, mechanisms, that
are past belief did we not observe them in actuality with our own eyes,
as well as the absolutely convincing demonstration of the intention
embodied: exploding flowers, shooting flowers, flower-traps, stamen
embraces, pollen showers, pollen plasters, pollen necklaces, and floral
pyrotechnics--all demonstrations in the floral etiquette of welcome and
_au revoir_ to insects.

From the simplest and regular types of flowers, as in the buttercup, we
pass on to more and more involved and unsymmetrical forms, as the
columbine, monk's-hood, larkspur, aristolochia, and thus finally to the
most highly specialized or involved forms of all, as seen in the
orchid--the multifarious, multiversant orchid; the beautiful orchid; the
ugly orchid; the fragrant orchid; the fetid orchid; the graceful,
homely, grotesque, uncanny, mimetic, and, until the year 1859, the
absolutely non-committal and inexplicable flower; the blossom which had
waited through the ages for Darwin, its chosen interpreter, ere she
yielded her secret to humanity.

And what is an orchid? How are we to know that this blossom which we
plucked is an orchid? The average reader will exclaim, "Because it is an
air-plant"--the essential requisite, it would seem, in the popular mind.
Of over 3000 known species of orchids, it is true a great majority are
air-plants, or epiphytes--growing upon trees and other plants, obtaining
their sustenance from the air, and not truly parasitic; but of the
fifty-odd native species of the northeastern United States, not one is
of this character, all growing in the ground, like other plants. It is
only by the botanical structure of the flowers that the orchid may be
readily distinguished, the epiphytic character being of little
significance botanically.

A brief glance at this structural peculiarity may properly precede our
more elaborate consideration of a few species of these remarkable

The orchids are usually very irregular, and six-parted. The ovary is
one-celled, and becomes a pod containing an enormous yield of minute,
almost spore-like, seeds (Fig. 3) in some species, as in the vanilla
pod, to the number of a million, and in one species of the maxillaria,
as has been carefully computed, 1,750,000.

The pollen, unlike ordinary flowers, is gathered together in waxy masses
of varying consistency, variously formed and disposed in the blossom,
its grains being connected with elastic cobwebby threads, which
occasionally permit the entire mass to be stretched to four or five
times its length, and recover its original shape when released. This is
noticeable specially in the _O. spectabilis_, later described. The
grains thus united are readily disentangled from their mass when brought
into contact with a viscid object, as, for instance, the stigma.

[Illustration: Fig. 1]

But the most significant botanical contrast and distinction is found in
the union of the style and stamens in one organ, called the column (Fig.
2), the stigma and the pollen being thus disposed upon a single common
stalk. The contrast to the ordinary flower will be readily appreciated
by comparison of the accompanying diagrams (Fig. 1).

When, therefore, we find a blossom with the anthers or pollen
receptacle united to a stalk upon which the stigma is also placed, we
have an orchid.

The order is further remarkable, as Darwin first demonstrated in his
wonderful volume "The Fertilization of Orchids," in that the entire
group, with very few exceptions, are absolutely dependent upon insects
for their perpetuation through seed. They possess no possible resource
for self-fertilization in the neglect of these insect sponsors.

[Illustration: Fig. 2 a. Anther. s. Stigma.]

Many of our common wild flowers, as perfectly and effectually planned
for cross-fertilization as the orchids, _do_ retain the reserve power of
final _self_-fertilization if unfertilized by foreign pollen.

But the orchid has lost such power, and in the progress of evolution has
gradually adapted itself to the insect, often to a particular species of
insect, its sole sponsor, which natural selection has again gradually
modified in relation to the flower.

The above work by Darwin was mostly concerned with foreign species,
generally under artificial cultivation, and so startling were the
disclosures concerning these hitherto sphinx-like floral beings that a
most extensive bibliography soon attested the widespread inspiration and
interest awakened by its pages.

But it is by no means necessary to visit the tropics or the conservatory
for examples of these wonders. Our own Asa Gray, one of Darwin's instant
proselytes, was prompt to demonstrate that the commonest of our native
American species might afford revelations quite as astonishing as those
exotic species which Darwin had described.

[Illustration: Fig. 3]

During a period of many years the writer has devoted much study to our
native species of orchids from this evolutionary stand-point of their
cross-fertilization tendencies. Of the following examples, selected from
his list, some are elaborations of previous descriptions of Gray and
others, though pictorially and descriptively the result of direct
original study from nature; others are from actual observation of the
insects at work on the flowers; and others still, original
demonstrations based upon analogy and the obvious intention of the
floral construction, the action of the insect--its head or
tongue--having been artificially imitated by pins, bristles, or other
probe-like bodies.

How many an enthusiastic flower-hunter has plucked his fragrant bouquet
of the beautiful Arethusa, in its sedgy haunt, without a suspicion of
the beautiful secret which lay beneath its singular form! Indeed, how
many a learned botanist, long perfectly familiar with its peculiarities
of shape and structure, has been entirely content with this simple fact,
nor cared to seek further for its interpretation! But

"All may have the flower now,
For all have got the seed."

With Darwin as our guide and the insect as our key--an _open
sesame_--the hidden treasure is revealed. It is now quite possible, as
Darwin demonstrated, to look upon a flower for the first time and from
its structure foretell the method of its intended cross-fertilization;
nay, more, possibly the kind, or even the species, of insect to which
this cross-fertilization is intrusted.

Let us look at our Arethusa. The writer has never happened to observe an
insect at work upon this flower, but the intention of its structure is
so plain that by a mere examination we may safely prophesy not only what
must happen when the insect seeks its nectar, but with equal assurance
the kind of insect thus invited and expected. I have indicated a group
of the orchids in their usual marshy haunt, and in Fig. 4, separately, a
series of diagrams presents sections of the flower, natural size and
duly indexed, which renders detailed description hardly necessary. The
column is here quite elongated, forked at the tip, the space between the
forks occupied by the anther, which is hinged to the upper division.
This anther lid is closed tightly, with the sticky mass of pollen hidden
behind it in the cavity. The stigma is on the external inner side of the
lower division, and thus distinctly separated from the pollen. The "lip"
is extended forward as a hospitable threshold to the insect. And to what
insect might we assume this invitation of color, fragrance, nectar, and
threshold to be extended?

Let us consider the flower simply as a device to insure its own
cross-fertilization. The insect is welcomed; it must alight and sip the
nectar; in departing it must bear away this pollen upon its body, and
convey it to the _next_ Arethusa blossom which it visits, and leave it
upon its stigma. These are the conditions expressed; and how admirably
they are fulfilled we may observe when we examine flower after flower of
a group, and find their nectaries drained, their anther cells empty, and
pollen upon all their stigmas. The nectar is here secreted in a
well--not very deep--and the depth of this nectar from the entrance is
of great significance among all the flowers, having distinct reference
to the length of the tongue which is expected to sip it. In the
Arethusa, it is true, the butterfly or moth might sip at the throat of
the flower, but the long tongues of these insects might permit the
nectary to be drained without bringing their bodies in contact with the
stigma. Smaller insects might creep into the nectary and sip without the
intended fulfilment. It is clear that to neither of such visitors is the
welcome extended. What, then, are the conditions embodied? The insect
must have a tongue of such a length that, when in the act of sipping,
its head must pass beyond the anther well into the opening of the
flower. Its body must be sufficiently large to come in contact with the
anther. Such requisites are perfectly fulfilled by the humblebee, and
we may well hazard the prophecy that the Bombus is the welcomed affinity
of the flower.

