Saturday, March 11, 2017

1887 - Chapman's Honey-plant: #4 of Root's Bee Plants

Now here is a plant I am familiar with already, although I don't grow it...yet.   Connecticut is certainly within its range of zones 3 to 7.  I have a hard scrabble hill property on glacial sand so I am always looking for plants that don't have to go in rich soil. 
The globe thistle named the Chapman Honey-plant is Echinops sphaerocephalus.  It is also referred to as Chapman's Honey-plant.

The following is text from A.I. Root's 
1888 catalog's Bee Plant section,
with Root as the writer.

Chapman Honey-plant (1888)
This is called in European countries, "globe thistle".  It was introduced by Mr. H. C. Chapman, of Versailles, N.Y., who cultivates it extensively for honey, and claims it is a paying investment.  His seed has been turned over to the government, and may be obtainable free by any bee-keeper.  Where it is more convenient to get it of us, however, we can furnish it in 5-cent packages.




Isn't YouTube wonderful? Remember the world before the internet? I do.


By the way, Hiram Chapman, member in 1885 of North American Bee-keepers' Society, died in 1890 at age 80.




The following articles, from Gleanings in Bee Culture, Vol. 15, 1887, speak to why the plant created such interest.



REPORT OF THE COMMITTEE ON THE 

CHAPMAN HONEY-PLANT

WRITTEN OUT BY PROF. McLAIN



AS considerable space has already been given to reports in regard to this plant, we thought it hardly worth while to go over the ground again; but as friend Chapman particularly wishes a full report from all the members comprising said committee, we subjoin the following:



The committee appointed by the North-American Bee-Keepers' Society,  at the annual meeting held in Detroit, Mich., December, 1885, to investigate the merits of a honey-bearing plant now being cultivated by Mr. Hiram Chapman of Versailles, N. V., met at that place July 28, 1886. 



One member of the committee, Mr. Manum, of Bristol, Vt.,was not able to be present; but as each member of your committee was furnished with a sufficient number of plants to afford opportunity for observing their growth and habits, and also to gain some information concerning the value of the plant as a honey producer, a letter from Mr. Manum, in which he gives the result of his experience and observation, is herewith appended.  This plant, which Dr. Beal, of the Michigan State Agricultural College, and Mr. Scribner. Asst. Botanist of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, tell us is Echinops sphaerocephalus, is an imported perennial, native in Central France, and, like all of the family to which it belongs, very rich in honey.

This plant will probably be popularly known in this country as the "Chapman honey-plant", so named on account of Mr. Chapman being first to cultivate it, 
and being first to bring it to the notice of bee-keepers. We found three acres of the plant in bloom. The height of the mature plant is from 3 to 4 1/2  feet, and each root bears from 5 to 15 round balls, or heads, from one inch to 1 7/8 inches in diameter. These heads stand upright, and the entire surface is covered with small white flowers having bluish stamens.


The stalks and leaves so nearly resemble those of the common thistle, that, were it not for the head, the difference would not be easily noticed. There is, however, in this particular, a very marked difference, the appearance of the head being aptly described by its botanical name, which signifies roundheaded, and in appearance like a hedgehog. The flowerets on top of the head open first, then they open later along the sides of the ball, continuing in the order of nature around the entire surface of the sphere. Near to the stem the last flowerets open after the blossoms on the tops of the heads have disappeared, and the seed-capsules of the first blossoms have hardened.

Unlike the thistle, the seeds are provided with no balloon by which they may be borne by the wind. The seed is, in weight and appearance, very much like a small grain of rye; is inclosed in a capsule, and falls directly to the ground, if not seasonably gathered, not spreading more than oats, if left to fall without harvesting.meeting held in Detroit, Mich., December, 1885, to investigate the merits of a honey-bearing plant now being cultivated by Mr. Hiram Chapman of Versailles, N. V., met at that place July 28, 1886.


 One member of the committee.Mr. Manum, of Bristol, Vt.,was not able to be present; but as each member of your committee was furnished with a sufficient number of plants to afford opportunity for observing their growth and habits, and also to gain some information concerning tho value of the plant as a honey produeer, a letter from Mr. Manum, in which he gives tho result of his experience and observation, is herewith appended.  This plant, which Dr. Heal, of the Michigan State Agricultural College, and Mr. Scribner. Asst. Botanist of the U. S. Department of Agriculture, tell us is Echinops sphaerocephalus, is an imported perennial, native in Central France, and, like all of the family to which it belongs, very rich in honey.

This plant will probably be popularly known in this country as the "Chapman honey-plant", so named on account of Mr. Chapman being first to cultivate it, and being first to bring it to the notice of bee-keepers. We found three acres of the plant in bloom. The height of the mature plant is from 3 to 4 1/2  feet, and each root bears from 5 to 15 round balls, or heads, from one inch to 1 7/8 inches in diameter. These heads stand upright, and the entire surface is covered 
with small white flowers having bluish stamens.


