Showing posts with label A. I. Root. Show all posts
Showing posts with label A. I. Root. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

1887 - Turkey Tangle Frogfruit!: #9 of Root's Bee Plants

OK, I'll confess, A. I. Root's seed list called it lipia nodelfolia. 

But when I read its alternative common names I could not resist Turkey Tangle Frogfruit! Sawtooth fogfruit (yes, fog...that is not a typo) and plain frogfruit aren't bad for interesting common names, but you have to admit Turkey Tangle Frogfruit wins :-)

I really like the looks of the plant.  The ring of white flowers climbing the bract are fun and look absolutely yummy from a honeybee's point of view, while the low foliage is a good ground cover or edging for a casual garden.  It is really for warmer zones, but I was wondering if I could treat it as an annual.  It is becoming the ground cover of choice in warmer places, working really well in urban areas as it does not need mowing and supports pollinators.   The blog, The Illustrated Plant Nut posted a nice piece on it focusing on how people deal with names.

Back to past opinions, my reading showed that the plant was heralded in 1891 as a ground cover of choice as well.  I wonder why it didn't become more common.  The University of Arizona Agricultural Experiment Station in 1891 was very enthusiastic reporting the plants did great in Tucson with only 2 inches of rain over 8 months!!  
Sibthrop, J., Smith, JE, Flora Graeca, Vol. 6: p. 43, t. 553 (1826)

I did not find any mention of it for bees before 1900, however.

The next report I read mentions it being fond in moist soils  (?? ) but also dry places. 

The Western Honey Bee: Devoted to the Interests of the Beekeepers, 1918, ...

Lippia (nodiflora), commonly called carpet grass or mat grass, is becoming a prominent honey plant along rivers and in low, overflowed land.
It is a low creeping plant, covering the ground with a dense mass of foliage, smothering out other weeds and grasses and gradually taking entire possession of the ground. When desired it can he destroyed by cultivation. It is being used along the river fronts to protect levees against erosion and is spreading slowly over much of the overflow country in these counties.
Lippia blooms from May until October, yielding a large amount of honey of good quality. It favors moist soil, but may be found growing on dry roadsides throughout the summer. Starts readily from cuttings except during cold weather.

Lippia nodiflora, mat grass or fog fruit, is native to California, and, according to Richter, is the principal source of surplus honey in the vicinity of Sacramento. Three-fourths of the surplus honey from Sutter County he reports as from this source. There it begins to bloom in May and lasts till frost. ... The honey is said to be light in color, mild in flavor, and to granulate readily.

American Honey Plants

Frank Chapman Pellett

Monday, July 17, 2017

1887 - Mignonette: #9 of Root's Bee Plants (with a charming history)

Reseda odorata

Mignonette, besides being a bee plant, has a fascinating history that includes a love story, chasing away headaches, and perfuming stinky neighborhoods.

As a beekeeper in Connecticut I am interested to see mignonette, while not a native, has naturalized.  Reseda odorata, Sweet Mignonette, is the escapee here, but one that has been long grown in gardens.  

A.I. Root comments it might not pay to grow it for pasturage for bees, but they do like it and it often blooms into October which honeybees appreciate.  He also mentions it is not sensitive to frost.

I was looking around for a source of seeds and found it first at The Shop: Monticello.

They comment:
"Mignonette was introduced to ornamental gardens in Europe about 1725, and because of its sweet fragrance both as a garden plant and as a cut flower, its popularity grew steadily on both sides of the Atlantic through the 19th century.  
Thomas Jefferson recorded sowing seeds for this annual at Monticello in 1811. The tiny, pale green and white flowers emit a fresh, fruity scent in summer and are attractive to bees and butterflies."
The photo below is from their seed. 

The Vermont Wildflower Farm catalog adds a great suggestion, saying that grown in a pot for a sunny windowsill mignonette is a  delight.  What a nice scent to come home to on a sunny porch!

However, getting focused on what people thought of it back in the 19th century I found a wonderful article from The Floricultural Cabinet of Joseph Harrison, a "Florist's Magazine" from 1849.

Step, E., Bois, D., Favourite flowers of garden and greenhouse


It is only one age since this fragrant weed of Egypt first perfumed the European gardens, yet it has so far naturalized itself to our climate as to spring from seeds of its own scattering, and thus' convey its delightful odour from the parterre of the prince to the most humble garden of the cottager.

In less than another age we predict (without the aid of Egyptian art) that the children of our peasants will gather this luxurious little plant amongst the wild flowers of our hedge-rows.

The Reseda Odorata first found its way to the south of France, where it was welcomed by the name of Mignonette, Little-darling, which was found too appropriate for this sweet little flower to be exchanged for any other. 