[Illustration: Fig. 4]

The diagrams (Fig. 4) sufficiently illustrate the efficacy of the
beautiful plan involved. At A the bee is seen sipping the nectar. His
forward movement thus far to this point has only seemed to press the
edge of the anther inward, and thus keep it even more effectually
closed. As the bee retires (B), the backward motion opens the lid, and
the sticky pollen is thus brought against the insect's back, where it
adheres in a solid mass. He now flies to the next Arethusa blossom,
enters it as before, and in retiring slides his back against the
receptive viscid stigma, which retains a portion of the pollen, and thus
effects the cross-fertilization (C). Professor Gray surmised that the
pollen was withdrawn on the insect's head, and it might be so withdrawn,
but in other allied orchids of the tribe Arethusæ, however, in which the
structure is very similar, the pollen is deposited on the thorax, and
such is probably the fact in this species. In either case
cross-fertilization would be effected. Nothing else is possible in the
flower, and whether it is Bombus or not that effects it, the method is
sufficiently evident.

Having thus had one initiation into this most enticing realm of riddles,
each successive orchid whose structure we examine from this stand-point
becomes a most interesting, perhaps a fresh, problem, whose assumed
solution may often be verified by studying the insect in its haunts.
Darwin thus foretold the precise manner of the cross-fertilization of
_Habenaria mascula_, and also the insect agent, simply by the structural
prophecy of the flower itself.

Suppose, for example, an unknown orchid blossom to be placed in our
hands. Its nectary tube is five inches in length, and as slender as a
knitting-needle. The nectar is secreted far within its lip. The
evolution of the long nectary implies an adaptation to an insect's
tongue of equal length. What insect has a tongue five inches long, and
sufficiently slender to probe this nectary? The sphinx-moth only. Hence
we infer the sphinx-moth to be the insect complement to the blossom, and
we may correctly infer, moreover, that the flower is thus a
night-bloomer. Examination of the flower, with the form of this moth in
mind, will show other adaptations to the insect's form in the position
of pollen and stigma, looking to the flower's cross-fertilization. In
some cases this is effected by the aid of the insect's tongue; in
others, by its eyes.

In our own native orchids we have a remarkable example of the latter
form in the _Habenaria orbiculata_, whose structure and mechanism have
also been admirably described by Asa Gray.

[Illustration: Fig. 5]

All orchid-hunters know this most exceptional example of our local
flora, and the thrill of delight experienced when one first encounters
it in the mountain wilderness, its typical haunt, is an event to date
from--its two great, glistening, fluted leaves, sometimes as large as
a dinner-plate, spreading flat upon the mould, and surmounted by the
slender leafless stalk, with its terminal loose raceme of greenish-white


A single blossom of the species is shown in Fig. 5, the parts indexed.
The opening to the nectary is seen just below the stigmatic surface, the
nectary itself being nearly two inches in length. The pollen is in two
club-like bodies, each hidden within a fissured pouch on either side of
the stigma, and coming to the surface at the base in their opposing
sticky discs as shown. Many of the group Habenaria or Platanthera, to
which this flower belongs, are similarly planned. But mark the
peculiarly logical association of the parts here exhibited. The nectary
implies a welcome to a tongue two inches long, and will reward none
other. This clearly shuts out the bees, butterflies, and smaller moths.
What insect, then, is here implied? The sphinx-moth again, one of the
lesser of the group. A larger individual might sip the nectar, it is
true, but its longer tongue would reach the base of the tube without
effecting the slightest contact with the pollen, which is of course the
desideratum here embodied, and which has reference to a tongue
corresponding to the length of the nectary. There are many of these
smaller sphinxes. Let us suppose one to be hovering at the blossom's
throat. Its slender capillary tongue enters the opening. Ere it can
reach the sweets the insect's head must be forced well into the throat
of the blossom, where we now observe a most remarkable special
provision, the space between the two pollen discs being exactly adjusted
to the diameter of the insect's head. What follows this entrance of the
moth is plainly pictured in the progressive series of illustrations
(Fig. 6). A represents the insect sipping; the sticky discs are brought
in contact with the moth's eyes, to which they adhere, and by which they
are withdrawn from their pouches as the moth departs (B). At this time
they are in the upright position shown at C, but in a few seconds bend
determinedly downward and slightly towards each other to the position D.
This change takes place as the moth is flitting from flower to flower.
At E we see the moth with its tongue entering the nectary of a
subsequent blossom. By the new position of the pollen clubs they are now
forced directly against the stigma (E). This surface is viscid, and as
the insect leaves the blossom retains the grains in contact (F), which
in turn withdraw others from the mass by means of the cobwebby threads
by which the pollen grains are continuously attached. At G we see the
orchid after the moth's visit--the stigma covered with pollen, and the
flower thus cross-fertilized.

[Illustration: Fig. 6]

In effecting the cross-fertilization of one of the younger flowers its
eyes are again brought into contact with this second pair of discs, and
these, with their pollen clubs, are in turn withdrawn, at length perhaps
resulting in such a plastering of the insect's eyes as might seriously
impair its vision, were it not fortunately of the compound sort.

In another allied example of the orchids--the Showy Orchid--we have,
however, what would appear a clear adaptation to the head of a bee,
though one which might also avail of the service of an occasional
butterfly. A group of this beautiful species is shown in my
illustration. A favored haunt is the dark damp woods, especially beneath
hemlocks, and with its deep pink hood and pure white lip is quite showy
enough to warrant its specific title, "spectabilis." An enlarged view of
the blossom is seen in Fig. 7, and in Fig. 8 a still greater enlargement
of the column.

[Illustration: Fig. 7]

[Illustration: Fig. 8 A, Pollinium. B, Webby connection between grains. C,
Stretched to four times its length.]

I have seen many specimens with the pollen masses withdrawn, and others
with their stigmas well covered with the grains. Though I have never
seen an insect at work upon it in its haunt, the whole form of the
opening of the flower would seem to imply a bee, particularly a
bumblebee. If we insert the point of a lead-pencil into this opening,
thus imitating the entrance of a bee, its bevelled surface comes in
contact with the viscid discs by the rupture of a veil of membrane,
which has hitherto protected them. The discs adhere to the pencil, and
are withdrawn upon it (Fig. 9). At first in upright position, they soon
assume the forward inclination, as previously described. The nectary is
about the length of a bumblebee's tongue, and is, moreover, so amply
expanded at the throat below the stigma as to comfortably admit its
wedge-shaped head. The three progressive diagrams (Fig. 10) indicate the
result in the event of such a visit.

The pollen discs are here very close together, and are protected within
a membraneous cup, in which they sit as in a socket. As the insect
inserts his head at the opening (A) it is brought against this tender
membrane, which ruptures and exposes the viscid glands of the pollen
masses, which become instantly attached to the face or head, perhaps
the eyes, of the burly visitor. As the insect retreats from the flower,
one or both of the pollinia are withdrawn, as at B. Then immediately
follows a downward movement, which exactly anticipates the position of
the stigma, and as the bee enters the next flower the pollen clubs are
forced against it (C), as in the previous example.

[Illustration: Fig. 9]

In the case of a smaller bee visiting the flower, the insect would find
it necessary to creep further into the opening, and thus might bring its
thorax against the pollen-glands. In either case the change of position
in the pollinia would insure the same result.

[Illustration: Fig. 10 A B]

We have thus seen adaptation to the thorax, the eyes, and the face in
the three examples given. And the entrance of the flower in each
instance is so formed as to insure the proper angle of approach for the
insect for the accomplishment of the desired result. This direct
approach, so necessary in many orchids, is insured by various
devices--by the position of the lip upon which the insect must alight;
by the narrowed entrance of the throat of the flower in front of the
nectary; by a fissure in the centre of the lip, by which the tongue is
conducted, etc.

