FlowersA flower, sometimes known as a bloom or blossom, is the reproductive structure found in flowering plants (plants of the division Magnoliophyta, also called angiosperms). The biological function of a flower is to effect reproduction, usually by providing a mechanism for the union of sperm with eggs. Flowers may facilitate outcrossing (fusion of sperm and eggs from different individuals in a population) or allow selfing (fusion of sperm and egg from the same flower). Some flowers produce diaspores without fertilization (parthenocarpy). Flowers contain sporangia and are the site where gametophytes develop. Flowers give rise to fruit and seeds. Many flowers have evolved to be attractive to animals, so as to cause them to be vectors for the transfer of pollen.
In addition to facilitating the reproduction of flowering plants, flowers have long been admired and used by humans to beautify their environment, and also as objects of romance, ritual, religion, medicine and as a source of food.
GRANDMOTHER'S GARDENStately and prim grew the hollyhocks tall,
In grandmother's garden against the wall;
Fairest of flower-duennas were they,
Keeping good watch through the long summer day.
Close by the was the sunshiny corner, where
The foxgloves swayed in the balmy air,
And nodded across to the larkspurs blue,
And the pleasant nook where the columbines grew.
There were cinnamon-roses, and, low at their feet,
The shadowy cluster of day-lilies sweet,
And mignonette modest, and pensive heart's-ease,
And boy's love, and candytuft, sweet in the breeze.
And, first every morn by the sun to be kissed,
Grew, all in a tangle, fair love-in-a-mist,
With bachelor's-buttons, and sweet williams gay,
And spice pinks for neighbours just over the way;
There were sweet peas coquettish, most festive of flowers,
And four-o'clocks sturdy to mark off the hours,
And frail morning-glories that laughed in the light
At the phlox and verbenas, pink, purple, and white.
Ah! the days were so bright, and so sweet was the air,
And in grandmother's garden all life looked so fair!
FROM UNDER THE PINESThe postman rang the bell earlier than usual that morning. To Phyllis he handed a good-sized box well wrapped in brown paper.
"It's from Auntie Nan!" cried Phyllis, in frantic haste to cut the string. "It's from Auntie Nan! I know her writing! What can it be?"
By this time the string was unfastened, and the brown paper torn off. Phyllis slipped the cover.
"Oh!" she said, as though her breath were quite taken away.
"Oh!" and her pink little face was buried in the box. "Oh, where did you come from?"
The pink, pink bloom of the arbutus smiled up at her, and the delicious fragrance filled the whole room.
There were great masses of the small, fragrant blossoms. Phyllis happily lifted them from their box, and filled a big glass bowl with them. This she placed on the table in the dining-room. Their sweetness greeted all as they entered the room.
In the bottom of the box was tucked a note from Auntie Nan. It was directed to Phyllis. Would you like to read the letter?
"Dear little Spring Blossom:–Here are some of your little sisters come to keep your birthday with you. I know you will be glad to welcome them, especially when I tell you that I found them huddled snugly under some brown leaves and half covered with snow.
"'We are Phyllis's birthday blossoms,' they seemed to say, as I brushed away the leaves and the snow, and they looked bravely out.
"So I gathered every one I could find; and I send them to you, little girl, because they make me think of a certain sweet little pink and white baby your mamma sent for me to come and see just eight years ago.
"Are you not glad that you, too, are a little Mayflower, and that your birthday comes on the very first day?
"You know, your friend, the poet, Whittier, calls these little wild wood flowers which I am sending 'The first sweet smiles of May'?
"Did I say that these flowers grew out on the hill among the pines where you played last summer? They tell me that the arbutus is particularly fond of pine-woods and light sandy soil.
"Do you not call them brave to peep forth so very early? But, you see, they were really very well protected by their own heart-shaped leaves, which kept alive and green all winter just for the sake of those blossoms which were to come.
"I think it is no wonder that the Pilgrims, after that first hard, hard winter, were so happy to welcome this little messenger of spring. They called it the Mayflower. We people of New England still call it the Mayflower, but by others it is called the trailing arbutus. Sometimes, too, I have heard it called 'mountain laurel.'
