Friday, July 14, 2017

1887 - Honeypea: #8 of Root's Bee Plants

The honeypea is a cowpea which is a bean.  A large variety of useful types, bush and vine, make it a popular legume in warm climates.  Black-eyed peas are cowpeas.  It took me a while to work all that out.

I have looked around the web and find beekeepers think it makes a good light honey.  Not all beans are cowpeas, though, so you can't assume a field of beans will attract bees.

The Bee Journal commented:

The bloom of the cowpea is of such formation that the proboscis of the hive-bee is too short to reach down to the nectaries; but just beneath the bloom are a number of little glands that secrete a sweet substance that is largely sought after by the bees. I have seen them work on it from morning to night.

In 1920 Frank Chapman uses testimonials in his American Honey Plants: Together with Those which are of Special Value to the Beekeeper as Sources of Pollen:

The cowpea is widely cultivated in the warmer regions of the old world and in our own Southern States. It is grown for forage and for green manure. The plant is more closely related to the beans than to the peas. 

R. A. Nestor reports that it yields freely in east Texas, and where planted in sufficient acreage yields surplus. The honey is very dark in color, but of mild flavor, according to his report. 

The nectar from cowpeas is secreted by extra floral nectaries and beekeepers are often mystified because the bees are working at the "joints" instead of on the flowers. Some report that bees gather nectar from the flowers, also. 

The following reports indicate the value in different localities: 

"There is no finer honey plant than the cowpea, while it lasts, but it blooms only about a week. During this time, if the weather is fair, the bees swarm over the fields from early morn till dewey eve."
—J.D. Rowan, Tupelo, Miss. Gleanings, Sept. 15, 1909. 

"The cowpea is one of our most abundant sources of honey for late summer. The crop is planted here from May 1 to August 1, and furnishes nectar through a considerable period of otherwise scarcity. Unlike other plants, the stems, and not the blossoms, secrete the nectar as the young pods are forming. These the bees work upon excessively. The honey is of good body, thick, deep, approaching dark yellow in color, and of strong taste like that of tulip-poplar, only stronger, with a somewhat slight, wild-green-bean-like flavor."
—C. C. Gettys, Hollis, N. C. Gleanings, Sept. 14, 1909. 

"A small patch of peas was covered with bees from morning till night. Nearly all of them were working on the stalks, as usual; but here and there I saw a few Italians pushing their tongues down into the blossoms. I have never noticed any pollen from the field peas."
— Mrs. Ameda Ellis, Fremont, Mo. Gleanings, June 1, 1910. 

"The peas bloom when there is a honey dearth and the bees gather honey from them. However, I notice they do not work on them much if there is a better honey plant blooming at the same time. My bees get a good deal of nice honey from them."
—G. H. Latham, Jr., Rapidan, Va. Gleanings, May 15, 1910.
Below a bumble is nectaring on those floral nectaries at make the cowpea family useful to beekeepers.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

1887 - Motherwort: #7 of Root's Bee Plants

Motherwort would take over my garden if I let it. 

It self seeds with abandon.  I don't mind as it is easy to pull, and, if you let it be, it looks good!  The current CT data reports it attracts bumblebees like mad...34 contacts per minute...but did not mention  honeybees. 

My bees do like it, but not with noticeably greater than average enthusiasm.  But then again, they did not show much enthusiasm for borage!  (They do flock to anise hyssop, and, for one day only, covered my giant Cow Parsnip.)  