[Illustration: Fig. 10 C]

Many other species allied to the above possess similar devices, with
slight variations; and there is still another group whose structure is
distinctly adjusted to the _tongues_ of insects--adaptations not merely
of position of pollen masses, but even to the extent of a special
modification in the entrance to the flower and the shape of the sticky
gland, by which it may more securely adhere to that sipping member.

In the common pretty Purple-fringed Orchid, whose dense cylindrical
spikes of plumy blossoms occasionally empurple whole marshes, we have an
arrangement quite similar to the _H. orbicularis_ just described, with
the exception that the pollen-pouches are almost parallel, and not
noticeably spread at the base (Fig. 11). In this case the eyes of
sipping butterflies occasionally get their decoration of a tiny golden
club, but more frequently their tongues.

[Illustration: Fig. 11]

If, however, the butterfly should approach directly in front of the
flower, as in a larger blossom he would be most apt to do, he might sip
the nectar indefinitely and withdraw his tongue without bringing it in
contact with the viscid pollen discs. But in the dense crowding of the
flowers, over which the insect flutters indiscriminately, the approach
is oftenest made obliquely, and thus the tongue brushes the disc on the
side approached, and the pollen mass is withdrawn. But an examination of
this orchid affords no pronounced evidence of any specific intention.
There is no unmistakable sign to demonstrate which approach is
preferred or designed by the flower, and this dependence on the insect's
tongue or eye would seem to be left to chance.

In another closely allied species, however, we have a distinct provision
which insures the proper approach of the tongue--one of many similar
devices by which the tongue is conducted directly to one or the other of
the pollen discs.

[Illustration: Fig. 12]

This is the Ragged Orchid, a near relative of the foregoing, _H.
psycodes_, but far less fortunate in its attributes of beauty, its long
scattered spike of greenish-white flowers being so inconspicuous in its
sedgy haunt as often to conceal the fact of its frequency. Its
individual flower is shown enlarged at Fig. 12--the lip here cut with a
lacerated fringe (_H. lacera_). The pollen-pouches approach slightly at
the base, directly opposite the nectary, where the two viscid
pollen-glands stand on guard. Now were the opening of the nectary at
this point unimpeded, the same condition would exist as in the _H.
psycodes_--the tongue might be inserted between the pollen discs and
withdrawn without touching them. But here comes the remarkable and very
exceptional provision to make this contact a certainty--a
suggestive structural feature of this flower of which I am surprised
to find no mention either in our botanies or in the literature of
cross-fertilization, so far as I am familiar with its bibliography. Even
Dr. Gray's description of the fertilization device of this species makes
no mention of this singular and very important feature. The nectary
here, instead of being freely open, as in other orchids described, is
abruptly closed at the central portion by a firm protuberance or palate,
which projects downward from the base of the stigma, and closely meets
the lip below.

The throat of the nectary, thus centrally divided, presents two small
lateral openings, each of which, from the line of approach through the
much-narrowed entrance of the flower, is thus brought directly beneath
the waiting disc upon the same side. The structure is easily understood
from the two diagrams Figs. 12 and 13, both of which are indexed.

The viscid pollen-gland is here very peculiarly formed, elongated and
pointed at each end, and it is not until we witness the act of its
removal on the tongue of the butterfly that we can fully appreciate its

I have often seen butterflies at work upon this orchid, and have
observed their tongues generously decorated with the glands and remnants
of the pollen masses.

[Illustration: Fig. 13]

The series of diagrams (Fig. 14) will, I think, fully demonstrate how
this blossom utilizes the butterfly. At A we see the insect sipping, its
tongue now in contact with the elongated disc, which adheres to and
clasps it. The withdrawal of the tongue (B) removes the pollen from its
pouch. At C it is seen entirely free and upright, from which position it
quickly assumes the new attitude shown at D. As the tongue is now
inserted into the subsequent blossom this pollen mass is thrust against
the stigma (E), and a few of the pollen grains are thus withheld upon
its viscid surface as the insect departs (F).

In this orchid we thus find a distinct adaptation to the tongue of a
moth or butterfly.

Another similar device for assuring the necessary side approach is seen
in _H. flava_ (Fig. 15), a yellowish spiked species, more or less common
in swamps and rich alluvial haunts.

[Illustration: Fig. 14]

Professor Wood remarks, botanically, "The tubercle (or palate) of the
lip is a remarkable character." But he, too, has failed to note the
equally remarkable palate of the ragged orchid, just described, both
provisions having the same purpose, the insurance of an oblique approach
to the nectary. In _H. flava_ this "tubercle," instead of depending
from the throat, grows _upward_ from the lip, and, as we look at the
flower directly from the front, completely hides the opening to the
nectary, and an insect is compelled to insert its tongue on one side,
which direction causes it to pass directly beneath the pollen disc, as
in _H. lacera_, and with the same result.

[Illustration: Fig. 15]

Of all our native orchids, at least in the northeastern United States,
the Cypripedium, or Moccasin-Flower, is perhaps the general favorite,
and certainly the most widely known. This is readily accounted for not
only by its frequency, but by its conspicuousness. The term
"moccasin-flower" is applied more or less indiscriminately to all
species. The flower is also known as the ladies'-slipper, more
specifically Venus's-slipper--as warranted by its generic botanical
title--from a fancied resemblance in the form of the inflated lip, which
is characteristic of the genus. We may readily infer that the fair
goddess was not consulted at the christening.


There are six native species of the cypripedium in this Eastern region,
varying in shape and in color--shades of white, yellow, crimson, and
pink. The mechanism of their cross-fertilization is the same in all,
with only slight modifications.

The most common of the group, the _C. acaule_, most widely known as the
moccasin-flower, whose large, nodding, pale crimson blooms we so
irresistibly associate with the cool hemlock woods, will afford a good

The lip in all the cypripediums is more or less sac-like and inflated.
In the present species, _C. acaule_, however, we see a unique variation,
this portion of the flower being conspicuously bag-like, and cleft by a
fissure down its entire anterior face. In Fig. 16 is shown a front view
of the blossom, showing this fissure. The "column" (B) in the
cypripedium is very distinctive, and from the front view is very
non-committal. It is only as we see it in side section, or from beneath,
that we fully comprehend the disposition of stigma and pollen. Upon the
stalk of this column there appear from the front three lobes--two small
ones at the sides, each of which hides an anther attached to its under
face--the large terminal third lobe being in truth a barren rudiment of
a former stamen, and which now overarches the stigma. The relative
position of these parts may be seen in the under view.


The anthers in this genus, then, are two, instead of the previous
single anther with its two pollen-cells. The pollen is also quite
different in its character, being here in the form of a pasty mass,
whose entire exposed surface, as the anther opens, is coated with a very
viscid gluten.

[Illustration: Fig. 16]

With the several figures illustrating the cross-fertilization, the
reader will readily anticipate any description of the process, and only
a brief commentary will be required in my text.

I have repeatedly examined the flowers of _C. acaule_ in their haunts,
have observed groups wherein every flower still retained its pollen,
others where one or both pollen masses had been withdrawn, and in
several instances associated with them I have observed the inflated lip
most outrageously bruised, torn, and battered, and occasionally
perforated by a large hole. I had observed these facts in boyhood. The
inference, of course, was that some insect had been guilty of the
mutilation; but not until I read Darwin's description of the
cross-fertilization of this species did I realize the full significance
of these telltale evidences of the escape of the imprisoned insect.
Since that time, many years ago, I have often sat long and patiently in
the haunt of the cypripedium awaiting a natural demonstration of its
cross-fertilization, but as yet no insect has rewarded my devotion.

