Saturday, March 11, 2017

1920 - Chapman's Honey-plant Postmortem by Dr. C. C. Miller

(His first name was Charles, but he was known as C.C..)

This brief summary of the rise and fall of the Chapman Honey Plant was written by Dr. C. C. Miller.  While he slams it for bee pasturage, it will still make a great plant in the garden for you to observe the nectar gathering of honeybees and other local pollinators.  

By chance I just learned who he was in the history of beekeeping this morning. His Fifty Years Among the Bees, is a well-known memoir/bee how-to book that documents the life of a man who found his bliss was to follow honeybees for his life's work rather than be a physician. 

I don't know why people thought Echinops sphaerocephalus was introduced to the United states so late as Grant Thorburn had it in his seed catalog in 1827.  

CHAPMAN HONEY PLANT (Echinops sphaerocephalus).

The Chapman honey plant was introduced from France about 1885.    The bee journals of 1886 and 1887 devote a large amount of space to a discussion of this plant. It was brought prominently to the attention of American beekeepers by Hiram Chapman, of Versailles, New York, who planted about three acres of it at that place. He made such glowing reports of the plant at the National Beekeepers' Convention that a committee of prominent men was appointed to visit the Chapman home and report on the new plant at the convention of the following year. They made a lengthy and very favorable report, which is published in full on page 28 of the American Bee Journal for January 5, 1887.

Numerous beekeepers secured seed, and so attractive did the plant prove to the bees that favorable reports appeared frequently in the columns of the journals for the next few years. However, the great expectations were not realized, for it soon disappeared, and is seldom mentioned in current literature. 

The following quotation from Dr. C. C. Miller, which appeared in Gleanings, in December, 1918, is probably a correct estimate of the value of the plant:
"After reading the British Bee Journal of September 26, I should have made a vigorous effort to secure a supply of seed of Echinops Sphaerocephalus, if I had no previous experience with the plant. No bee plant that I have ever grown was so attractive to the bees. Whenever the weather was favorable the heads were crowded. I have counted fourteen or fifteen bees on one at the same time."
This is the Chapman honey plant that had a big boom in this country a number of years ago; but it is not heard of now, and is not included among the honey plants in the bee books. Upon its introduction I planted quite a patch of it, and like Mr. Harwood, I never saw the bees so thick on any other plant. But close observation showed that the bees were not in eager haste in their usual way when getting a big yield, but were in large part idle. It looked a little as if the plant had some kind of stupefying effect on them. At any rate, I should not take the trouble to plant it now, if land and seed were furnished free.

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.




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

1887 - The Seven-top Turnip, #3 of Root's Bee Plants

traditional green down south, the Seven Top Turnip was, and is, appreciated by many people as a sign of spring and a good meal.

The following description is from A. I. Root's 1887 seed catalog's bee plant section:

Seven-Top Turnip. 

This plant, although not equal to the spider plant and Simpson honey plant, is entitled to a place next to them, because it bears its crop of honey in the spring, between fruit blossoms and clover. It should be sown in Aug. and Sept. It bears no root like the ordinary turnip, but only foliage that is used for greens. 

Price of seed. 10c per oz., or 50c. per lb. If wanted by mail, 18 c. per lb. extra.

From A. I. Root himself the following praise for the Seven Top Turnip.

TURNIP. The turnip, mustard, cabbage, rape, etc., are all members of one family, and, if I am correct, all bear honey, when circumstances are favorable. The great enemy of most of these in our locality (especially of the rape), is the little black cabbage flea. The turnip escapes this pest, by being sown in the fall, and were it not that it comes in bloom at almost the same time when the fruit trees do, I should consider it one of the most promising honey plants.

In the summer of 1877, Mr. A. W. Kaye, of Pewee Valley, Ky., sent me. some seed of what is called the "Seven-Top Turnip," saying that his bees had gathered more pollen from it, in the spring, than from anything else.  I sowed the seed about the 1st of Oct., on ground where early potatoes had been harvested.  In Dec, they showed a luxuriance of beautiful green foliage, and in May, following, a sea of yellow blossoms, making the prettiest "posy bed," I believe, that I ever saw in my life, and the music of the bees humming among the branches was just "entrancing," to one who has an ear for such music. I never saw so many bees on any patch of blossoms of its size in my life, as could be seen on them from daylight until dark.

