Wild Flowers of Pittsburgh

Rubiaceae

Bluets (Houstonia caerulea)

Also known as Quaker Ladies, these tiny blue flowers form tidy clumps in shaded lawns and roadsides. Small as the delightful four-petaled flowers are, they rise from a plant that seems tiny out of all proportion to the flowers. These were blooming in early May beside a country lane west of Cranberry.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

HOUSTÔNIA L. Calyx 4-lobed, persistent; the lobes in fruit distant. Corolla usually much longer than the calyx-lobes, the lobes valvate in the bud. Anthers linear or oblong. Style 1; stigmas 2. Ovary 2-celled. Pod top-shaped, globular, or didymous, thin, its summit or upper half free from and projecting beyond the tube of the calyx, loculicidal across the top. Seeds 4-20 in each cell, pitted. — Small herbs, with short entire stipules connecting the petioles or narrowed bases of the leaves, and cymose or solitary and peduncled flowers; these dimorphous, in some individuals with exserted anthers and short included style; in others the anthers included and the style long, the stigmas therefore protruding. (Named for Dr. William Houston, an English botanist, who collected in tropical America.)

Small and delicate, vernal-flowering; peduncles 1-flowered; corolla salverform; upper half of the broad and someirhat 2-lobed pod free; seeds globular, with a very deep round cavity occupyiny the inner face.

Perennial by delicate filiform creeping rootstocks or creeping stems; peduncles filiform, 2-5 cm. long.

H. caerulea L. (bluets, Innoce>xe.) Glabrous; stems erect, slender, sparingly branched from the base, 0.5-2 dm. high; lrares oblong-spatulate,6-9 mm. long; peduncle filiform, erect; corolla light blue, pale lilac or nearly white, with a yellowish eye, the straight slender long-exserted tube much longer than its lobes or than those of the calyx. — Moist and grassy places, N. S. to Ga., w. to Ont., Wise, and Ala.; producing from early spring to midsummer its delicate little flowers.


Cleavers (Galium aparine)

This bedstraw can be very abundant in some places, as it was in this neglected hillside cemetery in Beechview, where it was blooming in early May. The stems (as you can see in the picture) are covered with prickly hairs that point toward the root, so it’s rough going if you’re a caterpillar or something trying to climb up. The leaves come in whorls of eight, or sometimes six or seven; the stems are square; and the tiny white flowers have four pointed petals.

Gray describes the genus and the species:

GALIUM L. BEDSTRAW. CLEAVERS. Calyx-teeth obsolete. Corolla wheel-shaped, valvate in the bud. Stamens 4, rarely 3, short. Styles 2. Fruit dry or fleshy, globular, twin, separating when ripe into the 2 seed-like indehiscent 1-seeded carpels. — Slender herbs, with small cymose flowers (produced in summer), square stems, and whorled leaves, the roots often containing a red coloring matter. (Name from gala, milk, which some species are used to curdle.)

G. Aparine L. (CLEAVERS, GOOSE GRASS.) Stem weak and reclining, bristle-prickly backward, hairy at the joints; leaves about in a whorl, lanceolate, tapering to the base, short-pointed, rough on the margins and midrib, 2.5-7 cm. long; peduncles 1-3-flowered; flowers white; fruit bristly, 3-4 mm. in diameter. — Seashores, Que. to Fla., and in rich or shaded ground inland; perhaps sometimes introd. (Eurasia.)


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