[Illustration: Fig. 17]

At length, in hopelessness of reward by such means, I determined to see
the process by more prosaic methods. Gathering a cluster of the freshly
opened flowers, which still retained their pollen, I took them to my
studio. I then captured a bumblebee, and forcibly persuaded him to enact
the demonstration which I had so long waited for him peaceably to
fulfil. Taking him by the wings, I pushed him into the fissure by which
he is naturally supposed to enter without persuasion. He was soon within
the sac, and the inflexed wings of the margin had closed above him, as
shown in section, Fig. 17. He is now enclosed in a luminous prison, and
his buzzing protests are audible and his vehemence visible from the
outside of the sac. Let us suppose that he at length has become
reconciled to his condition, and has determined to rationally fulfil the
ideal of his environment, as he may perhaps have already done
voluntarily before. The buzzing ceases, and our bee is now finding sweet
solace for his incarceration in the copious nectar which he finds
secreted among the fringy hairs in the upper narrowed portion of the
flower, as shown at Fig. 18 A. Having satiated his appetite, he
concludes to quit his close quarters. After a few moments of more
vehement futile struggling and buzzing, he at length espies, through the
passage above the nectary fringe, a gleaming light, as from two windows
(A). Towards these he now approaches. As he advances the passage becomes
narrower and narrower, until at length his back is brought against the
overhanging stigma (Fig. 18 B). So narrow is the pass at this point that
the efforts of the bee are distinctly manifest from the outside in the
distension of the part and the consequent slight change in the droop of
the lip. In another moment he has passed this ordeal, and his head is
seen protruding from the window-like opening (A) on one side of the
column. But his struggles are not yet ended, for his egress is still
slightly checked by the narrow dimensions of the opening, and also by
the detention of the anther, which his thorax has now encountered. A
strange etiquette this of the cypripedium, which speeds its parting
guest with a sticky plaster smeared all over its back. As the insect
works its way beneath the viscid contact, the anther is seen to be drawn
outward upon its hinge, and its yellow contents are spread upon the
insect's back (Fig. 18 C), verily like a plaster. Catching our bee
before he has a chance to escape with his generous floral compliments,
we unceremoniously introduce him into another cypripedium blossom, to
which, if he were more obliging, he would naturally fly. He loses no
time in profiting by his past experience, and is quickly creeping the
gantlet, as it were, or braving the needle's eye of this narrow passage.
His pollen-smeared thorax is soon crowding beneath the overhanging
stigma again, whose forward-pointed papillæ scrape off a portion of it
(Fig. 18 B), thus insuring the cross-fertilizing of the flower, the bee
receiving a fresh effusion of cypripedium compliments piled upon the
first as he says "good-bye." It is doubtful whether in his natural life
he ever fully effaces the telltale effects of this demonstrative _au

[Illustration: Fig. 18 A]

Such, with slight modifications, is the plan evolved by the whole
cypripedium tribe. Darwin mentions bees as the implied fertilizers, and
doubtless many of the smaller bees do effect cross-fertilization in the
smaller species. But the more ample passage in acaule would suggest the
medium-sized Bombus as better adapted--as the experiment herewith
pictured from my own experience many times would seem to verify, while a
honey-bee introduced into the flower failed to fulfil the demonstration,
emerging at the little doorway above without a sign of the cordial
parting token.

[Illustration: Fig. 18 B]

Occasionally I suppose a fool bumblebee is entrapped within the petal
bower and fails to find the proper exit, or it may be--much less a
fool--having run the gantlet once too often, decides to escape the
ordeal; hence the occasional mutilated blossom already described.

One of the most beautiful of our orchids, though its claims to
admiration in this instance are chiefly confined to the foliage, is the
common "Rattlesnake-Plantain," its prostrate rosettes of exquisitely
white reticulated leaves carpeting many a nook in the shadows of the
hemlocks, its dense spikes of yellowish-white blossoms signalling their
welcome to the bees, and fully compensating in interest what they may
lack in other attractive attributes.

[Illustration: Fig. 18 C]

The single flower is shown enlarged in Fig. 19--A, a young blossom, with
analyses B and C, the latter indexed; D, an older blossom, with similar
analyses (E and F). Both sorts are to be found upon every spike of
bloom, as the inflorescence begins at the base and proceeds upward. As
we look into the more open flower we observe a dark-colored speck,
which, by analysis, proves to be the lid of the anther. This portion is
further shown enlarged in Fig. 20, A. If we gently lift it with a pin,
we disclose the pollen masses in the cavity (B) thus opened (C, profile
section), the two pairs united to a common viscid gland at the base,
this gland again secreted behind a veil of moist membrane, as also shown
at B. This membrane is, moreover, very sensitive to the touch. Below the
flattened tip of the column, and at a sharp inward angle, is the stigma.
In the freshly opened flower (Fig. 19, A) the column inclines forward,
bringing the anther low down, and its base directly opposite the
V-shaped orifice in the lip, which also is quite firmly closed beneath
the equally converging upper hood of the blossom. The entrance is thus
much narrowed. If we insert a pin in this V-shaped entrance it comes in
contact with the sensitive membrane below the anther, and it is
immediately ruptured, as shown at Fig. 20, D. The sticky gland is
brought into immediate contact, and clasps the pin, which, now being
withdrawn, brings away the pollen, as in E and F. Thus it is naturally
removed on the tongue of its sipping bee.

[Illustration: Fig. 19]

[Illustration: Fig. 21]

The further demonstration will be better shown by profile sections (Fig.
21). Nectar is secreted in the hollow of the lip indicated, somewhat as
in the cypripedium. If we now imitate with a probe the habit of the
insect and the action of its tongue, we may witness a beautiful
contrivance for cross-fertilization. We will suppose the bee to be
working at the top of the spike. He thrusts his tongue into the narrow
opening (G). The membrane protecting the pollen-gland, thus surely
touched, ruptures as described, and the exposed gland attaches itself to
the tongue, being withdrawn as at H, and located on the insect's tongue,
as in F, Fig. 20. The bee leaves this flower cluster and flies to
another, upon which it will usually begin operation at the bottom. The
flower thus first encountered is an old bloom, as in Fig. 19, D. Its
sepals are more spreading, the lip slightly lowered, and the column so
changed as to present the plane of the stigma, before out of sight, in
such a new position as to invariably receive the pollen. The tongue of a
bee entering this flower conveys the pollen directly against the
stigmatic surface (I), which retains its disentangled fecundating
grains, as at J, and the flower's functional adaptations are fulfilled.

[Illustration: Fig. 20]

[Illustration: A. Extended. B. Folded beneath the head.]

In the allied Spiranthes, or "Lady's-Tresses," a somewhat similar
mechanism prevails, by which fertilization is largely effected by the
changed position or angle of the stigma plane.

And thus we might proceed through all the orchid genera, each new
device, though based upon one of the foregoing plans, affording its new
surprise in its special modification in adaptation to its insect
sponsor--all these various shapes, folds of petals, positions, colors,
the size, length, and thickness of nectary, the relative positions of
pollen and stigma, embodying an expression of welcome to the insect with
which its life is so marvellously linked. Occasionally this astounding
affinity is faithful to a single species of insect, which thus becomes
the sole sponsor of the blossom, without whose association the orchid
would become extinct. A remarkable instance of this special adaptation
is seen in the great Angræcum orchid of Madagascar, described by Darwin;
and inasmuch as this species glorifies Darwin's faith in the truth of
his theory, and marks a notable victory in the long battle for its
supremacy, it affords an inspiring theme for my closing paragraphs.