"I have no doubt but that the story of the Pilgrims is quite true, for the flower still grows in its lovely sweetness all about the hills of Plymouth.
"Are you not glad that I call them your flowers, Phyllis? Are you not glad that to us, you, too, are one of 'the first sweet smiles of May?'
"Wishing that all Mayflowers may bloom more and more sweetly as the seasons go, I am,
THE TRANSPLANTED FLOWER"Every time a good child dies, one of God's angels comes down to earth and takes the dead child in his arms, then spreads his large white wings and flies over all the spots which the child best loved and plucks a whole handful of flowers, which he carries up to the Almighty, that they may bloom in still greater loveliness in heaven than they did upon earth; and the Almighty presses all such flowers upon His heart, but He gives a kiss to the one He prefers, and then the flower becomes endowed with a voice, and can join the choir of the blessed."
These words were spoken by one of God's angels, as he carried a dead child to heaven, and the child heard him as in a dream; and they passed over the spots in his home where the little one had played, and they passed through gardens filled with beautiful flowers.
"Which shall we take with us and transplant into the kingdom of heaven?" asked the angel.
There stood a slender, lovely rose-bush, only some wicked hand had broken the stem, so that its sprigs, loaded with half-open buds, were withering around.
"Poor rose-bush!" said the child; "let's take it, in order that it may be able to bloom above, in God's kingdom."
And the angel took it and kissed the child for its kind intention, and the little one half-opened its eyes. They plucked some of the gay, ornamental flowers, but took likewise the despised buttercup and the wild pansy.
"Now we have plenty of flowers," said the child, and the angel nodded assent; but did not yet fly upward to God. It was night, and all was quiet; they remained in the large town, and hovered over one of the narrow streets, where lay heaps of straw, ashes, and sweepings. There lay fragments of plates; pieces of plaster of Paris, rags, and old hats, and all sorts of things that had become shabby.
And amidst this heap the angel pointed to the broken fragments of a flower-pot, and to a lump of mould that had fallen out of it, and was kept together by the roots of a large, withered field-flower, which, being worthless, had been flung into the street.
"We will take it with us," said the angel, "and I will tell you why as we fly along."
And as they flew, the angel related as follows:
"In yon narrow street, a poor, sickly boy lived in a lonely cellar. He had been bed-ridden from his childhood. In his best days, he could just walk on crutches up and down the room a couple of times, but that was all. During some days in summer the sun just shone for about half an hour on the floor of the cellar, and when the poor boy sat and warmed himself in its beams, and he saw the red blood through his delicate fingers, that he held before his face, then he considered that he had been abroad that day. All he knew of the forest and its beautiful spring verdure was from the first green sprig of beech that his neighbour's son used to bring him, and he would hold it over his head, and dream that he was under the beech-trees, amid the sunshine and the carol of birds.
"One spring day the neighbour's boy brought him some field-flowers besides, and among them there happened to be one that still retained its root, and which he therefore carefully planted in a flower-pot and placed in the window near his bed. The flower was planted by a lucky hand; it throve and put forth new shoots, and blossomed every year. It became the rarest flower garden for the sick boy, and his only little treasure here on earth; he watered it, and cherished it, and took care it should profit by every sunbeam, from the first to the last, that filtered through that lonely window, and the flower became interwoven in his very dreams; for it was for him it bloomed; for him it spread its fragrance and delighted the eye, and it was to the flower he turned in the last gasp of death, when the Lord called him. He has now been a year with his heavenly Father, and for a year did the flower stand forgotten in the window, till it withered. It was therefore cast out among the sweepings in the street on the day of moving; and this is the flower, the poor faded flower, which we have added to our nosegay, because this flower gave more joy than the rarest flower in the garden of a queen."
"And how do you know all this?" asked the child, as the angel carried him up to heaven.
"I know it," said the angel, "because I myself was the little sick boy who walked on crutches; I know my own flower."
And the child opened his eyes wide, and looked full in the angel's serenely beautiful face. At the same moment they reached the kingdom of heaven, where all was joy and blessedness.