From the time of the appearance of the bloom upon the tops of individual heads until the fading of the last blossoms upon the lower part of the head near to the stalk, is about eight days; the continuance of the blooming depending upon the nature of the soil and the season; but the heads, or buds sent out from each individual shoot, and forming each individual cluster, vary in degree and size, so that the natural term of blooming and honey bearing may safely to reckoned at from 20 to 30 days. The term of blooming may also be prolonged to a considerable extent by cutting back a portion of the plants, and the facility with which the honey harvest may thus be prolonged constitutes an important feature when estimating the value of this plant. 

The plant is hardy, easily propagated, perennial, and appears to flourish in all kinds of soil, and there is no danger of its becoming a pest or a noxious weed. It does not bloom until the second season; and as it does not spread in seeding, its extirpation would be easily accomplished. Its seed may be scattered in waste places, or it may be sown in drills or hills, like onion seed. It seems to be characteristic of the plant to root out all other vegetation, and take possession of the soil. No weeds, and but very little grass, was seen growing in the three acre plot observed.


 A ten-acre field, sown broadcast and harrowed in like rye, has also made a vigorous growth, and seems to be taking possession of the soil, in opposition to quack-grass and weeds. As to the value of the plant to the honey-producer, there appears to be no room for doubt, whether quantity or quality, or both, be considered.

Within reach of Mr. Chapman's apiary, no other resources were accessible for honey-gathering. The severe and prolonged drought destroyed all other honey-yielding blossoms, and yet in some instances the trees were making an excellent showing in the hives. No definite conclusion could be reached as to the probable returns in pounds of honey from a given area. That the returns would be satisfactory, was evidenced by the fact that the entire area was "alive with bees," and they visited the flowers from daylight until dark, and sometimes eight or ten bees were upon a single head at one time. 

Mr. Hubbard, who cultivated some of these plants obtained from Mr. Chnpman, represented that he had counted the number of visits made by bees to a single head from 5 A. M. to 7 PM. He reported the number as being 2135, actual count. In order that the committee might have some idea of the quantity of nectar secreted in the flowers of a single head, the day before our arrival Mr. Chapman had wrapped a thin paper about a head, the . half of which was in full bloom, and tied the paper around the stem with tape, thus preventing the bees from appropriating the nectar for 24 hours. Upon removing the paper on the forenoon of the day of our visit, the flowerets were found to be dripping with nectar, and the drops sparkled in the morning sun. Each of us have made similar tests with like results since that time. We cheerfully and confidently recommend this plant to the beekeepers of North America as a most valuable acquisition to the list of bee-forage plants.

We believe that a trial of the plant will, better than any further words of approval from us. publish its own commendation.



Respectfully submitted,

        N. W. McLain.

                 A. I. Root. 

                          L. C. Root. 



The following is a report in regard to the plant, from Mr. Manum, who was absent at the time the other members of the committee assembled at Mr. Chapman's:


L. C. Root, Chairman of the Committee on the Chapman Honey-Plant—
Dear Sir: 
—As I failed to put in an appearance when the committee met at Mr. Chapman's, in July last, it is not only due you, but to Mr. Chapman and the convention as well, that I make a short report of my experience with the Chapman honey-plant, 50 roots of which Mr. Chapman so kindly sent me last spring. 

The plants  thrived well through the summer, under moderate cultivation, and planted on light sandy soil. I did not take extra pains with them, as I wished to test their hardiness. The plants commenced to bloom  July 14, and continued to bloom until Aug. 21,  making 39 days that they continued in bloom; and  from the first day of their blooming until the last, the little flower-balls were covered with bees everyday from early morning until dark, rain or shine (we had no very heavy rains during this period), the bees constantly going and coming. I have counted 16 bees on one ball at one time, all sucking the sweet nectar from the richly laden flowers of the Chapman honey-plant. 

At Mr. Chapman's request I covered of the balls with tissue paper, and 2 with muslin. On the following day there were several bee-keepers here. I removed the paper from the balls, and, lo and behold! the flowers were filled—yes, covered, as it were, with honey. We found, by holding the hand under one of the balls, and jarring it the honey dropped in the hand enough to make several drops. In a moment a bee alighted on one of the uncovered balls, and never moved until its sack was filled, when it flew away. 

On timing them I found that the bees filled themselves and flew away in two minutes and twenty seconds from the time the first bee alighted on the plant. The two balls that were covered with muslin were now uncovered; but the honey seemed to have evaporated, as there was but little visible, although I had noticed bees alight on the muslin, and try to suck honey through the cloth. This fact was conclusive to me that the bees could smell the honey through the cloth. I find that by cutting back the plants in June, they will bloom later in the season. This would be of advantage, perhaps, to those who are favored with an abundance of buckwheat for their bees to work on during August, as, by cutting it back, it would then commence to bloom the last of August, thereby affording good pasturage for bees in September.


In conclusion, I must say that  I am well pleased with the plant, judging from this first year's trial; and I venture to say that the time is not far distant when it will be extensively cultivated for its honey-producing qualities. I expect to plant an acre next spring. Were it possible for me to meet with you at the convention, I would move a vote of thanks to Mr. Chapman for having introduced this valuable plant.
It is valuable, not only to beekeepers, but to the florist as well, because it is a very beautiful plant, and so very rare withal.



I remain yours truly, 

A. E. Manum.

Bristol, Vt., Oct. 7, 1886