Among the host of sceptics--and were they not legion?--who met this
evolutionary and revolutionary theory with incredulity, not to say
ridicule or worse, was one who thus challenged its author shortly after
the appearance of his "Fertilization of Orchids," addressing Darwin from
Madagascar substantially as follows: "Upon your theory of evolution
through natural selection all the various contrasting structural
features of the orchids have direct reference to some insect which shall
best cross-fertilize them. If an orchid has a nectary one inch long, an
insect's tongue of equivalent length is implied; a nectary six inches in
length likewise implies a tongue six inches long. What have you to say
in regard to an orchid which flourishes here in Madagascar possessing a
long nectary as slender as a knitting-needle and eleven inches in
length? On your hypothesis there must be a moth with a tongue eleven
inches long, or this nectary would never have been elaborated."

Darwin's reply was magnificent in its proof of the sublime conviction of
the truth of his belief: "The existence of an orchid with a slender
nectary eleven inches in length, and with nectar secreted at its tip, is
a conclusive demonstration of the existence of a moth with a tongue
eleven inches in length, _even though no such moth is known_."

Many of us remember the ridicule which was heaped upon him for this
apparently blind adherence to an untenable theory. But victory complete
and demoralizing to his opponents awaited this oracular utterance when
later a disciple of Darwin, led by the same spirit of faith and
conviction, visited Madagascar, and was soon able to affirm that he had
caught the moth, a huge sphinx-moth, and that its tongue measured eleven
inches in length.


Here we see the prophecy of the existence of an unknown moth, founded on
the form of a blossom. At that time the moth had not been actually seen
at work on the orchid, but who shall question for a moment that had
the flower been visited in its twilight or moonlight haunt the murmur of
humming wings about the blossom's throat would have attested the
presence of the flower's affinity, for without the kiss of this
identical moth the Angræcum must become extinct. No other moth can
fulfil the conditions necessary to its perpetuation. The floral
adaptation is such that the moth must force its large head far into the
opening of the blossom in order to reach the sweets in the long nectary.
In so doing the pollen becomes attached to the base of the tongue, and
is withdrawn as the insect leaves the flower, and is thrust against the
stigma in the next blossom visited. This was clearly demonstrated by
Darwin in specimens sent to him, by means of a probe of the presumable
length and diameter of the moth's tongue. Shorter-tongued moths would
fail to remove the pollen, and also to reach the nectar, and would thus
soon learn to realize that they were not welcome.

The Angræcum also affords in this long pendent nectary a most lucid
illustration of the present workings of natural selection. The normal
length of that nectary should be about eleven inches, but in fact this
length varies considerably in the flowers of different plants, this
tendency to variation in all organic life being an essential and amply
demonstrated postulate of the entire theory of natural selection. Let us
suppose a flower whose nectary chances to be only six inches in length.
The moth visits this flower, but the tip of its tongue reaches the
nectar long before it can bring its head into the opening of the tube.
This being a vital condition, the moth fails to withdraw the pollen; and
inasmuch as the pollen is usually deposited close to the head of the
moth, this flower would _receive_ no pollen upon its stigma. This
particular blossom would thus be both barren and sterile. None of its
pollen would be carried to other stigmas, nor would it set a seed to
perpetuate by inheritance its shorter nectary.

Again, let us suppose the variation of an extra long nectary, and the
writer recently saw a number of these orchids with nectaries thirteen
inches in length. The moth comes, and now must needs insert its head to
the utmost into the opening of the flower. This would insure its
fertilization by the pollen on the insect's tongue; and even though the
sipper _failed_ to reach the nectar, the pollen would be withdrawn upon
the tongue, to be carried to other flowers, which might thus be expected
to inherit from the paternal side the tendency to the _longer_ nectary.
The tendency towards the perpetuation of the short nectary is therefore
stopped, while that of the longer nectary is insured.


The singular hospitality of our milkweed blossom is nowhere matched
among Flora's minions, and would seem occasionally in need of

Just outside the door here at my country studio, almost in touch of its
threshold, year after year there blooms a large clump of milkweed
(_Asclepias cornuta_), and, what with the fragrance of its purple
pompons and the murmurous music of its bees, its fortnight of bloom is
not permitted to be forgotten for a moment. Only a moment ago a whiff of
more than usual redolence from the open window at which I am sitting
reminded me that the flowers were even now in the heyday of their prime,
and the loud droning music betokened that the bees were making the most
of their opportunities.

Yielding to the temptation, I was soon standing in the midst of the
plants. The purple fragrant umbels of bloom hung close about me on all
sides, each flower, with its five generous horns of plenty, drained
over and over again by the eager sipping swarm.

But the July sun is one thing to a bee and quite another thing to me. I
have lingered long enough, however, to witness again the beautiful
reciprocity, and to realize anew, with awe and reverence, how divinely
well the milkweed and the bee understand each other. After a brief
search among the blossom clusters I return to my seclusion with a few
interesting specimens, which may serve as a text here at my desk by the
open window.

Two months hence an occasional silky messenger will float away from the
glistening clouds about the open milkweed pods, but who ever thanks the
bees of June for them? The flower is but a bright anticipation--an
expression of hope in the being of the parent plant. It has but one
mission. All its fragrance, all its nectar, all its beauty of form and
hue are but means towards the consummation of the eternal edict of
creation--"Increase and multiply." To that end we owe all the infinite
forms, designs, tints, decorations, perfumes, mechanisms, and other
seemingly inexplicable attributes. Its threshold must bear its own
peculiar welcome to its insect, or perhaps to its humming-bird friend,
or counterpart; its nectaries must both tempt and reward his coming,
and its petals assist his comfortable tarrying.

Next to the floral orchids, the mechanism of our milkweed blossom is
perhaps the most complex and remarkable, and illustrates as perfectly as
any of the orchid examples given in Darwin's noble work the absolute
divine intention of the dependence of a plant species upon the visits of
an insect.

Our milkweed flower is a deeply planned contrivance to insure such an
end. It fills the air with enticing fragrance. Its nectaries are stored
with sweets, and I fancy each opening bud keenly alert with conscious
solicitude for its affinity. Though many other flowers manage
imperfectly to perpetuate their kind in the default of insect
intervention, the milkweed, like most of the orchids, is helpless and
incapable of such resource. Inclose this budded umbel in tarlatan gauze
and it will bloom days after its fellow-blooms have fallen, anticipating
its consummation, but no pods will be seen upon this cluster.

What a singular decree has Nature declared with reference to the
milkweed! She says, in plainest terms, "Your pollen must be removed on
the leg of an insect, preferably a bee, or your kind shall perish from
the face of the earth." And what is the deep-laid plan by which this
end is assured? My specimens here on the desk will disclose it all.

Here are two bees, a fly, and a beetle, each hanging dead by its legs
from a flower, an extreme sacrificial penalty, which is singularly
frequent, but which was certainly not exacted nor contemplated in the
design of the flower. A careful search among almost any good-sized
cluster of milkweeds will show us many such prisoners. As in all
flowers, the pollen of the milkweed blossom must come in contact with
its stigma before fruition is possible. In this peculiar family of
plants, however, the pollen is distinct in character, and closely
suggests the orchids in its consistency and disposition. The yellow
powdery substance with which we are all familiar in ordinary flowers is
here absent, the pollen being collected in two club-shaped or, more
properly, spatula-shaped masses, linked in pairs at their slender
prolonged tips, each of which terminates in a sticky disc-shaped
appendage united in V-shape below. These pollen masses are concealed in
pockets (B) around the cylindrical centre of the flower, the discs only
being exposed at the surface, at five equidistant points around its rim,
where they lie in wait for the first unwary foot that shall touch
them. A glance at the two views of this central portion of the flower,
as it appears through my magnifying-glass--the honey-horns and sepals
having been removed--will, I think, indicate its peculiar anatomy or
mechanism. No _stigma_ is to be seen in the flower, the stigmatic
surface which is to receive the pollen being concealed within five
compartments, each of which is protected by a raised tent-like covering,
cleft along its entire apex by a fine fissure (A). _Outside of each of
these, and entirely separated from the stigma in the cavity_, lie the
pollen masses within their pockets, each pair uniting at the rim below
in V-shape, the union at the lower limit of the fissure.



