DOUBLE RED CAMPION, Lychnis dioic
CAMPIONS are common flowers, but their names are reminders of their once noble uses. The campion is the champion's flower; it was ready to hand on the skirts of the wood and the hedgerow when the field games were in progress, and furnished flowers for the garland of the victor in colours white and red. Any one who will indulge in a dream of bygone customs in such a romantic spot as the great amphitheatre of Mayborough, or even the adjoining Arthur's Round Table near Lowther Castle, will soon perceive how the handiest flowers were necessarily promoted to honour, and it will be found, on searching the coppice and hedgerows near by, that campions, or champion-garland flowers, abound there.
The young botanist has to pass through a trial in the study of the genus Lychnis, for in collecting hedgerow specimens he will be troubled with the distinctions between L. vespertina, L. diurna, and L. dioica. He will be more perplexed, perhaps, by the diversity of forms and colours in flowers that appear to be specifically the same, some having narrow, others broad petals--some being white, others rich carmine or purplish-red. There are three species in the best books, and any number in the worst. The wild flower hunter will easily obtain twenty kinds, fairly distinct, and will be puzzled about all except the pure white, and they will be classed as L. vespertina, and then what will be done with the rest? Remembrance of our own troubles takes us back to happy days when such troubles were delights; and it takes us back, too, to the discovery which we accomplished by innumerable comparisons and reflections.
These three so-called species are but the more distinctive forms of one and the same species. The ruling characters of the plant are the same all through; the variations are such as we are accustomed to in the observation of vegetable life, and really ought not to have perplexed us at all. The wary Bentham makes two species of them; but Dr. Deakin ("Florigraphia Britannica") puts them under one head, as varieties of L. dioica, the white campion. The interest attaching to this plant will be best understood from Deakin's note, as follows:--
"This is a remarkable species of Lychnis, from the circumstance of its flowers being dioecious and of different colours. In the illustrations of these states we have represented the white-flowered variety with pistils only, producing capsules and seed, and in the red a specimen with stamens only, and consequently barren; sometimes, however, flowers are found with both stamens and pistils. The white and red flowered plants have been by some authors made distinct species, the red flowering plants having the petals with deeper, narrower, and more spreading lobes, and the capsules rounder, with the valves recurved, while the white-flowered one has broader, less spreading lobes to the petals, ovate connate capsules, and the valves of erect teeth. We do not, however, find this character sufficiently constant: the petals both of the red and white variety vary considerably in width, the shape of the capsule is not constantly the same, and the teeth of the white variety are as frequently reflexed as erect. Both these varieties are occasionally cultivated in gardens, and frequently become double and very ornamental, but are liable, unless care is taken of them, to return to the single state."
The double variety which forms the subject of the plate is one of the most splendid garden flowers of its class--humble indeed, but in its day of glory unique in its display of colour, which differs from all the single varieties, perhaps owing to the accumulation of power resulting from multiplicity of petals. We have occasionally endeavoured to match it for colour in a great garden where myriads of lovely plants were blooming. We have compared it with calandrinias, with many dianthuses, and more particularly with that wonderful bit of colour, Dianthus hispanicus; but it remained unmatched at the end of the story. An advantage of the double variety is its dwarf growth: very different indeed to the single in all its states, when happy on a moist bank, a little shaded by trees. The ragged robin (L. flos-cuculi) gives us a double variety which is quite worth having, but is not equal in splendour to the plant before us.
These double varieties require a little care, or for some reason or other they pass away and leave no sign. The single plant will grow almost anywhere. We have seen whole meadows of it in stony ground near Broadwater, in Sussex, and have had the most glorious banks of it in rich moist loam in our own wild garden. The ragged robin we have seen making a rosy-coloured hay grass on the skirts of Axe Edge, where it had nothing but stones to live upon, with a plentiful rainfall, and took the place of grass, because in those particular hay-fields very few grasses would grow. But these doubtful varieties must be treated as Alpine plants; they should have a deep sandy loam for their root-holding, and in dry weather should be treated with water, for every lychnis loves moisture, and may soon be killed by drought.
Title: DOUBLE RED CAMPION, Lychnis dioic Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
Copyright 2002 by PageWise, Inc.
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