Friend K. recommended the plant particularly for pollen, but, besides this, I am inclined to think it will give more honey to the acre than anything that has heretofore come under my notice. We have much trouble here in raising rape and mustard, with the small turnip beetle or flea, but this turnip patch has never been touched; whether it is on account of sowing so late in the fall or because the flea does not fancy it, I am unable to say. The plants seem very hardy, and the foliage is most luxuriant, much more so than either the rape or Chinese mustard, which latter plant it much resembles, only having larger blossoms. As our patch was sown after the first of Oct., and the crop could easily be cleared from our land by the middle of June, a crop of honey could be secured without interfering with the use of the land for other purposes.

Friend K. also recommends the foliage for "greens," and says that he sows it in his garden for spring and winter use. We tried a mess of greens from our patch, in Dec, and found them excellent. Our seed was sown very thickly, in drills about one foot apart. This turnip bears only tops, and has no enlargement of the root.
If I could get a ten-acre lot covered with such bloom during the month of August, I should not hesitate an instant to hand over the money for the necessary expenses. If we cannot get the blossoms in August, we can certainly have an abundant supply between fruit bloom and clover.

Turnip flowers

In 1909, Gleanings had this to say about the Seven Top, their enthusiasm not having flagged in two decades.
...If you have had no experience in the way of green manuring, just try a little plot in your garden first; and while I am about it there is still another plant—one that will stand thewinter more surely than any thing else I know of unless it is rye—the seven-top turnip that we have advertised in our seed catalog for so many years. 
This plant does not make a turnip at all. It is grown simply for the top for feed, and for turning under, for bees and for seed.
We see by the Columbia State (South Carolina) that our old friend J. D. Fooshe, of Coronaca, S. C, has, during the past season, sold 9000 lbs. of this seven-top-turnip seed. Some of the older readers of Gleanings will remember friend Fooshe as one of the pioneers in queen-breeding. He has furnished The A. I. Root Co. queens for more than thirty years, and we have never had a complaint of them, and we do not know that he has ever complained of us. 
I wish he would tell us about now much honey he got from his seven-top turnip in growing that 9000 lbs. of seed, and any thing else he may have to suggest from his long experience in growing seven-top turnip.

I have nothing to do with these companies. I just thought you might want to see what they have to say and have to offer.  Many more on Google...

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Friday, March 10, 2017

1887 - Mollie O. Large's Spider Plant: #2 of Root's Bee Plants

Who was Mollie Large?  

Her name just rolls off your tongue!  If a current horticultural business rule of thumb, that the name of a plant has a HUGE effect on its popularity, held true over a hundred years ago this bee plant had a leg up on the competition.
This illustration is from A.I. Root's 1882 ABC of Bee Culture, and he sold it in his seed catalog.

The first hint I found was the following from a 1909 Gleanings in Bee Culture.

Dear Friend:—Yes, such you seem to me, for I have read Gleanings, especially Home Papers, for years. I am a sister of the late G. G. Large, and was boarding with him when his wife (Mollie O.) sent you the spider-plant seed.
In fact, he got the seed from me. ...
Susie H. Megan, Owaneco, Ill.

The second source I found from 1884 clued me in she was a beekeeper!


I find, in reading GLEANINGS and other journals, that “bees are doing well,” “bees booming,” and but very few discouraging reports, while I am making bee-keeping a failure this spring; and I ask myself the question, “Why is it?”

There are several theories that come up; it may be this, that, or the other; but it is a genuine spring dwindle. I should like to have it solved, to avoid a repetition in the future. Some one in the A. B. J. states that heart's-ease honey is unfit to winter on; if that is a fact, it will give some clew to the trouble, as the great part of their stores was from that weed.

MOLLIE O. LARGE,   Millersville, Christian Co., Ill., May 16, 1884.

Finally, I went and looked where I should have known to go first thing, the ABC of Bee Culture by A.I Root himself. He tells the whole story.

The spider plant is  Cleome pungens.  

Henry Dobbie, in 1884, says:
Spider Plant (Cleome pungens) 
American beekeepers speak in glowing terms of this plant for bee forage. The secretion of honey is described as enormous, and unlike most bee flowers, the blooms open early in the morning and the afternoon, thus pre-venting the evaporation of the nectar.

In hot weather the evaporation of nectar from flowers is considerable; indeed, more so than is generally thought by bee-keepers. Therefore, honey-secreting plants that do not open their petals until after the scorching heat of the day is past, will be invaluable to the apiarist, especially as inthe case of the spiderplant, which produces honey in such abundance.

