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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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Daisy.

by Mrs. Ussher.
Volume 10, 1899, pg. 733


Take a big dog daisy--it is like our small friend in all essential respects and is easier to study because it is so much bigger. I leave it to you to find out the dissimilar points and to infer which are the most important ones. You will have to make comparisons. Well, gather the dog daisy carefully, so as to get it entire, only spare its root! Take from me on trust that it is, for the most part, tap-shaped and digs into the ground with a will. First of all, at the bottom of the stalk is a tuft of leaves, and at the bottom of these leaves (which are arranged spirally, one close above another) are buds--future crawling, root-anchored runners. These runners do as the parents did; then they become ambitious, cock their heads three feet high and send out branches, each of which ends in a blossom, the central and oldest shoot being the first to bloom. Along the stalk are tolerably well marked ridges which end in leaves; the stalk is rough with hairs--may they not be intended to convey water to the root? the leaves come turn about and are bristly in places; at the bottom of the plant they are stalked and unequally toothed like a jagged saw; the upper leaves are stalkless and clasp the stem; in places the toothing along their edge becomes so deep and fine as to resemble a feather rather than a saw.

Now take one of the flowers, or rather, as in the dandelion, one of the colonies of florets; the colony stalk is channelled by grooves, which are separated by very distinct ridges, and two or three dwarfed leaves grow near the top of it--they are half way between the shape of the leaves lower down on the plant and the shape of those close up round the colony. These last overlap one another closely in three or four tight rows; they are bordered with brown scales and cover the florets entirely in the bud stage. These florets differ both as to shape and colour; the outside ones are white and rolled below into a tube like the florets of the dandelion; the middle ones are rolled all along, they are like golden bells tilted bottom up. Tear the colony in two from beneath; then you will see the platform all dinted with little holes out of which the florets grow. They are arranged on a plan, as in the dandelion, and, likewise, get further and further apart, as the flower ages, by the bossing of the platform. If you were to roll up the dandelion florets along their whole length, they would be very like these yellow bells, only longer. Both are traversed by five veins which fork in order to edge five notches, and are re-united at the top of each notch. Within, you again find a tube formed by dust threads, [Stamens.] joined at their edges, and inside again a dust shoot, [Pistil.] hairy in the daisy as in the dandelion--only in the daisy it is purplish instead of yellow and the dust shoot is green. Near the base of the dust shoot, above the second vessel, is a little ball-shaped swelling: it is this that bulges out the yellow bells. The seed vessel is furrowed by eight grooves which turn purplish red, a lovely contrast to the light green ridges which separate them.

In the dandelion florets you saw cup leaves [Sepals] reduced to hairs: here there are not even hairs, only a little rim where the eight ridges leave off. In some near relations of the dog daisy, the rim is sufficiently raised to form a very shallow cup.

Let us compare the bells with the white flag-shaped florets. There are about thirty of these last, and they end in three notches instead of five. Does this mean that only three leaves got to make a white streamer? Examine the veins, especially on the back side: you will count six, joining at their ends into an arcade of fives arches: the middle and widest arch corresponds to the central notch; the side notches correspond to a couple of arches apiece. You can follow the veins down to the very bottom of the flag, where it is rolled up tube-wise. Well, each of the five arches is, in reality, the end of a leaf; but the five united leaves are outstripped by a growth which has only three notches--in order to deceive those who think they know things at first sight!

The white florets, like the yellow ones, tend to green below. And the seed vessel only differs from the one you looked at before in that it is longer, slighter, and more curved on the inner side; the grooves and ridges are the same, but the little cup rim is more pronounced, and is sufficiently toothed on its inner side to give you a guess at its nature. But now open the white floret and you will find a great difference--there are no dust threads, merely the dust shoot with its forked end. Look and see if you can find any hairs on it: there is a French botanist to tell you you won't find a single one, and a German botanist to tell you that they are there, only stunted--which of them is right? And why should hairs be scarce or absent on the dust shoots of these white florets? The answer is not difficult, and so I leave it to you. While you are looking and thinking, you will probably notice that in some of the old yellow florets the fork seems absent: the dust shoot has swallowed all the dust [Pollen.] needful, and instead of greedily remaining open for more, it has closed up and retreated inside the bell again.

You saw how, in the dandelion, the outer and older florets close at times over the inner ones, so that the forked tongues can lick dust from the centre of the flower colony, and perhaps it occurred to you that a reversal of services may sometimes occur. For instance, by the time the dust shoots in the middle of the colony have split open, the dust bags [Anthers.] are all empty. But some of their contents may still be clinging to the hairs on the oldest dust shoots, which can then supply the younger ones. In the aster, which is a far nearer daisy relation than the dandelion, the central florets are so grouped that, without any bending or stretching, their dust falls on the outside members of the colony (Kerner). In a still relation, the camomile daisy, the stalk grows after a fashion which tilts or bends the outer florets into a position whence they can empty dust on the inner ones (Kerner). What happens to the daisy itself? I leave you to find out.

Now we come to what is a sad-coloured season for most flowers--our poor little daisy begins to fade. The limp white flags hang back and the blush on them browns, like a rosy apple in decay. This tendency of the florets to roll outwards is best seen in the dog daisy; but you must go to its small first cousin for the blushes, especially when its cheeks are turned to the cold night air, and it tries to hide itself under the dank meadow grass. In high or cold lands, too, you will find it braced to lively colour, and, along with it, many an usually pale-faced neighbour. But this is a digression. When the white flags are lowered and fall away, is it all over with our daisy? Not so: it defies Fate, and its bells ring out the changes of new glories. They stand out higher, for the seeds beneath them have grown, and the platform has heightened into a cone, throwing them all apart, and showing them off. Some are yellow, but many are scarlet and orange. These are the ones which the fairies have kissed. Gradually they drop away and the seeds drop after them. But the bare places on the dull or reddish green come only serve to make the remaining bright bells seem brighter yet, and even when these are gone, there is beauty left. The naked cone is swept by delicately curved lines of punctuation. Each dot marks the place where a seed grew. Round this light green cone is a dark green Elizabethan ruff, of which each part is sometimes edged with crimson. Green gradually gives way to umbers and ochres; cone, ruff and stalk--all that remains--blacken to decay. But our daisy need not mourn: it has been lovely to the last.


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