By a manuscript note in the library of the late Sir Joseph Banks, it appears that the seed of

the Mignonette was sent in 1742, by Lord Bateman, from the Royal Garden at Paris, to Mr. Richard Bateman, at Old Windsor; but we should presume that this seed was not dispersed, and perhaps not cultivated beyond Mr. Bateman's garden, as we find that Mr. Miller received the seed from Dr. Adrian van Royen, of Leyden, and cultivated it in the Botanic Garden at Chelsea, in the year 1752. 

From Chelsea it soon got into the gardens of the London florists, so as to enable them to supply the metropolis with plants to furnish out the balconies, which is noticed by Cowper, who attained the age of twenty-one in the year that this flower first perfumed the British atmosphere by its fragrance. The author of the Task soon afterwards celebrates it as a favourite plant in London—
"the sashes fronted with a rangeOf orange, myrtle, or the fragrant weed."

The odour which this little flower exhales is thought by some, whose olfactories are delicate, to be too powerful for the house, but even those persons we presume must be delighted by the fragrance which it throws from the balconies into the streets of London, giving something like a breath of garden air to the " close-pent man," whose avocations will not permit a ramble beyond the squares of the fashionable part of the town. 

To such it must be a luxurious treat to catch a few ambrosial gales on a summer's evening from the heated pavement, where offensive odours are but too frequently met with, notwithstanding the good regulations for cleansing the streets and the natural cleanliness of the inhabitants in general. We have frequently found the perfume of the Mignonette so powerful in some of the better streets of London, that we have considered it sufficient to protect the inhabitants from those effluvia which bring disorders in the air. 

The perfume of Mignonette in the streets of our metropolis reminds us of the fragrance from the roasting of coffee in many parts of Paris, without which some of their streets of business in that city would scarcely be endurable in the rainy season of the year.

The Sweet Reseda or Mignonette is now said to grow naturally in some parts of Barbary, as well as in Egypt. Monsieur Desfontaiues observed it growing in the sands near Mascar in the former country, but it might have been accidentally scattered there, or have escaped from the gardens of the Moors.

This genus of plants, of which we have twelve species, was named Reseda by the ancients, from resedare to assuage, because some of the species were esteemed good for mitigating pains; and we learn from Pliny, that the Reseda was considered to possess even the power of charming away many disorders. He tells us, that it grew near the city of Ariminum, now Rimini in Italy, and that when it was used to resolve swellings, or to assuage inflammations, it was the custom to repeat the following words, thrice spitting on the ground at each repetition :—

"Reseda, cause these maladies to cease: knowest thou, knowest thou, who hath driven these pullets here? Let the roots have neither head nor foot."

We notice these absurd superstitions of the ancients, which are scarcely yet extinct in many 
country villages of this and other countries, to show how much the minds of the ignorant have always been prone towards the marvellous, and not that we "Hold each strange tale devoutly true."

Although it is so short a time since the Sweet Reseda has been known in Europe, we find that it has crept into the armorial bearings of an illustrious family of Saxony; and, as Cupid does not so frequently bestow honours of heraldry as his father Mars, we cannot avoid relating the romantic tale which introduced this fragrant and modest little flower to the Pursuivant-at-Arms.

The Romantic Story

The Count of Walsthim was the declared lover and intended spouse of Amelia de Nordbourg, a young lady possessing all the charms necessary for the heroine of a modern novel, excepting that she took delight in creating little jealousies in the breast of her destined husband. 

As the beautiful Amelia was an only child of a widowed mother, a female cousin, possessing but few personal charms, and still less fortune, had been brought up with her from infancy as a companion, and as a stimulus to her education. The amiable and humble Charlotte was too insignificant to attract much attention in the circles in which her gay cousin shone with so much splendour, which gave her frequent opportunities of dispensing a part of that instruction she had received to the more humble class of her own sex. 

(Warning: LONG sentence...)
Returning from one of these charitable visits, and entering the gay saloon of her aunt, where her entry or exit was now scarcely noticed, she found the party amused in selecting flowers, whilst the Count and the other beaux were to make verses on the choice of each of the ladies. Charlotte was desired to make her selection of a flower; the sprightly Amelia had taken a Rose; others a Carnation, a Lily, or the flowers most likely to call forth compliment; and the delicate idea of Charlotte in selecting the most humble flower, by placing a sprig of Mignonette in her bosom, would probably have passed unnoticed, had not the flirtation of her gay cousin with a dashing colonel, who was more celebrated for his conquests in the drawing-room than in the field of battle, attracted the notice of the Count, so as to make his uneasiness visible; upon which the amiable Charlotte, who, ever studious of Amelia's real happiness, wishing to amuse and to call back the mind of her cousin, demanded the verse for the Rose. 
The Count saw this affectionate trait in Charlotte's conduct, took out his pencil, and wrote for the Rose,

"Elle ne vit qu'un jour, et ne plait qu'un moment,"
"She only saw one day, and only enjoyed a moment,"

which he gave to the lovely daughter, at the same time presenting the humble cousin with this line on the Mignonette :—

"Ses qualites surpassent ses charmes."

