1902 Encyclopedia > Daisy


DAISY, the name applied to the plants constituting the genus Bellis, of the natural order Composites, and sub-order Corymbiferce. The flowers in this genus have a small, hemispherical, erect calyx : florets of the disk numerous and tubular; phyllaries strap-shaped and slightly notched; filaments hair-like and very short ; anthers forming a cylindrical notched tube ; achenes obovate and compressed; and no pappus. The common daisy, B. perennis, is the only representative of the genus in Britain and Ireland. It is a perennial abundant everywhere in pastures and on banks in Europe, except in the most northerly regions, where, as in America, it is a garden-plant. The stem of the daisy is short ; the leaves are numerous, crenate or crenate-serrate, slightly hairy, obovate-spathulate, and arranged in a rosette ; and the rootstock is creeping, and of a brownish colour. The flowers are to be found from March to November, and occasionally in the winter months. Their scapes bear single blossoms, with phyllaries in one row, and often red externally or at the tips ; the florets of the disk are short and yellow. The size and luxuriance of the plant are much affected by the nature of the soil in which it grows. The cultivated varieties, which are numerous, bear finely-coloured flowers, and make very effective borders for walks. What is known as the " hen-and-chicken " daisy has the main blossom surrounded by a brood of sometimes as many as 10 or 12 small flowers, formed in the axils of the scales of the involucre. The daisy (Ang. Sax., dceges eage, day's eye) rolls up its florets on the approach of rain, and unfolds them once more on the return of bright weather; and, like the marigold, it " goes to bed wi' the sun, and with him rises weeping." Chaucer writes—

" The daisie, or els the eye of the daie, The emprise, and the floure of flouris alia ;

and again—

" To seen this floure agenst the sunne sprede "Whan it riseth early by the morrow, That blissful sight softeneth all my sorrow ; "

and the flower is often alluded to with admiration by the other poets of nature. To the farmer, however, the daisy is a weed, and a most wasteful one, as it exhausts the soil and is not eaten by any kind of stock. In French the daisy is termed la marguerite (g.apyapLTf)<s, a pearl), and " herb margaret " is stated to be an old English appellation for it. In Scotland it is popularly called the gowan, and in Yorkshire it is the bairnwort, or flower beloved by children. The Christmas and Michaelmas daisies are species of aster ; the ox-eye daisy is the species Chrysanthemum Leucanthemum.

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