A New Species of Erythronium.
By PROFESSOR ASA GRAY.
Ordinarily it is hardly worth while to make a separate article for a single new species of plant, even when discovered in a district in which a new flowering plant is unexpected. But the species of Erythronium are so few, and the present one is so peculiar, and its habitat so closely bordering the region included in my Manual of the Botany of the Northern United States, that I need not apologize for bringing it at once to notice.
The specimens before me, accompanied by a colored drawing, are just received from Miss S. P. Darlington (a daughter of the late Dr. Darlington, long the Nestor of American botanists and one of the best of men), and were collected at Faribault, Minnesota, by Mrs. Mary B. Hedges, the teacher of Botany in St. Mary's Hall, a school of which Miss Darlington is Principal.
The flower is much smaller than that of any other known species, being barely half an inch long; and its color, a bright pink or rose, like that of the European E. Dens-Canis, reflects the meaning of the generic name (viz. red), which is lost to us in our two familiar Adder-tongues, one with yellow, the other with white, blossoms. The most singular peculiarity of the new species is found in the way in which the bulb propagates. In E. Dens-Canis new bulbs are produced directly from the side of the old one, on which they are sessile, so that the plant as it multiplies forms close clumps. In our E. Americanum long and slender offshoots, or subterranean runners, proceed from the base of the parent bulb and develop the now bulb at their distant apex. Our Western E. albidum does not differ in this respect. In the new species an offshoot springs from the ascending slender stem, or subterranean sheathed portion of the scape (which is commonly five or six inches long), remote from the parent bulb, usually about mid-way between it and the bases or apparent insertion of the pair of leaves; this lateral offshoot grows downward, sometimes lengthening as in the foregoing species, sometimes remaining short, and its apex dilates into the new bulb.
This peculiarity was noticed by Mrs. Hedges, the discoverer of this interesting plant, to whom great credit is due. Most lady botanists are content with what appears above the surface; but she went to the root of the matter at once. I learn that E. albidum abounds in the same locality. E. Americanum is also found in the region, but is scarce.
It is not easy to find or frame a specific name which will clearly express the most remarkable characteristic of this new species. But I will venture to name it
ERYTHRONIUM PROPULLANS.—Scape bulbiferous from its sheathed portion below the developed leaves; these oblong-lanceolate, acuminate, slightly mottled; perianth rose-purple or pink (half an inch long); the segments acute, all with a yellow spot but plane at the base, the inner like the outer destitute of either groove or tooth-like appendages, but a little more narrowed at base; anthers merely oblong; style hardly at all narrowed downward, entire, the small stigma even barely three-lobed; ovules few (4-6) in each cell.—Amer. Naturalist, July, 1871.