Amelia's pride was roused, and she retaliated by her attention to the colonel and neglect of the Count, which she carried so far as to throw herself into the power of a profligate, who brought her to ruin. The Count transferred his affections from beauty to amiability; and rejoicing in the exchange, and to commemorate the event which had brought about his happiness, and delivered him from a coquette, he added a branch of the Sweet Reseda to the ancient arms of his family, with the motto,

"Your qualities surpass your charms."

The Mignonette is one of the plants whose unassuming little flowers never weary our sight; it is therefore made the image of those interesting persons whom time cannot change, and who, although deficient in dazzling beauty, attach us for life, when once they have succeeded in pleasing without its aid. 

—Flora Historica.
Flora Historica is a small book with a big name - 
Flora historica, or, The three seasons of the British parterre historically and botanically treated : with observations on planting, to secure a regular succession of flowers, from the commencement of spring to the end of autumn : to which are added, the most approved methods of cultivating bulbous and other plants, as practised by the most celebrated florists of England, Holland, and France

The above article on mignonette was taken, in part,  from Flora Historica by the Florist'd Magazine.

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.)

Monday, March 20, 2017

1887 - Borage, #5 of Root's Honey Plants

Zorn, J., 1796

Finally, a plant A. I. Root promoted that I have  
grown a patch of (10'x10') to treat my bees!   

You know how things usually go when you do something to please an animal - they ignore it. (Maybe that is just cats?) Well, the bee didn't actually turn up their noses but they did not work it heavily.

Somewhere I read in my time-warp readings that borage is good for wet weather nectar when other plants are washed out or something.  I might have that backwards.  When I find it I'll update this post :-) 

Here is the blurb from  A.I. Root's 1887 and 1888 catalogs' Bee Plant section, with Root as the writer.  
Borage. (1887 and 1888)

A strong, hardy, rapidly growing plant, bearing a profusion of blue flowers. It may be sown any time, but will, perhaps, succeed best, at about corn planting time. As it grows tall, and branches out considerably, it should have plenty of room. I know that bees are very busy on it, all the day long, from July until Nov., but I do not know how much honey an acre of it would furnish. 
It is easily tried, because it grows so readily, and if sowed on the ground after early potatoes are dug, you will get a nice crop of fall bloom. Sow broad cast, or in hills like corn.

In 1888 only: Borage is also used as a salad or cooked like a spinach. 
Price 10c. per oz., or 75c per pound.
If wanted by mail, add 18c. per lb. for bag and postage.

Now I'll throw in my experience with growing borage.  
  • First, it is floppy.  
  • Second, it falls over.  
  • Third, rain beats it down.  
So grow it next to something strong, or fill the area with pea sticks.   
It is pretty up close when not covered with mud.
 (Connecticut had a drought in 2017 punctuated with borage flattening rains.)  

Chaumeton, F.P., Flore médicale, 1829

Among the prettiest of those wandering plants which find their most congenial haunts upon rubbish heaps on the outskirts of towns or villages, the borage certainly occupies a prominent place. Plants of such regions are wont to be dull in foliage and flower; but the borage, although its leaves are rough and inelegant, amply compensates for this by the brilliant blue of its five pointed star-like flowers. 

This beautiful blue is, especially among our British plants, very characteristic of the Boraginaceœ, an order of which our borage is the type; we find it in the viper's bugloss (Echium vulgare), the small bugloss (Lycopsis arvensis), the various species of forget-me not (Myosotis), and in the alkanets (Anchusa), which, however, are doubtful natives of our soil; but none of the varying shades presented by these plants are more beautiful than the blue of the borage blossoms.

The uses of borage are, perhaps, open to the charge of being more imaginary than real—that is, if we take into consideration the exaggerated eulogisms bestowed upon it by the older writers.
 "Those of our time," says Gerard, "do use the flowers in sallads, to exhilarate and make the minde glad. There be also many things made of them used everywhere for the comfort of the hart, for the driving away of sorrowe, and increasing the joie of the minde." 

And then he goes on to tell as how " the leaves and flowers of borage put into wine maketh men and women glad and merrie, and driveth away all sadnesse, dulneese, and melancholic"; how "sirrupe made of the flowers of borage comforteth the hart, purgeth melanoholie, quieteth the phrenticke or lanatioke person"; and how "the flowers of borage, made up with sugar, doth all the aforesaid with greater force and effect." 