With this more intimate knowledge of the floral anatomy, let us now
visit our milkweed-plant and observe closely.

A bee alights upon the flower--the object of its visit being, of course,
the sweets located in the five horn-shaped nectaries. In order to reach
this nectar the insect must hang to the bulky blossom. Instantly, and
almost of necessity, it would seem, one or more of the feet are seen to
enter the upper opening of the fissure, and during the insect's
movements are drawn through to the base. The foot is thus conducted
directly between the two viscid discs, which immediately cling closer
than a brother, and as the foot is finally withdrawn, the pollen is
pulled from its cell. The member now released seeks a fresh hold, and
the same result follows, the leg almost inevitably entering the fissure,
and this time drawing in the pollen directly against the sticky
stigmatic surface within. The five honey-horns have now been drained,
and as our bee leaves the flower he is plainly detained by this too
hearty "shake" or "grip" of his host, and quite commonly must exert a
slight struggle to free himself. As the foot is thus forcibly torn away,
the pollen mass is commonly scraped entirely off and retained within the
fissure, or perhaps parts at the stalk, leaving the terminal disc
clinging on the insect's leg. Occasionally, when more than one leg is
entangled, the dangling blossom is tossed and swayed for several seconds
by the vigorous pulling and buzzing, and a number of these temporary
captives upon a single milkweed-plant are always to be seen.

Not unfrequently the mechanism so well adapted exceeds its functions and
proves a veritable trap, as indicated in my specimens. I have found
three dead bees thus entrapped in a single umbel of blossoms, having
been exhausted in their struggles for escape; and a search among the
flowers at any time will show the frequency of this fatality, the
victims including gnats, flies, crane-flies, bugs, wasps, beetles, and
small butterflies. In every instance this prisoner is found dangling by
one or more legs, with the feet firmly held in the grip of the fissure.

Almost any bee which we may catch at random upon a milkweed gives
perfect evidence of his surroundings, its toes being decorated with the
tiny yellow tags, each successive flower giving and taking, exchanging
compliments, as it were, with his fellows. Ordinarily this fringe can
hardly prove more than an embarrassment; but we may frequently discern
an individual here and there which for some reason has received more
than his share of the milkweed's compliments. His legs are conspicuously
fringed with the yellow tags. He rests with a discouraged air upon a
neighboring leaf, while honey, and even wings, are seemingly forgotten
in his efforts to scrape off the cumbersome handicap.


An interesting incident, apropos of our embarrassed bee, was narrated to
me by the late Alphonso Wood, the noted botanist. He had received by
mail from California a small box containing a hundred or more dead bees,
accompanied by a letter. The writer, an old bee-keeper, had experience,
and desired enlightenment and advice. The letter stated that his bees
were "dying by thousands from the attacks of a peculiar fungus." The
ground around the hive was littered with the victims in all stages of
helplessness, and the dead insects were found everywhere at greater
distances scattered around his premises. It needed only a casual glance
at the encumbered insects to see the nature of the malady. They were
laden two or three pairs deep, as it were, with the pollen masses of a
milkweed. The botanist wrote immediately to his anxious correspondent,
informing him, and suggesting as a remedy the discovery and destruction
of the mischievous plants, which must be thriving somewhere in his
neighborhood. A subsequent letter conveyed the thanks of the bee-keeper,
stating that the milkweeds--a whole field of them--had been found and
destroyed, and the trouble had immediately ceased. I am not aware that
Mr. Wood ever ascertained the particular species of milkweed in this
case. It is not probable that our Eastern species need ever seriously
threaten the apiary, though unquestionably large numbers of bees are
annually destroyed by its excessive hospitality. I have repeatedly found
honey-bees dead beneath the plants, and my cabinet shows a specimen of a
large bumblebee which had succumbed to its pollen burden, its feet, and
even the hairs upon its body, being fringed deep with the tiny
clubs--one of the many specimens which I have discovered as the "grist
in the mill" of that wise spider which usually spreads his catch-all
beneath the milkweeds.

       *       *       *       *       *

Allied to the milkweed is another plant, the dogbane (_Apocynum_), which
has a similar trick of entrapping its insect friends. Its drooping,
fragrant, bell-shaped white flowers and long slender pods will help to
recall it. But its method of capture is somewhat similar to the
milkweed. The anthers are divided by a V-shaped cavity, into which the
insect's tongue is guided as it is withdrawn from the flower, and into
which it often becomes so tightly wedged as to render escape impossible.
I have found small moths dangling by the tongue, as seen in the
illustration below.




  Agalena, house-spider, 7.

  Alypia, grape-vine-moth, 160.

  Andromeda (_A. ligustrina_),
    singular greeting to the bee, 126;
    interior arrangement of flower, 128;
    release of the pollen, 129.

  Angræcum, orchid of Madagascar, with nectary eleven inches long, 219.

    herding the aphides, 166;
    a model honey-farm, 167.

  "Ant-holes," 61.

  Aphides, plant-lice,
    founders of the feast, 165;
    herded by ants, 167.

  _Apocynum_, dogbane, 236.

  _Aprophora_, spume-bearer, 82.

  _Arethusa bulbosa_, orchid, 175.

  _Argiope_, field spider, 8.

  Aristolochias, 119.

  Aristotle, 23.

  Arum, wild:
    --Position of the anthers, 141;
    progressive stages of change, 142.

  _Asclepias cornuta_, milkweed, 227.

  _Asilus_, "robber-fly", 8.

  Axell, a follower of Darwin, 116.

    --The drone of, 5;
    a counterpart of clover; dependence of clover on, 117;
    manner of approach, 121;
    black-and-white banded, 126;
    approach to the blue-flag, 131;
    experiment with the bumblebee, 209;
    his escape from the flower, 210;
    manner of cross-fertilizing, 212;
    manner of conveying the pollen, 218;
    his difficulties with the milkweed flower, 233;
    the cumbersome handicap, 234;
    destroyed by the milkweed, 235.

  Beetles (_Cicindela_), tiger, 68.

    --Swifts, 5;
    robin, 5;
    vireo, 5, 45;
    indigo, 5;
    chat, 5, 40;
    oriole, 5, 32;
    red-headed chippy; barn-swallow, 6, 28, 39, 40;
    cuckoo, 23;
    "kow-bird"; cow black-bird; bunting, 27;
    song-sparrow, 30, 40;
    Maryland yellow-throat, 28, 45;
    Wilson's thrush; chewink, 32;
    fly-catcher; bluebird; oven-bird; cat-bird; phoebe, 40;
    bobolink; "reed-bird," 53;
    humming, 227.

  Birds' nests:
    --Flimsy structure of the cuckoo's, 26;
    song-sparrow's, 30;
    oriole's swinging hammock; cobweb structure of the vireo's, 32;
    size of yellow-bird's; summer yellow-bird's beautiful home, 47;
    a four-story house, a possible fashion in featherdom, 51;
    pipit's, 35;
    wood-sparrow's, 37.

  Bittersweet (_Celastrus scandens_), queer little harlequins on, 9;
    its scarlet-coated seeds, 88.

  Blackburn, Mrs., quoted, 35.

  Blair, Patrick, his claims concerning pollen, 111.

  Blossom ceremonies, 119.

    its hidden anthers reached only by the bumblebee or large fly,129;
    manner of the bee's approach, 131.

  Burroughs on wren-building, 17.

