among a farmer's hay-fields, and there, close beside the public road and in full view of the farm-house, this rare creature fills the water.
But to reach it we commonly row down the lake to a sheltered lagoon, separated from the main lake by a long island, which is gradually forming itself like the coral isles, growing each year denser with alder thickets where the king-birds build;--there we leave the boat among the lily-leaves, and take a lane which winds among the meadows and gives a fitting avenue for the pretty thing we seek.
It is not safe to vary many days from the twentieth of May, for the plant is not long in perfection, and is past its prime when the lower blossoms begin to wither on the stem.
But should we miss this delicate adjustment of time, it is easy to console ourselves with bright armfuls of Lupine, which bounteously flowers for six weeks along our lakeside, ranging from the twenty-third of May to the sixth of July.
The Lupine is one of our most travelled plants; for, though never seen off the American
continent, it stretches to the Pacific
, and is found upon the Arctic coast
On these banks of Lake Quinsigamond
it grows in great families, and should be gathered in masses and placed in a vase by itself; for it needs no relief from other flowers, its own soft leaves afford background enough, and though the white variety rarely occurs, yet the varying tints of blue upon the same stalk are a perpetual gratification to the eye. I know not why shaded blues should be so beautiful in flowers, and yet avoided as distasteful in ladies' fancy-work; but it is a mystery like that which repudiates blue
from all well-regulated costumes.
while Nature yet evidently prefers it to any other combination in her wardrobe.
Another constant ornament of the end of May is the large pink Lady
's-Slipper, or Moccason-Flower, the ‘Cypripedium not due till to-morrow,’ which Emerson
attributes to the note-book of Thoreau
,—to-morrow, in these parts, meaning about the twentieth of May.
It belongs to the family of Orchids, a high-bred race, fastidious in habits, sensitive as to abodes.
Of the ten species named as rarest among American endogenous plants by Dr. Gray
, in his valuable essay on the statistics of our Northern Flora
, all but one are Orchids.
Even an abundant species, like the present, retains the family traits in its person, and never loses its high-born air and its delicate veining.
I know a grove where it can be gathered by the hundred within a half-acre, and yet I never can divest myself of the feeling that each specimen is a choice novelty.
But the actual rarity occurs, at least in this region, when one finds the smaller and more beautiful Yellow Moccason-Flower,—Cypripedium parviflorum
,--which accepts only our very choicest botanical locality, the ‘Rattlesnake Ledge’ on Tatessit Hill, and may, for aught I know, have been the very plant which Elsie Venner
laid upon her schoolmistress's desk.