cornflower defined in 1912 yearcornflower - CORNFLOWER (Centaurea cyanus);
cornflower - A joy to the artist - the brilliance of its blue is almost unparalleled in plant life; an interest to the botanist - so much that is noteworthy lies in it; a nuisance to the farmer - both in its life and in its death; that is the epitome of the Cornflower's character. In olden days it was known under yet another aspect to the physician, for "there is not any part of the herb but it rather worketh miracles than ordinary cures in green wounds," asserted Gerard, and other physicians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries confirm him and, moreover, add other virtues.
Its blueness has given it many a country name, such as "Blue-cap," "Blue-bonnet," "Blueball," "Blueblaw," "Blue Poppy" (from growing with the red poppies among the corn), and, commonest of all, " Blue-bottle," from the shape of its flower-heads. The purity of its colour, as well shown in our photograph, has raised it to the dignity of being a standard, and nowadays one speaks of "cornflower-blue" to describe a special tint.
The plant grows about two feet high, and is well-known as a somewhat tiresome cornfield weed. Its lower leaves are long and often deeply lobed, but the upper ones are narrow and quite plain in outline. The blooms grow solitary and of necessity upon long stalks to raise them among the wheat. The stalks, as also those of the leaves, are particularly hard and tough, and liable to injure the sickle cutting the corn. Hence, another of its country names is "Hurt Sickle" and an old poem runs:
Blue-bottle, thee my numbers fain would praise,
And thy complexion challenges my praise,
Thy countenance, like summer skies, is fair -
But, ah! how different thy vile manners are.
A treacherous guest, destruction dost thou bring
To th' hospitable field where thou dost spring;
Thou blunt'st the very reaper's sickle, and so,
In life and death, becom'st the farmer's foe."
Each bloom is a colony of flowers - not a single individual - and this colony is bounded by a wall of overlapping dark bracts, each bract being edged with small teeth. A glance shows that the colony is made up of two sets of individuals - one very gay, very blue, and very large in comparison, in a ring outside, a second set, smaller and purplish, within. Naturally, we give our attention to the more conspicuous set first. In each of these the delicate blue tissue of the united petals is shaped like a funnel whose margin is irregular, as the diagram shows, but when we peer within it is all disappointment, for the dainty envelope is absolutely empty. They are all a mere pretence of flowers, their attractive appearance is their only recommendation.
We pass on to the very different little florets in the centre. Small, and without brilliance, they are nevertheless each a complete flower. The second diagram shows one of these florets. The purplish, insignificant petals - the shape of an urn upon a long pedestal - spread out into five small rays at top. At the bottom of the pedestal tube is a honey sac. There is no scent, however.
Above the five petal rays the stamens project as a long, dark pillar, really a tunnel, with five very short filaments below in the petal urn, to speak of the five stamens whose united heads form the tunnel. Through the centre of this tunnel runs the ovary column, the little one-seeded ovary being away below the petals. The top of this column ends in a fork, and just under this fork is a ring of very small hairs forming a circular brush. Now, the interesting point in this flower is that the stamens are sensitive, and if they happen to be touched they suddenly contract; the tunnel (into which, by the way, the pollen dust has been poured) shoots back over the circular brush and along the ovary column. Naturally, all the pollen is swept out in this sudden movement.
Prof. Haberlandt, of Graz, who has made a special study of the power of sensation in plants and the various organs of sensation that they possess, points out that in the Cornflower the sensitive spot in the stamens is just that part that is covered by the circular brush of the ovary column. No other spot is sensitive, and if the stamens are touched with, say, a hair, on this spot they will at once contract - if below it or above, they take no notice. This interesting little experiment is open to anyone to try for himself. Doubtless the spot is one that is specially likely to be touched by insects as they scramble about the bloom, and the pollen that is shot out of the anther-tunnel necessarily, at least in part, adheres to them.
The last stage of this sensitive little floret's history is reached when the two branches of the column-fork roll back and touch the hairs below them, for on these hairs still lie traces of the pollen that was swept before them, and this fertilises them if, perchance, insects have failed to do so. The seeds are small and silvery-grey, and have a short purple crown of hairs to aid in their dispersal. Thus, then, does the Cornflower arrange for division of labour - the outer empty gay set of florets are merely dummies to attract, the inner compact set are the workers that produce the seeds.
The story of the Cornflower's specific name, Cyanus, is that Cyanus was a youth who, when the world was young, loved the blue Cornflower with a passionate adoration, and daily thanked the goddess Flora for this her priceless gift. When the Cornflower was in bloom he rarely left its neighbourhood. One day he died, and was found lying in a cornfield surrounded by his favourite flowers, and Flora, pitying, transformed his body into them.
Its generic name, Centaurea, which it shares with others, is derived from the Centaur Chiron, who taught mankind the healing value of herbs.
The Cornflower is the national flower in Germany, where it is perhaps more in evidence than with us. It is the flower by the aid of which Margaret strove to fathom whether Faust loved her truly, as she
"There is a flower, a purple flower,
Sown by the wind, raised by the shower,
O'er which Jove has breathed a powerful spell,
The truth of whispering hope to tell."
"Now, gentle flower, I pray thee tell
If my lover loves me and loves me well;
So may the fall of the morning dew
Keep the sun from fading thy tender blue."
The Cornflower belongs to the vast family of the Compositæ; there is just a suggestion that it is really an alien from Western Asia and Southern Europe that has become naturalised here.
pictures for cornflower
cornflower defined in 1956 yearcornflower - MEADOW BUTTERCUP;
cornflower - The tallest and most graceful of our common yellow Buttercups, a hairy perennial, 1-3 ft. high, with deeply cut palmate leaves, the topmost unstalked, and fruits in a roundish head. A variable plant, which differs from the still hairier Bulbous Buttercup in its erect or spreading sepals; from Creeping Buttercup in having no runners; and from both in its more numerous flower-heads and unfurrowed flower-stalks. Habitat: Widespread and common in damper grassland. May onwards.
pictures for cornflower
near cornflower in Knolik
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