    --Great yellow swallow-tail (_Papilio turnus_); red admiral
      (_Pyrameis Atlanta_); small yellow (_Philodice_); semicolon
      (_Grapta interrogationis_); comma (_Vanessa comma_), 153;
    orange; white (_Aphrodite_), 154;
    white cabbage (_Pontia oleracea_) 153.

  _Cactus_, prickly-pear, its golden bower, 118.

  _Collinsonia_, horse-balm, 136.

  Caterpillars, 10, 14, 15, 62.

  _Celastrus scandens_, bittersweet, 88.

  _Chamælirium luteum_, devil's-bit, 133.

  Chipmonk, 6.

    victim of the sand-hornet, 77;
    manner of depositing its eggs; period of transformation, 97;
    time of hatching, 100.

  Cicindela, tiger-beetle, 68.

  Clover, cause of failure of crop in Australia, 117.

    --A dusty prize; a two year's span, 7;
    a mixed assortment in, 8.

  Cone-flower (_Rudbeckia hirta_), 138;
    embryo seeds; arrangement of the anthers, 139.

  Cow black-bird, 27;
    his favorite perch; old dame's theory, 28;
    an unwelcome intruder, 30;
    a prowling foe, 31.

    --Ravenous young parasite, 31;
    a clamoring lubber, 37;
    "Black Douglas" of the bird-home, 38;
    selected victims, 39;
    distribution of its eggs; vicious habits, 40;
    egg-laying intervals; demoralizing conditions; American species
      an improvement, 41;
    survival of the fittest, 42;
    balance of power, 44;
    outwitted, 51;
    massing for migration, 52.

  "Cow-spit," 80.

  Cross-fertilization, 115, 122, 178, 189, 194.

  "Cuckoo-spit," 80.

    --Poetic misnomer, 23;
    outrage on maternal affection; yellow-billed; black-billed;
      imagination versus facts, 25;
    bad workmanship of nest, 26;
    its stammering cry, 27;
    manner of depositing its eggs; handling the egg with her bill, 33;
    short period of incubation; voracious appetite of the young;
      aggressive selfishness, 34;
    the tragedy of the nest, 35;
    manner of disposing of its nest-mates, 36.

  _Cypripedium acaule_, moccasin-flower; ladies'-slipper;
     Venus's-slipper, 205.

    --Process of anatomical evolution, 35;
    theory of cross-fertilization, 105;
    inspired insight, 115;
    his disciples, 116;
    experiments with pollen, 126;
    weakness of self-fertilizing flowers, 144;
    triumphant revelation, 171;
    reaffirming Sprengel's theory, 178;
    a chosen interpreter, 181;
    dependence on insects, 183;
    revealing the hidden treasure, 185;
    foretelling the manner of cross-fertilization, 189;
    description of the cross-fertilization, 209;
    bees as implied fertilizers, 212;
    truth of his belief, 220.

  Darning-needle, dragon-fly (_Libellulidæ_), 156;
    his dainty morsel, 160.

  Delpino, a follower of Darwin, 116.

  _Desmodium_, its hospitable welcome, 118.

  Devil's-bit (_Chamælirium luteum_), 133.

  Digger wasp,
    its color and wire-like waist, 72;
    manner of working, 74;
    covering its tracks; opening the tomb, 76;
    living food for the young grub, 77;
    its remarkable carrying power, 78.

  Dogbane (Apocynum),
    its fragrant, bell-shaped flowers, 236;
    trapping moths, 237.

  Dogwood, 5.

  Door-Step Neighbors:
    --Chronicle of a day, 58;
    disappearing holes, 59, 16;
    "ant-holes"; a danger signal; an unhealthy court, 61;
    a transformation, 62;
    an experiment; method of excavation, 63;
    a stalwart worker, 64;
    an uncouth nondescript; spider-like legs, 66;
    crawls on his back, 67;
    a tiny black wasp; a spider-catcher, 69;
    resting on her wings; inspecting her burrow, 70;
    manner of burying her prey; skilful workmanship, 71;
    a new-comer; her wire-like waist; digging her tunnel, 72;
    manner of working; sound of labor, 74;
    covering her tracks; opening the tomb, 76;
    fresh living food, 77;
    carrying seven times its weight; peculiar features of stone-piling, 78;
    color of the wasp, 79;
    the spume-bearer, 81;
    nomadic blossoms; a sack bearer, 83;
    winter quarters, 84.

  Epeira, field spider, 8.

  Epiphytes, air-plants, 181.

  Evening primrose, its golden necklace, 118.

  "Fertilization of Flowers," 116;
    wrong theory, 114.

  Fertilization of orchids, 105, 183.

    --Robber, 8;
    bluebottle, 8;
    harvest ichneumon, 45, 77, 96.

  Foxes, wild gambols of, 6.

  Froghopper. See Spume-bearer (_Aprophora_), 82.

  Gärtner, recognizing the theory of cross-fertilization, 115.

  Genesta, its reception of insects, 118.

  Geranium, wild (_G. sylvaticum_), 112.

  Gilbert, concerning cuckoo's eggs, 25.

  "Gobs," 80.

  Gray, Asa:
    --Demonstration concerning orchids, 184;
    surmise concerning the withdrawal of pollen, 188;
    orchid structure, 190.

  Grew, Nehemias, discovery concerning pollen, 110;
    discoveries about pollen, 113;
    first step in progress, 116.

  Habenaria flava:
    --Yellow-spiked, 203;
    _H. lacera_, ragged, 200;
    _H. orbicularis_, showy, 194, 199;
    _H. psycodes_, purple-fringed, 200;
    _H. mascula_, 189.

  Heath, its distinguishing characteristics, 123.

  _Hemiptera_, bugs with sucking beaks, 81.

    --A follower of Sprengel, 108;
    recognizing the principle of cross-fertilization, 115.

  "Honey-dew Picnic":
    --Gathering of the clans, 153;
    a selected spot, 154;
    a motley assemblage, 155;
    an outlaw, 157;
    a finish fight, 158;
    funeral baked meats, 164;
    gathering his grist;
    the founder of the feast, 158.

  Honey-guides, 112, 129.

    --Its heavy load, 9;
    on the watch, 15;
    "solitary," 17;
    queer home of, 18;
    great sand, 77;
    black paper, 161.

  Horse-balm (_Collinsonia_), its singular shape, 136;
    manner of bee's approach to, 138.

    --On insect slavery, 151;
    on the cultivation of the aphides, 166.

  Insect Fertilization, 115.

  Jack-in-the-Pulpit, detaining its guests, 119.

  Jardine, Sir William, concerning cuckoo's eggs, 32.

  Jenner, Dr., habits of the young cuckoo, 35.

  Knight, Andrew:
    --On the divination of flowers, 108;
    theory of cross-fertilization, 115.

    --Recognizing Sprengel's principles, 108;
    a botanical pioneer, 115.

  Krunitz, on flower honey, 111.

  Labiates, flowers with lips, 122.

  Ladies'-tresses (_Spiranthes_), 218.

    --Hornet, 16;
    "puss-moth," 76;
    psychid, 83.

    --Settling the theory of fertilization, 110;
    puzzled as to the function of honey, 111;
    a second step, 116;
    imperfect knowledge of the orchid, 173.

  Logan, concerning the cuckoo, 23.

    --On the divination of flowers, 108;
    follower of Darwin, 116;
    on the cultivation of aphides, 166.

  Martial Spirit of Vespa, 19.

  _Membracis binotata_, insect with a sharp beak, a tree-hopper, 91.

    --Its matchless hospitality;
    purple pompons;
    its five horns, 227;
    its one mission;
    the humming-bird its friend, 228;
    complex mechanism;
    enticing fragrance;
    removal of pollen on insects' legs, 229;
    four captives, 230;
    its honey trap;
    its tenacious grip, 233;
    an assortment of victims;
    cumbersome handicap, 234;
    a wholesale destroyer, 235.

