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Weren't All Flowers Once Wild? - Wild Flowers

Certainly all flowers did once grow wild — and all animals, too. There are certain kinds of flowers and animals which men have developed by choosing the kind of thing they wanted and leaving the rest, and so gradually getting such things as the garden rose, the different breeds of dogs, and so on. 

These are what we called cultivated varieties, but all of them, even the most curious and newest orchid, or breed of dog, have been made from wild or natural forms. Of course, before man started doing this, all flowers, all plants, and all animals were wild. 

Even now, if we are careless, our garden plants will return sometimes more or less completely to their natural state, and so will domestic animals.  On the other hand, cultivated flowers may escape from a garden, as we say, they seeds being carried by insects or by the wind, and may then appear to have grown wild.  There are many plants found in field and roadside today which are not really natives of our country at all. They have escaped from some cultivated ground and thrived in their new surroundings.  

The Snow-berry, the beautiful shrub so much admired in English gardens for its round, snowy white berries, was introduced from North America, but is today found in wild in many parts of Europe, and is sometimes included among lists of so-called wild plants. 


 The Shrubby Rocket, a relative of the wild Mignonette, came from Europe to America in the same way. It was cultivated in gardens, but in many places escaped, and is now found as a wild plant. 

On the other hand, the fragrant Mignonette which we grow in our gardens really came from its native land — Egypt, where there it was a wild plant. Some of our most prized flowers are troublesome weeds in other countries, or in other sections of our own country. 

Cultivated plants that run wild and no longer receive the care of man gradually revert to the form of their wild ancestors. 

The most beautiful and varied pansies of the garden, if allowed to grow untended in a neglected corner of the garden, gradually get smaller and smaller, and more like the common Heartsease of the field — which is their ancestor. 


There is no end to what we might do by cultivating plants and flowers. Men used to try only to make beautiful forms, but later tried to make useful ones, and have succeeded. One example is that man, especially in making from old kinds of grain into new kinds, turned out to be far more valuable for human food. Another example, is the prickly pear, a valuable edible cactus without spines or prickles has been produced. This enables large numbers of cattle to be reared in otherwise food less desert regions around the world.

Wildflowers in The Pacific Region of North America

Nutka Rose

The Nutka Rose, first found on Vancouver Island, is a tall plant with large showy flowers and large red fruit. The plant sometimes reaches a height of seven feet. Many of its flowers are more than two inches broad, and its fruit is often three-fourths of an inch thick.  Its prickles are stout but few, as compared with some other wild roses.

This plant was first collected at Nontka Sound, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and is found from Sitka, Alaska to California and Utah. Several other wild roses are common on the coast, and a Sweet-brair has been introduced around the 1900s that also runs wild.

Purple Marsh Locks

Purple Marshlocks is a perennial herb with dark green leaves and large purple flowers, common in marshes and bogs, especially at the margins of ponds and lakes.  Its stems are prostrate and numerous, and they grow rapidly forward into the water, thus helping in the filling of ponds and lakes.

In summer, when Purple Marshlocks flowers are at their best, these plants form a particularly conspicuous feature of many shallow lake margins.  When the flowers have faded, the plants may be recognized by their dark green compound leaves and the spongy disks on which the flower parts are borne. It belongs to the Rose plant family. It is most characteristic of northern regions, but is found in California.

Salmon Berry

The Salmon Berry is a tall, somewhat prickly shrub with red flowers and salmon-colored or garnet edible fruit.  The petals are the most conspicuous part of the flower. The pistils and stamens are numerous and are born on the corolla.  The fruit resembles the raspberry, in the fact that the receptacle comes off with the berry when it is picked. By contrast, when the common blackberry is picked the receptacle remains on the plant.  The salmon-colored berries have a better flavor, though the garnet ones are also edible.

The two kinds of berries are on separate plants, the one bearing the garnet fruit being distinguished, even in flower, by its purplish twigs. The young fleshy shoots are sweet and are said to have been eaten by Native Americans.  Though the prickles of this plant are rather weak, they are strong enough and numerous enough to make traveling through a salmon berry thicket a rather unpleasant experience.

The bark of the older stems peels off in shreds. The leaves are compound, being composed of three leaflets.  This plant is found in wet bottom lands and along streams from Alaska to California and northern Idaho.  It occurs in lowlands and also up to two thousand feet elevation on mountains. It was first collected in 1806 by Lewis, of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition.


Pinesap are several odd-looking plants occurring in coniferous forests are entirely devoid of the green color that most plants have. This means that they do not have chlorophyll, the green substance that enables plants to manufacture food from the carbon dioxide of the air and the water of the soil.

Since these plants cannot manufacture their own food, they either live as parasites on the roots of green plants or obtain their food from decaying organic matter, mainly the remains of vegetation. In the latter case, they are called saprophytes.  One of the commonest of these saprophytes in the coniferous woods of the Pacific coastal region is the Pinesap.

It is a reddish or yellowish plant from four to sixteen inches tall, with scale-like leaves, whose underground portion consists of a mass of fleshy roots. It bears several flowers which at first are nodding, but later become erect.  This plant is found from British Columbia to New Brunswick and southward to Arizona and Florida. They are also found in Europe and Asia.

Pinesap is closely related to the Indian Pipe, a waxy white or sometimes pink plant which is also widely distributed and occurs in rich woods.

Labrador Tea

Labrador Tea is a low slender evergreen shrub common in Cranberry marshes (sphagnum bogs) and growing taller and often forming dense thickets in wet areas bordering these marches.  It leaves are mainly at the top of the stem, are enrolled in the edges and covered on the lower surface with a dense growth of rusty brown hairs.  Labrador Tea produces at the top of the stem an abundance of white flowers in late spring.  Its fruit is a small capsule splitting into five parts.

Labrador Tea is found from Alaska to Greenland and found southward to New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Oregon along coasts.  It belongs to the Heath plant family along with heathers, the rhododendrons, swamp laurel and salal.  A taller kind, with hairless leaves, is common in bogs and open woods in parts of Oregon and is also found in southwestern Washington.

The Greedy Parasite — The Dodder

The Dodder most commonly found on the coast is a slender yellow or orange-colored vine parasite on Saltwort and other wild plants, usually in salt marshes.  It is conspicuous because it often forms dense yellow patches several feet in diameter which are easily seen at a distance in these marshes.  Having no chlorophyll, it cannot make its own food, and gets food by sending short roots into the fleshy portions of the plant hosts on which it grows. It produces rather numerous small white flowers.

Several other species of dodder are found on the coastal areas. They are also parasitic on various herbs and shrubs. Some are parasitic on clover and other plants of economic importance, and thus are bad weeds.  Dodders are found in practically all parts of the United States and also in Europe and tropical America, and often do great damage to cultivated plants.