‘Oh, the gorgeous blossom days’

The imposing Springfield Mill in Polton Village. Photo: The Bryce Collection
The imposing Springfield Mill in Polton Village. Photo: The Bryce Collection

Winnie Stevenson (Roslin Heritage Society) takes us on a final journey into Roslin Glen.

“Where we
May read how soon things have
Their end, though ne’er so brave,
And after they have shown their pride
Like you, awhile, they glide
Into the grave.”

Another of the galium or bedstraw family is Crosswort, very common at intervals up and down the glen.

It also possesses all the powers attributed to goosegrass and lady’s bedstraw, but in the arrangement of its foliage and flowers it is quite a distinct species by itself, both the foliage leaves and the petals of the flower having the form of a cross, hence the name crosswort or crossplant.

In most plants bearing whorls of leaves each ring alternates with the one above and below it in direction, and thus the leaves of t he one fill in the intervals of the other, but in crosswort each leaf is directly above the one below it. The tiny yellow flowers cluster in the axils of the leaves, every whorl of leaves bearing flowers.

If one takes the trouble to examine a few of the blooms, he will find two distinct kinds, some having a corolla with four clefts, others with five clefts. The former are male flowers having only stamens, the latter are perfect flowers having both stamens and pistil and are therefore fertile.

Lady’s bedstraw and crosswort are the only yellow bedstraws we have, all the others being white.

“Evolution ever climbing after some ideal good”

There is no doubt that yellow is the predominant colour among our wild flowers.

Our yellow flowers make up a formidable list – buttercups, dandelions, coltsfoot, bedstraws, charlock, saxifrage, groundsel, celandine, primrose, silverweed, marsh marigolds, wood avens, yellow vetch, yellow rattle – to name only a few of the more common.

It is worth while to consider why this should be. Those who have studied the matter deeply have come to the conclusion that primitive plants had no coloured petals but resembled the horse tail grasses that we have at present day.

It was from plants of this description that we get our extensive coal beds. Now if we assume that the colour of the pollen dust of the stamens, or of the spores as the case might be, has always been yellow, it is not a very big step for a plant to change some of its stamens into petals to make itself more attractive.

In the case of some of our present day plants it is difficult to say whether certain organs are stamens or petals: all we can say for certain is that some of them resemble petals more closely, while others are more like stamens.

This is one of the reasons then for supposing that the first petals were really only modified stamens and as the anthers of the stamens are always yellow it is natural to suppose that the first petals were yellow.

Then again, we always associate yellow with very simple flowers such as buttercups or celandine which are practically devoid of scent and depend for pollination on smaller insects and beetles, while butterflies and bees prefer flowers of other colours – red, purple or blue.

Some yellow flowers, for example the primrose, are not simple in construction, but there is a vast difference between the shade of yellow in the primrose and the crude glaring yellow of the buttercup.

•This is the fifteenth, and final, in a series of articles about Roslin Glen, sourced by Winnie Stevenson (Roslin Heritage Society), which appeared in the Midlothian Journal in 1914.