A. I. Root sold motherwort seeds in his honey plant section in his 1887 seed catalog.

Back to motherwort,  Root talks about it in the ABC of Bee Culture, 1882.
Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca)  - Quite a number of the bee folks insist that
motherwort is superior, as a honey plant, to either catnip, hoarhound, balm, wild bergamot, or any of the large family of Labiate, and I presume such may be the case under some circumstances, or in favorable localities.   
In comparing plants, it should be remembered, that those usually bear much honey may, at times, furnish none at all; and also those which usually furnish none may, under very favorable circumstances, yield largely."  
This plant often flourishes about fence corners, and around the ruins of old dwellings, sheds, or even hog pens. The large leaf, taken by itself, much resembles the currant; the stalk is much like catnip; and the little flowers are in tufts, close to the stalk. It remains in blossom a long time, and may be as worthy of cultivation, as any of the plants of its class.
In 1853 Moses Quinby's Mysteries of Bee-keeping Explained: Being a Complete Analysis of the Whole Subject is the first book I could find in a simple online search which mentions motherwort as a bee plant.      
Catnip (Nepeta Cataria), Motherwort (Leonurus Cardiaca), and Hoarhound (Marrubium Vulgare) about the middle of June, put forth their flowers, rich in sweetness, and like the raspberry, the bees visit them at all hours and in nearly all kinds of weather. They last from four to six weeks; the catnip I have known to last twelve in a few instances, yielding honey during the whole time.
After 1860 it is mentioned often.  Keep in mind people tended to copy each others published opinions, so a great deal of this MIGHT be copycat behavior, not a sudden noticing that motherwort is attracting tons of bees.  On the other hand the public's awareness of the economic possibilities of beekeeping was blossoming then, so folks were keeping an eye out for

Here is an 1865 report that sounds good from The Bee-keeper's Guide: Or Manual of the Apiary by Albert John Cook.


(Leonurus cardiaca L.)

Perhaps none of our common herbs promises better, as a honey plant, than the one-in question. It is a very hardy 
Fig. 114.
perennial, and once introduced in waste places, it is sure to hold its own, until it becomes desirable to extirpate it, when, at man's bidding, it quickly lets go its hold, so that it is not a dangerous plant to introduce. The blossoms appear at this place about June 25th, and persist for a full month, and during the entire time are crowded with bees, whatever may be the character of the weather, whether wet or dry, warm or cool, whether the plant is in the midst of honey plants or isolated. We are thus assured that the plant is constantly secreting nectar, and is also a favorite with bees. Rape, mustards and borage seem indifferent to the weather, but are not favorites with the bees. Motherwort, then, has three admirable qualities: It is long in bloom, the flowers afford fine honey at all times, and it is a favorite with the bees.

Fig. 115.

If it could be made to bloom about three weeks later, coming in just after basswood, it would have nearly all the desired qualities. I think that we might bring this about by mowing the plants in May. I am led to this opinion from the fact that some plants which we set back by transplanting in May, are still in bloom this August 10th, and are now alive with bees, dividing their attention with the beautiful cleome, which is now in full bloom, and fairly noisy with bees

Fig. 116.
The stalk is square (Fig. 114),'branching, and when cultivated, attains a height of some four feet; though, as it grows in waste places, it is seldom more than three feet. 

The branches, and also the leaves, are opposite (Figs. 114 and 115), and in the axils of the latter are whorls of blossoms (Figs. 115 and 116), which succeed each other from below to the top of the branching stems. 

The corolla is like that of all the mints, while the calyx has five teeth, which are sharp ands pine-like in the nutlets as they appear at the base of the leaves (Fig. 115). As they near the top, the whorls of blossoms and succeeding seeds are successively nearer together, and finally become very crowded at the apex (Fig. 116). 

The leaves are long and palmately lobed (Fig. 115). 
The small blossom is purple.

(My observation on the plant is that the seeds, (nutlets) are sharp!!!  Use gloves when pulling a plant with dry seed heads.)

Sunday, July 9, 2017

1917 - Sketch of Woman Gardening by Alice Barber Stephens

First, enjoy the texture of Alice Barber Stephens sketch!

Alice Barber Stephens usually focused on more urban or formal setting for her women, but the charming sketch above of a woman in her garden breaks the pattern.  

It is the only garden work theme I found in her works online....not even a snipping flowers for a bouquet sketch!

Art Essay: Alice Barber Stephens: Emerging Ways of Living & Working by Rena Tobey