Gateway to the Classics: Plant Life in Field and Garden by Arabella B. Buckley
Plant Life in Field and Garden by  Arabella B. Buckley

The Cabbage Plant

When the spring flowers are beginning to peep out in the fields, your father will be hard at work in the garden. In March, if not before, neat seed beds of cabbage, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower will have to be sown, for planting out by-and-by. Early turnips must now be sown in their rows, and radishes and mustard and cress may be grown for salad.

All these belong to the family which have flowers in the form of a cross. So you see this is a very useful family to gardeners. It gives us, besides the lovely wallflower, the purple stock and the sweet alyssum in our flower garden, as well as the watercress in the brooks.

But as soon as our cabbage plants begin to grow, we find that the insects, which are so useful in helping to make seeds, can do harm in a kitchen garden. Early in May, before the plants are very large, you will see the white cabbage butterfly with two black spots on her wings, flitting about the garden.


Cabbage and Cabbage Butterfly

Where do you think she has come from? All the winter her body has been covered with a hard gum, which spread over it when she wriggled out of her caterpillar skin, and fastened herself by silken threads to the stem of an old cabbage stalk, or hid perhaps in a crack in the palings.

Now that the sun is warm she has come out to lay her eggs. She does not feed on cabbages herself, she sips honey from the flowers. But she fed on leaves when she was a caterpillar, so she lays her eggs under a cabbage leaf, where the caterpillars will find food when they are hatched.

The Tortoiseshell Butterfly, out in the fields, lays her eggs on stinging nettles, because her caterpillars feed on nettle leaves. They weave a little tent under the leaves to come back to at night, and there you may find them.

But if you want to save your cabbages from being eaten by caterpillars, you must look for the eggs of the white cabbage butterfly under the cabbage leaves. They are very tiny, but in a fortnight they will hatch out into little green caterpillars with black spots, and a yellow line down their backs.

They eat and eat for about a month, and then about July or August they creep away to some tree or paling, and bind themselves there by their silken thread till next spring. Then each butterfly comes out to lay her eggs on fresh cabbages.

If you search very carefully all about your garden and in the shed, and along the palings in the winter, you may find and destroy the chrysalis and help to save your cabbages from the caterpillars.

But if you see some little white balls, about the size of a hemp-seed, lying near a dead caterpillar, take care not to destroy them. They are the cocoons of a little fly, which lays her egg in the body of the caterpillar of the white cabbage butterfly, and when the egg is hatched the grub feeds upon the inside of the caterpillar.

Is it not a curious history? The butterfly sucks honey from the flowers, and carries their pollen-dust for them. Then she lays her eggs under a cabbage leaf and dies. The caterpillar feeds on the cabbage, and then perhaps a little fly comes, and lays her egg in him; and the grub feeds on him, so that when the time comes for him to turn into a butterfly he dies instead.

Many other creatures feed on our cabbage. Slugs and snails like green meat and the gall weevil, which we saw feeding on the turnip, likes cabbage root as well. The best way to keep all enemies away is to make the ground clean and free from weeds, and to pick off all the insects you find.

Find any Crucifers (flowers formed in a cross) you can—wallflower, candytuft, stock, charlock, turnip, and any cabbage plant which is run to seed. Try to find the chrysalis of the cabbage butterfly.

 Table of Contents  |  Index  |  Home  | Previous: Seed-Boxes Which We Eat as Vegetables  |  Next: How Plants Defend Themselves
Copyright (c) 2005 - 2023   Yesterday's Classics, LLC. All Rights Reserved.