Mr. Root says, in speaking about the spider plant (page 221,“A B C ”) : “ Not only does a single floweret produce a large drop, but some of them produce a great many drops.Last evening we made observations by lamp-light, and before nine o’clock the globules of honey were of the sizeof large shot. 
The crowning experiment of all took place this morning. I was up a little after five o’clock, and with the aid of a teaspoon I dipped honey enough from three or four plants to fill a two-drachm phial, such as we use in the queen cages, a little more than half full. The honey in some of the flowerets had collected in a large quantity, so large that it spilled out, and actually streamed on the ground. 
I have called this honey, but in reality it is raw nectar, such as is found in clover and other flowers. The taste is a pure sweet, slightly dashed with a most beautiful, delicate flavour, resembling somewhat that of the best new maple molasses. The honey will be as white as the whitest linden, so far as I can judge. With the aid of a lamp, I evaporated the nectar down to thick honey.

You can see something of what the bees have to do, whenI tell you that I had in bulk only about one-fifth part as much as when I commenced. You can also see that we now have some accurate figures with which to estimate the amount of honey which may be obtained from an acre of honey plants.”

The seed should be sown in April in a pan or box, using fine soil. Give the protection of a frame or greenhouse(see chapter on the raising of plants from seed).Plants raised from seed in April and grown on, will flower in August. Plant these two feet apart each way.

This wonderful photo of a bee on the spider flower is from the blog, It's Not Work, It's Gardening

There are more bee and flower photos for the spider plant.  One clearly shows the HUGE droplet of nectar that forms at the center of the petals.  Look closely at this photo and you may see a blur...that is the droplet.

Below is an ad from our old friend Samuel Wilson, not for Mollie O. Large, but for the specie.  I just like the bees.  Plus my favorite horticultural engraver, Albert Blanc, did the art work!

1887 - Simpson Honey-plant: #1 of Root's Bee Plants

Over the centuries men and women have noted the plants that attracted their honeybees
and shared that knowledge.  Most of us do not have the acreage to plant enough of a favored specie to support our hives, but it is still fascinating to grow suggested  "honey plants" and see if the claims are true.  

The idea of planting fields to support bees shows up often in journals around the 1880's with people arguing that we plan pastures for our other domesticated animals, why not the bees.  The idea was not new then, but my thought is the increased business of beekeeping which was feeding the growing cities began to drive beekeepers towards any strategy that could increase or, at least, insure the honey flow. A. I. Root was certainly central to the business on many levels.

It sounds like fun to use Root as the source of a list, then find interesting testimonials to back him up...or not. 

To start, the much lauded Simpson Honey-plant.  A previous post covers a later discussion (1898) of the practicality of its use.  

Prairie Moon Nursery has seeds and plants of
the Simpson Honey-plant

The following is text from A.I. Root's 1887 and 1888 catalogs' Bee Plant section, with Root as the writer.  

"I have for years had dreams of a honey farm, with acres of flowers of different colors, blooming at different seasons, and keeping the bees away from the stores and groceries when we have a dry spell in the fall. 
The dream has been partially realized with the Simpson honey-plant, Mollie O. Large's spider plant, and the seven-top turnip, and I am pretty well satisfied it will pay to cultivate these for honey alone. "

From copies of the The ABC of Bee Culture, an A. I. Root book, this description of the plant:
Fig-wort, or Simpson Honey Plant(1887 and 1888)
This is a queer tall weed that grows In fields and woods, and it bears little cups full of honey. It has produced so much honey under cultivation on our honey farm during the past two years, that I am much inclined to place it at the head of the list of honey-plants. 
It bears honey all the day long from July to October. Very hardy: blooms first year, and after that shoots up from the root every year, but needs planting anew, about every three years. The seed sometimes lies in the ground many months before germinating. 
If sprinkled on the tub of damp leaf-mold, packed hard in a box, and rolled hard, being kept dark and damp in a warm place, they will sprout in a week or two. Then give all the light and air possible, but not too much water. Price of seed, from cultivated plants, 20c per oz., $2.00 per lb. If by mail, 18c per lb. extra, for postage.

It was a letter from James A. Simpson to A. I. Root which started the first substantial movement for planting for bee pasture in this country. Simpson described what he regarded as the coming honey plant, but he did not even know its name.  For this reason it was described as "Simpson's Honey-plant".  