And God pressed the child to His heart, when he obtained wings like the other angel and flew hand-in-hand with him; and God pressed all the flowers to His heart, but kissed the poor withered field-flower, which then became endowed with a voice. It joined the chorus of the angels that surrounded the Almighty, where all were equally happy.
And they all sang, great and little, the good, blessed child, and the poor field-flower that lay withered and cast away among the sweepings under the rubbish of a moving day, in the narrow, dingy street.
A CHRISTMAS ROSEThe old black pine on the mountainside cast a long dark shadow across the thin covering of snow which covered the whole mountain and even the valley below.
The cold winds blew fiercely and the old black pine waved his shaggy arms fitfully and laughed at the soft snowflakes that nestled themselves fearlessly among his long needles.
"Ho! Ho!" laughed the old black pine. "Ho! Ho! winter has come, but I do not fear him. The flowers have gone, but I shall brave the winter storms. I shall laugh at them as I have done for countless seasons."
Then a fiercer blast of wind struck the pine-tree and bent his tall head so low that he saw a little plant growing at his very feet. It was a hardy little mountain rose, and it had two buds already half-open. The pine-tree also heard a weary little sigh.
"Why do you sigh and fret?" asked the pine-tree, his shaggy arms spread to protect the plant.
"Alas!" said the rose-plant, "the other plants are long since asleep. I wish I might bloom when the others do. My buds are beautiful, but who is there to admire them?
"What fun it would be to blossom with the blue-eyed gentian or the lovely goldenrod. They would have admired my blossoms. But now no one cares. I see no use in blooming at all. Oh, dear! Oh, dear!"
"Ho! Ho!" laughed the old black pine. "Ho! Ho! What nonsense you talk, little friend. The snowflakes and I will admire you. Do not be a grumbler.
"Do you not remember that you are a little Christmas rose? You are named for the Christ Child. You should be more happy and contented than other plants.
"Be brave, little rose. The snow is growing deeper about you. Push up and keep your head above the drifts. Care well for your precious buds, that they may open into perfect blossoms.
"Keep up heart, little rose. You do not know yet for what purpose you were left to bloom so late. But be sure of this: we were all made for some wise purpose. When the time comes, we shall know."
Then shaggy pine fingers of the old tree touched the rose with a gentle caress as he lifted his tall head once more to the winds. He did not speak again, but the little rose nestling at his feet, thought long of the old pine's wise advice.
"Perhaps he is right," she murmured to herself. "Perhaps I had better do as he said. All the other flowers are dead. If I was made for a wise purpose I shall not long be forgotten."
So the mountain rose lifted her leaves bravely. She sighed no longer. She took good care of her beautiful buds, and watched them as day by day they grew.
It was the day before Christmas when the buds opened lovely and white and perfect. The old pine saw them, and bowed his head to admire the blossoms. He shook all over as he laughed down on the blossoms peeping up through the snow.
"Ho! Ho!" laughed the dark old pine. "Who is unhappy now?" and the blossoms smiled back contentedly.
That day two little children wandered hand in hand up the mountainside. Their father was the woodcutter who lived in the tiny hut below.
Their mother was the pale, sick woman who lay in the tiny hut and answered her children by neither look nor word.
By their mother's bed sat the father, speechless with grief. About the room moved the kind neighbour with tears in her eyes.
"Our mother is very ill," whispered the children. The kind woman shook her head sadly.
"I fear," she said, "that your mother will not live till sunset."
Then, sobbing softly, the two little children stole out of the door. Hand in hand they walked on, scarce knowing where they went. At last they came to the foot of the black old pine.
"Come," said the boy. "The old pine does not care for our grief. Let us go to the valley. There we will find people with kind hearts. They will care for us."
The girl opened her soft, sad eyes and stared at the boy.
"Poor boy!" she said. "Your grief has made you forget. There is always the Christ Child who cares. To-morrow is His birthday."
Then she spied the Christmas roses blossoming so perfectly in the snow.
"Let us take these roses," said the children, "and go to the church. We will pray that our mother may yet live."
The old, white-haired pastor met the children at the church door. Together they entered and prayed. The roses, nodding in the little girl's hand, seemed now to understand why they had bloomed so late.