The use of borage in claret cup and similar beverages at the present day is a relic of the belief in the above "vertues," as well as an agreeable and cooling addition thereto, while its blue flowers floating in the liquid have a pretty appearance.

But the use of borage against melancholy goes mach farther back than the days of Queen Elizabeth. According to Burton, who may be considered an authority on the subject, 
"Helena's commended bowl to exhilarate the heart had no other ingredient, as most of our criticks conjecture, than this of borage;" 
this "commended bowl" being the nepenthes of Homer, which was "of such rare vertue that if taken steept in wine, if wife and children, father and mother, brother and sister, and all thy dearest friends should dye before thy face, thou couldst not grieve nor shed a tear for them".
Incredulous persons might be inclined to regard this cheering property to be rather due to the medium in which the borage was taken, whioh a yet more ancient writer has characterized as that which "maketh glad the heart of man".

As a favourite plant of bees, borage is worthy of somewhat more attention than it generally receives. We know a good beekeeper who has a large bed of it near his hives, and heartily do the winged inhabitants appreciate the attention thus paid them. There are, indeed, few more cheerful combinations of sight and sound than that which is presented by such a borage bed on a bright July afternoon, when tho beautiful blue flowers are in full perfection, and the "murmuring of bees" pervades everything with its soothing hum.                  J. B. Q.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

1888 - Humbug? - Free Seeds from the Government

I have to admit this posting was prompted partly by wanting to share this illustration.  

Weinmann, JW, Phytanthoza Iconographia -  Echinops sphaerocephalus -Artist unknown.

A. I. Root's influential journal, Gleanings in Bee Culture, covered many agricultural and scientific topics. This opinion of the government free seed program was widely held.  While the program started with the admirable intention of exposing farmers and the general family gardener to superior varieties being developed, it grew over time into a politician's give-away to curry favor with their constituents. 
More often in my reading I come across strong opinions from reputable seedsmen who were outraged at the poor quality of seed that was sometimes accepted by the government, as well as the fact the government was competing unfairly with their business as they saw it.

Feb. 1889 - Gleanings in Bee Culture
I saw the notice last spring In Gleanings, stating that the Agricultural Department at Washington had obtained seed of the Chapman honey-plant, for distribution. I applied to our representative, and be notified me that he had never heard of such a plant, but said that he had sent my application to the department, since which time I never heard from it. Were any of your readers more fortunate?
Friend L., I can not help you any about procuring seed of the Chapman honey-plant, opposed the measure of asking the Government to buy friend Chapman's seed, at the National Convention held in Chicago; also at the Michigan State Convention at Saginaw, a year ago.
Some of the friends who were in favor of it admitted that the Government Seed Bureau was a big humbug anyway; but they gave, as an excuse, that friend Chapman might as well have some of the humbug money as anybody else. They did not state it in just that way, but it amounted to that. 
Now, the $2800 that was paid to friend Chapman for his honey-plant seed might almost as well have been thrown into the fire, in my opinion. The seed is very likely stowed away with other old rubbish, and it will probably get too old to germinate before it gets into the hands of beekeepers, if it ever does at all.
 Another thing, I do not believe that any bee-keeper wants a lot of Chapman honey-plant seed until he has first tested it by trying a five cent package; and even after it has been so tested, and the seed was wanted, I am not sure that it could be had of the Government.
Perhaps I am a little uncharitable here; but I can not help feeling indignant at this whole proceeding—not only in honey-plants, but seeds for almost all other purposes. There have been a good many complaints just like yours, friend L., that they could not get the seed of the Chapman honey-plant, even after the Government had paid $2800 for it; and it is not only this kind of seed, but seeds in general are managed a good deal in the same fashion.
Our agricultural papers have for years shown it up, and protested that our money should not be wasted in such senseless proceedings, but still it goes on. This is the first time I have publicly spoken about the matter, and perhaps I shall never have occasion to speak of it again.


As I see some complaint in Gleanings, on page 134, by A. L. Lane and you about the distribution of the Chapman honey-plant seed by the Department of Agriculture at Washington, I want to say that I too read the notice in Gleanings last spring, and I at once wrote to Hon. Norman J. Colman, Commissioner of Agriculture, at Washington, for some seed, and soon got a little package of the same.
I sowed some, and almost every seed came up all right. Some plants had, by fall, leaves 38 inches long.
I believe if Mr. Lane had applied to Hon. Norman J. Colman, Commissioner, for the seed, instead of to his Representative, he would have received some.
Jacob Ruch, Jr.
Gruetli, Grundy Co., Tenn., Feb. 21, 1889.

I had to look up Greutli to see if it was an OCR mistake!  Nope.

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.




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