It is obvious why the plant had beekeepers pricking up their ears when Simpson described the plant!
" It is a large coarse grower from 4 to 8 feet in height, coarse leaf, and branching top covered with innumerable little balls about that size of No. 1 shot. When in bloom there is just one little flower leaf on each ball which is dark purple, or violet at the outer point and lighter as it approaches the seed ball. The ball has an opening in it at the base of the leaf. The ball is hollow. It is seldom seen in the forenoon without honey shining in it. Take a branch off and turn it down with a sharp shake and the honey will fall in drops. It commences to bloom about the 15th of July and remains until frost. Bees frequent it from morning till night. The honey is a little dark, but of very good quality. I think it would be best to sow in seed bed and transplant."

1877, Gleanings in Bee Culture

This illustration shows the square stem well.

Webster Thomas, editor of the The Bee-keepers' Instructor: A Monthly Journal Devoted to the Science of Bee-keeping in All Its Branches, writes, in 1881:
"We have a small patch of the Simpson honey plant on which the bees have been busy for a month past. This plant, unless the weather is very dry, secretes honey during the entire day. It would certainly pay well to cultivate it largely, as it bridges over the gap between the summer and fall flow of honey, and continues on until killed by frosts. 
Let those who have the land to spare and time to cultivate it, try the experiment and see if it does not pay well."

Once more people heard of Simpson's plant the specie name became known, with Scrophularia nodosa var. marylandica or Scrophularia marilandica being most used.  I believe the plants in the New World do not have the nodules on the root.

King's Cure-all as a Honey-Plant.
I send you some pods of seed of a good honey plant. What is its botanical name? We call it "King's cure-all".   It blooms a little on a single stalk, the first year; the next year it throws out branches, growing 6 or 8 feet high, and blooms about the middle of July, and continues blooming till frost. The flower is a small cup with a lid over it, keeping out the sun and rain. The bees work on it early and late. S. P. Sowers.Dunlap, Kansas.   ("early and late" - June through September says a plant site)
[The plant seems to be Scrophularia nodosa (" Figwort," Simpson's Honey Plant). The fruit capsules are more densely produced than is common with the above species, but it cannot be far different, and there is no near relative known to me to which it may be referred. It is, probably, the variety known as Marilandica.—T. J. Burrill.]

1883 - American Bee Journal

I found that Scrophula was what tuberculosis was called, and this plant was used to treat it, and was so named.  Also tuberculosis was called the King's Evil, which made the above writer's name for it make sense...except I think he was mistaken.  Evening Primrose, another common weed, is called by many King's Cure-all.       
Our plant has these other common names: Carpenter's-square, Rose-noble, Scrofula Plant, Square Stalk, Stinking Christopher and Throatwort.  

I read it tastes and smells nasty if you make it into a medicine. Also,  it likes a moist soil and grows in woods and hedges - in England.  A contemporary site somewhere had a testimonial that it grows and overwinters in Minnesota and grew quite large!

LINK: A nice discussion of the usefulness of Simpson's Honey-plant which took place during the 6th Annual Meeting of the Indiana Bee Keepers Association in 1885.  Several men were very impressed with it as a useful bee pasture plant.

Annual Report of the Indiana State Board of Agriculture

1886, The Bee-hive

I am puzzled with the result of my experiment with the Simpson's honey plant. I have a few plants in bloom near my bee stands. I can see the nectar in the flower and squeeze it out in great, sweet, honey-tasting drops, but I have never been able to see a bee work on it, while they will suck away at a few nearly dried up Catnip and Mignonette flowers at the foot of these plants, within two feet of them. 
Why do they not work on the Simpson? The bees were very busy on Catnip and Motherwort this summer. These plants when once established will take care of themselves for years, as they are hardy, drought proof perennial plants, and are worthy of extensive planting. I shall continue my experiments with the Simpson honey plant as well as with others.
S. B. Kokanour, Manhattan, Kansas.

1881 - Daniel Kepler, Napoleon, Ohio

If you look up Simpson's Honey-plant you will find interest in it continues far into the 20th and even the 21st century for bee pasturage.  Planting specifically for honeybees lost traction as far as I can tell, as it was not seen as paying for the labor, the seeds or plants and the loss of the land which could be planted to something that paid.   Encouraging good bee plants in areas not useful for other crops or animal pasture continues.

I had to include this manuscript from 1500-ish!
What a wonderful illustration of Scrophularia nodosa.
 Link about it.