While the honey is of good quality, its exact color, body, and flavor can probably never be determined with exactness, for it blossoms simultaneously with several other honey-bearing plants or trees (notably with the dogwood and also the pigeon plum), so that only a blend of several honeys is possible. The blend of the three is thick and appetizing, of good color, and usually brings good prices in the northern markets. It constituted most of the surplus of O. O. Poppleton, of Stewart, Florida, whose crop in 1909 was 28,000 pounds.
SUMMER FAREWELL (Kuhnistera pinnata). — Perennial herbs with glandular stems and compound leaves composed of 5 to 15 thread-like leaflets. The flowers are in sub-globular clusters subtended by small bracts, and resemble heads of the thistle family. The lobes of the calyx are bristlelike. The plant grows two feet tall, and in Florida blooms from the latter part of September until about the middle of November, when it is killed by frost. From its blooming so late in the season it, is called “summer farewell.” The flowers are white and are produced in such profusion that at a distance they appear like a solid mass, and small patches of them have been compared to drifts of snow — hence it is called “snow weed.” It grows in sandy soil from North Carolina to Florida and Mississippi. Since 1906 it has spread rapidly in Columbia and Alachua counties, Florida, and in the fall many square miles of land are covered by its abundant growth. (Fig. 110.)
The honey, according to Wilder, is almost as clear as water and has an excellent flavor and a good body. It never ferments, but granulates at the beginning of cold weather. During the honey flow there is great activity among the bees, and there may be numerous swarms. Wilder reports that the average surplus ranges from 30 to 50 pounds per colony, and that he has obtained as high as 150 pounds from a single colony from this source. Summer farewell makes a better growth in dry than in wet seasons.
SUNFLOWER (Helianthus annum). — The honey is amber-colored with a characteristic flavor. At Ventura, California, a carload of sunflower honey has been extracted, but this was an exceptionally large surplus.
Helianthus is an extensive American genus, embracing sixty or more species. The common sunflower grows wild throughout the West, especially from Minnesota to Texas, on the prairies and waste lands lying between the Rocky Mountains and the Mississippi River. In Nebraska it becomes “a veritable herbaceous tree,” and completely takes possession of large waste areas, 10 to 25 or more acres in extent. The tall plants also grow along the roadsides and about the cities and towns. The stems yield a textile fiber, the seeds oil, and the flowers a yellow dye.
Many other species of sunflower are exceedingly common both in the West and South. The Jerusalem artichoke (H. tuberosus) is a good honey plant. In Contra Costa County, California, there are many acres of this plant growing wild. The tubers are used as a vegetable.
SWEET BAY (Magnolia virginiana). — Sweet bay or laurel bay is very abundant in the swamps at Valdosta, Lowndes County, in southern Georgia, and during two weeks yields from 15 to 20 pounds of amber-colored honey. The large white flowers are very fragrant.
SWEET CLOVER (Melilotus. Greek word from meli, honey, and lotos; the Greek lotos was a kind of clover, perhaps white sweet clover). — There are about 20 species of sweet clover, natives of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Nine species are found in France. Four have been introduced into North America. The sweet clovers were known to the ancient Greeks more than 2000 years ago, and in the Mediterranean region were valued as honey plants, as well as for forage and green manure. They are now distributed over the entire civilized world, usually growing on waste land; but in Australia, South Africa, and the United States they have been cultivated with remarkable success. Many species of sweet clover have been more or less utilized in the Old World, but only three are commonly cultivated in the United States: The white biennial sweet clover (Melilotus alba), the large yellow biennial (M. officinalis), and the small yellow clover (M. indica). (Fig. 111.)