That night the mother's fever turned. The mother began to grow better. There was joy in the little hut.
IN THE PASTURE"Don't tread on me," cried a flower voice at Phyllis's feet.
"Who are you?" asked the little girl.
"I belong to the crowfoot family," said a buttercup, holding her head up very proudly. "Some folks call us the gold of the meadow."
"Some folks call you weeds," said Phyllis. "My brother Jack says that no one but little girls care for buttercups. He says that even cows won't eat you."
"No, indeed," said the buttercup. "I shouldn't like to be eaten by cows. I am glad of the bitter acid in my stem. It protects me. I have no doubt it has saved my head many a time."
"You stand very proudly upon your hairy stem. And so you may stand, for I shall not touch you. If I did, the juice from your stems would probably make my hands smart and itch and burn.
"But you are pretty," Phyllis went on. "How satiny your five yellow petals are, and how erect your stem is! I should judge it to be about three feet high."
The buttercup raised her head a little higher.
"Did you grow from a seed?" Phyllis asked.
"No, from a bulb, but some buttercups grow from seeds, I think. I am the early buttercup. Later in the season will come the fall buttercup. It will be very much like me, save that it will not be so tall nor so large as I. I am sorry that you do not like me as well as you do the wild rose. I really have not treated you as badly as she."
"Well," Phyllis said, "you do seem to be very friendly, and you seem to grow on cheerily without the least encouragement."
"Yes, it's a way we weeds have a way of doing," said the buttercup, serenely.
"Nothing any one can say or do seems to make the least difference to you. I have seen old Boss pass you by with just a single sniff many a time."
"That, too, is because I'm a weed. I'm a sort of plant tramp. I can live almost anywhere. I do not need encouragement nor praise. I am not useful, and yet I am happy."
"I do think you are pretty," Phyllis said. "But I am on my way to the pond, where Jack has been building a raft. He has promised me a ride."
"Good-bye," said the buttercup. "When you have time, look up the story of how buttercups happened to grow in the world."
THE GOLD OF THE MEADOWDo you believe there is a bag of gold hidden away at the end of the rainbow? Do you think if you could only get there before the rainbow fades you would surely find the gold?
Well, don't you ever run very far to find the end of the rainbow. Shall I tell you why?
Well, then, the bag of gold is no longer there. It is much nearer home, and I can tell you the exact spot to find it! Go down in the meadow where the buttercups grow, and there you will find the gold which was once hidden at the end of the rainbow.
Long ago, just as you have so often heard, the bag of gold lay at the farther end of the rainbow. But, long ago, somebody found it. Have you never heard about it?
Many, many people looked for the gold, and they failed to find it. At last they came to say that no one could ever get it.
It seems almost sad, then, to find out that at last the bag was certainly found by a miserly old man.
This old man was selfish. He was cross. He was unpleasant, and likewise unhappy.
When he found the gold, he wished no one to know of it. He feared that some one might need some of his precious gold. So he decided to hide his wealth in the earth.
So one dark night, when black clouds scurried across the sky and not a star was in sight, the old miser went to bury his gold. He slung the big bag over his shoulder and crept along the dark meadow where the grass was thick and tall. It was, in fact, the self-same meadow in which the fairies danced, but this the old man did not know.
Now the fairies are always good and wise and loving. They do not like selfishness, and they love to do kindnesses for others. But fairies are also sometimes full of mischief. Listen, and I will tell you what one fairy did!
As the old man crept slyly along, a fairy spied him. With a laugh she ripped a hole in the bag with a sharp grass blade. Of this the old man knew nothing.
One by one the gold pieces slipped down among the grasses. Little by little the bag grew lighter, but the old man did not notice, so eager was he to reach the wood before any needy one saw him.
His bag was empty before he reached the wood, but all amid the grasses shone the gold which he had dropped.
"Let us put it on stems, that all may see," said the fairies. "Let the fairy gold be free alike to rich and poor!"
So all night long the fairies worked. When morning came the sun shone down on the meadow which was bright with gold, each piece set on a sturdy stem of its own.
"You may call them buttercups, if you wish," laughed the mischievous fairy, "but they are fairy gold just the same!"