  Mint family, 122.

  _Mnio-tiltidæ_, summer yellow-bird, 47.

  Moccasin-flower (_Cypripedium acaule_), 205.

    sphinx, 118, 190, 220;
    grape-vine, 160.

  Mountain laurel:
    --Showers of pollen of;
    curious construction of flower of;
    withers if brought indoors, 124;
    character of the pollen, 125.

  Mouse, motley collection of food of;
    mischief of, 7.

  Müller, Hermann:
    --On the divination of flowers, 108;
    on defective observation, 114;
    the relations between the flower and insect, 116;
    on fertilization, 142

  Nature's Equilibrium, 39.

  Natural observation, 57.

  Nomadic blossoms, 83.

    --Dependence on insects, 144;
    strange mechanical adaptation;
    perfume suggesting raspberries, 145;
    intention of the blossom, 146;
    adaptation for insects, 147;
    its fragrance a perfumed whisper of welcome, 148;
    a contrast, 172;
    form of invitation, 173;
    insect complement, 174;
    Arethusa bulbosa, 175;
    theories concerning the conveyance of the pollen, 176;
    the most highly specialized form of flowers, 180;
    distinguished by its structure;
    American varieties not air-plants;
    form of flower, 181;
    elasticity of the pollen of the _Spectabilis_, 182;
    self-fertilizing, 183;
    American and exotic species, 184;
    Arethusa's fragrance, 185;
    its structure, 186;
    significant depth of nectar wells;
    conditions demanded of insects, 187;
    Gray's surmise, 188;
    sphinx-moth its only complement, 190;
    manner of carrying the pollen by sphinx-moth, 193;
    extracting the pollen with a pencil;
    length of the nectary, 196;
    purple-fringed, 198;
    ragged, 200;
    very exceptional provision, 201;
    yellow-spiked, 203;
    the color of, 205;
    distinctive character of, 206;
    practical experiment, 209;
    imprisonment of the bee;
    manner of its release, 210;
    rattlesnake-plantain, 213;
    Angræcum, its long nectary, 219;
    tongue of a sphinx-moth eleven inches long, 220;
    nectary thirteen inches long, 223.

  "Origin of Species":
    --First important presentation of the theory of
      cross-fertilization, 105;
    tardy appreciation of the work, 115.

  _Odynerus flavipes_, wren-wasp, 10.

  Ovid, concerning hornets, 18.

  Parallels in Nature, 152.

  Platanthera, orchid group, 192.

  Pliny, 23.

  _Pogonia ophioglossoides_, sweet-pogonia, 145.

  Polistes, brown wasp, 161.

  Primrose, evening, 118.

    --A sack-bearer; drags its house with it; feeds on seed-pods, 83;
    winter quarters of silk, 84.

  Queer Little Family:
    --Tree-hopper (_Membracis binotata_); a singular entertainment;
      graceful curves, 87;
    a branch in masquerade; queer thorns, 88;
    a sudden disappearance; animated thorns; like a covey of quails, 89;
    like "Bob White," 90;
    singular agility; queer anatomy; always ready for flight, 91;
    fondness for locust and oak-trees, simulating the color and character
      of the branches, 92;
    manner of sitting on the branches, 93;
    always headed towards the top; tiny tufts of cotton, 94;
    color and size of the tufts; a mere frothy shell; a riddle, 95;
    its relations, 96;
    an investigation, 97;
    its technique, 98;
    aërated cement; froth-house builder, 99;
    period of hatching, 100;
    a house for the winter; not a wanderer, 101.

  Ragged Orchid (_H. lacera_), 200.

  "Rattlesnake-plantain," 213.

  _Rudbeckia hirta_, cone-flower, 138.

  Sage (_Salvia officinalis_), strange curved stamen, 119;
    nature's arrangement, 112.

  Salvia, its welcome to the bee, 117.

  Self-fertilization, 141.

  Sheep-spit, 80.

  Showy orchid (_H. orbicularis_),194.

  Snorting war-horse, 18.

  Solitude, the pleasures of, 3.

  "Solomon's ant," 152.

  Spectabilis, orchid, 182;
    its favorite haunt, 195.

  Spiders, _agalena_, _epeira_, _argiope_, 8;
    a two years' span, 7;
    a silken vortex;
    miscellaneous food, 8.

  _Spiranthes_, "Lady's-tresses," 218.

  Sprengel, Christian Conrad:
    --Inspiration from the wild geranium, 108;
    on the mystery of color, 112;
    theory of fertilization;
    a poser to Linnæus, 113;
    his wrong theory, 114;
    divining half the truth, 176;
    assumption disproved, 178.

  Spume-bearer (_Aprophora_), its domicile of suds;
    wonderful power of jumping, 82.

  Starling, dispossessing woodpecker from nest, 43.

  Studio Company:
    --"Tumultuous privacy"; contested territory; snickering squirrels, 4;
    selected food; unsymmetrical carpentry; drone of bees; carol of birds;
      flurry of swifts; accompaniments to my toil, 5;
    wild fox; pet chipmonk; pet toad; his lightning tongue;
      home in a bowl, 6;
    an old friend, 9.

  Summer yellow-bird (_Mnio-tiltidæ_), 47.

  Sweet-pogonia (_P. ophioglossoides_), 145.

  Swift, Jonathan, on parasites, 44.

  Tennyson, quoted, 24.

  "The Secrets of Nature in Forms and Fertilization of Flowers Discovered,"
    Sprengel's work, 113.

  Thévenot, concerning the thrift of insects, 152.

  Tiger-beetle (_Cicindela_), 68.

  Toads, 6.

  Toad-spit, 80.

  Tree-hopper, 93.

  Venus's-slipper (Cypripedium acaule), 205.

  Vireo, abandons its nest, 45.

    --Wren, 10;
    microscopic, 45;
    tiny black, 69;
    digger, 72, 162;
    orange-spotted, 79;
    brown; mud, 161.

  "Waxwork" bittersweet (_Celastrus scandens_), 88.

  Welcome of the flowers:
    --The function of the stamen, 106;
    difference in cells, 107;
    condition of the flower, 108;
    physiological features; recognition of sex in flowers, 109;
    exchange of courtesies; each flower a law unto itself, 117;
    action of "jack-in-the-pulpit"; cypripedium and aristolochias;
      peculiarity of the sage, 119;
    queer stamens; nature's arrangement, 121;
    cross-fertilization insured, 122;
    showers of laurel pollen; curious construction of flower, 124;
    singular greeting to the bee, 126;
    remarkable interior arrangement of the Andromeda, 128;
    hidden anthers of the blue-flag, 129;
    intercommunication and reciprocity, 135.

  Wild geranium (_G. sylvaticum_), 112.

  Wild volapük, 4.

  Wilson, cow-bird's eggs, 33.

  Wind as a fertilizing agent, 154.

  White, Gilbert, cuckoo's eggs, 32;
    rich localities, 58.

  Wood, Alphonso:
    --On tubercles, 203;
    on embarrassed bees, 235.

  Woodchucks, 5.

  Wren-wasp (_Odynerus flavipes_):
    --A cumbersome prize, 10;
    selecting a home; way stations; a second instalment, 11;
    very familiar, 12;
    a well-stocked home, 13;
    impotent anæsthetic, 14;
    manner of catching her prey; a hypodermic injection, 15;
    food on storage; closing the cell after depositing egg, 16;
    living food; preference for ready-made houses; resemblance to
      the yellow-jacket, 17.

  Zenarchus, concerning the cicada, 96.




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