bugle



bugle defined in 1912 year

bugle - BUGLE (Ajuga reptans);
bugle - The Bugle is a tower-builder. Tier above tier its stories of bright blue flowers rise round a central square column - there may be six tiers, there may be more - and, just as in towers the ground floor and lower stories are more spacious as to height than the upper floors, so in the Bugle the lower tiers are situated farther apart than the upper, which, indeed, become distinctly crowded at the summit. Every tier is flanked by a pair of leaves - each pair at right angles to the pair above and the pair below. At the bottom of the tower these flanking leaves are bright green, but the higher ones are tinged with purple, and their colouring, as also that of the stalk, merges into that of the flowers. This colouring has a definite purpose; it turns the light rays into heat rays, and stimulates the growth of the plant. In copse and pasture, dry hedgerow and on bank, these stately little towers rise at intervals from a slender creeping stem which winds among the grass. Six inches, nine inches, even a foot in height, and vividly painted by Nature, they form conspicuous midget landmarks in the herbage. A tier is made up of a pair of leaves with a ring of some six flowers set close above it, so that a Bugle tower carries from thirty-six to fifty flowers and buds. The formation of the flowers places the plant in the great family of the Labiates - i.e. the flowers with lips. Set in a little hairy cup with five sharp points the corolla tube stretches far beyond it, mouth outwards, and the mouth is most characteristic. At the top the tube appears cut off abruptly, but at the base it pushes out into a large and beautiful lip with four lobes - two terminal, one on either side - the whole lip being streaked with white. It is this lip that is the attractive feature of the flower. A little honey is found in the tube of the corolla, but there is practically no scent.

The four stamens, two rather longer than the others, project from close under the roof of the tube, and would be somewhat unprotected were it not for the leaves and flowers of the tier above. The long column, rising from the ovary right away at the base of the corolla tube, runs through the centre of the stamens. It has a minute fork at its tip.

As to the precise method that the Bugle adopts to ensure fertilisation, Mr. Step says: "Anthers and stigmas appear to mature simultaneously, but self-fertilisation is prevented at first by the stigma hiding behind the shorter pair of stamens which protect it from contact with bee-visitors, whilst the anthers all turn down to get in the way of the bees. Afterwards the lower stamens part sufficiently to allow the stigma to pass between them and come in the way of visitors." A good deal of pollen is often spilt from the anthers, and may be seen lying, a little yellow patch, on the lip. It is difficult to see how this can be of any service either to the flower itself or for fertilising other flowers, for it would touch only the feet or abdomen of a visiting insect, and could not thus be transferred to any Bugle stigma which rubs on the back alone of the insect. As the result of fertilisation a number of little rough nuts are formed, but apparently the plant propagates itself far more largely by its creeping stems than it does by its fruit, which is said not always to ripen.

The creeping stems or "runners" are long shoots, maybe a couple of feet or more long, sent out from the rootstock. At intervals upon them pairs of leaves arise which press upwards. At the same point rootlets are given off below and enter the earth. As winter approaches the runners die, but at every point where the leaf-pairs and the rootlets were formed there is a potential new plant waiting for the spring. If one takes into account all these plants, together with the seeds formed in countless numbers in the flower-towers, one can see what an enormous bid the Bugle makes to secure a posterity to itself.

Though the runners are smooth, yet the stalks of the upright flower spikes are covered with hairs. The calyx and the leaf-margins, too, share in this hairiness, it being a precaution, of course, against creeping insects infesting the flowers; on the runners this precaution is unnecessary.

The rather peculiar names of this plant, both common and botanical, are not very easy to account for. "Bugle" is supposed to be derived from bugulus, a thin glass pipe used in embroidery - ladies still wear "bugle" trimming at times - and the long, thin tube of the corolla is supposed to resemble this bead bugle. Two derivations have been offered for the name Ajuga. One is that it means "without a yoke" - juglum being a yoke - and the other that it is a corruption of Abigo - to drive away - because it drives away various forms of disease! Thus Prior, writing in the seventeenth century, tells us: "It is put in drinkes for woundes, and that is the cause why some doe commonly say that he that hath bugle and sanicle will scarce vouchsafe the chirugeon a bugle." It was also considered a specific for gout and jaundice, but it is no longer used in any form in medical practice. The old simples our forefathers were so fond of employing are, nowadays, completely dethroned and have no place in the fight with disease. In the case of the Bugle, at any rate, modern practice seems justified, for we can discover nothing about it except some little astringency to justify any medicinal claims. Country folk have few names for this plant, "Middle Comfrey," "Sicklewort" and "Carpenter's Herb" being almost its only synonyms, and they are in little use nowadays.

There are three Bugles in the British flora, the creeping form described above (Ajuga reptans), the Erect Bugle (Ajuga genevensis), and the Yellow Bugle, or Ground Pine, with yellow flowers (A. chaiwepitys).

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