The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."


A Chat with Children About Wild Flowers.

by Agnes Logan Miller.

Volume 15, 1904, pg. 139-141

Have you ever thought how many different kinds of flowers there are? 300,000! If you were to count slowly for an hour you would not have quite finished! All the flowers were once wild--the roses and geraniums, the lovely arum-lilies, the pretty little pink London pride.

Roses grow wild in Cashmere to the North of the Punjab, in India. Geraniums (even the beautiful hot-house kinds) grow wild in the hedges of South Africa, in the Madeiras there are numbers of arums, and all over the hills of South Ireland you can find the dear little pink London pride that the poor children in London call their "pride" because it does not mind dirt and smoke, and needs very little care.

Then have you thought about whether you would find the same wild flowers in every country? You would not: generally you would find the same wild flowers in the countries that lie on the same line of latitude. You would find the same kinds of flowers in England and Holland and Germany. You know Dutch clover grows here. But in Scotland where it is in a higher latitude the same wild flowers do not grow as in England. You know the pretty spurge with its green flowers; it is very common in Hampshire, but very rare in the North of England or in Scotland.

But some wild flowers seem to like almost any kind of climate, and if you went to South America into Chili, there you would find the silver-weed; so you might in China or Armenia or even in New Zealand.

In Patagonia the woods are full of ivy and sweet honeysuckle and creeping hops. You have all gathered chickweed--especially if you have pet birds--and all the children in Europe and in South and Central Asia can gather chickweed, but there is none in Africa or America.

Then the land-plantain seems to be contented anywhere and is very useful. I daresay you have often looked for plantain to rub your fingers or your legs if you had stung yourself on a nettle. Now, in America they call plantain the "snakeweed" because it cures the sting of the snakes. Once a dog was bitten by a rattle-snake in the United States, and he was cured by eating the leaves of the plantain. And Erasmus tells a story of a toad he had for a pet which was stung by a spider, but he hopped on to a plantain the "Englishman's foot," because it seems to spring up wherever the Englishman goes.

The Greeks and Romans were very fond of Botany; even before Christ was born the people used to like to learn all about flowers and grasses.

You have see "goosegrass." It is not a real grass, the country folks call it "cleavers," but Pliny called it the "lover of men," because it often catches hold of people's dresses. Some day you must get a piece and count the rings of leaves, for they are hardly ever alike in number.

Then clover Pliny liked very much and he said he "had watched it and found that it always trembled before a storm was coming." I do not know if it really does, but while you are thinking of clover, think how many sorts of clover there are, red, white, and yellow. I think there are thirty-five kinds.

Do you know the figwort? Not a very grand or pretty flower, you will say, and yet in London about the time of Charles II., and even later, it was quite the fashion and was seen in all the London nursery gardens. Now I think only the wasps seem to care for it very much.

Now, think which flowers the insects seem to care for most, not all alike. The "busy bee" likes pink and blue and violet flowers best. The butterflies like thistles and carnations and all bright flowers best. But moths like white or pale yellow flowers best because they are seen the longest in the twilight, while little flies and beetles like best the small yellow and green flowers.

Most of the grasses are sweet to taste and nearly all would do you no harm, but some people say darnel is poisonous. Many flowers are poisonous, all the hemlocks that grow in water are poisonous, except the angelica which you may have eaten on cakes, green and shiny; but the hemlocks that grow on dry ground are quite safe, only you had better not eat any plants unless you are with people who know.

The real hemlock has a smooth spotted stem--the only British umbelliferous plant that has, and it smells strongly of mice!

Now shall we look carefully at one or two plants and see how wonderful they are? I will begin with a speedwell, with its "merry eye of blue." Do you see the hairs down the stem in the "internodes"? From one node to another they grow, first one way then the other, so as to lead the water down to the roots.

Now this tiny chickweed. Look, the seed is ripe and ready to fall, so the chickweed bends down and the seeds fall to the ground, and then at once up they lift their heads quite straight. Now count the petals--one, two, three, four, five; and yet they are so deeply cut that you would think they were ten, but really there are only five.

Then see these buttercups; see how the sepals of the calyx fold back, look at the root. Now take another kind of buttercup and see how different its root is, because it grows in running water or in high grass.

Well, I must not talk much more or you will be tired, only remember what a great many kinds there are of each sort of plant:--

Sixteen brooklimes.
Sixteen speedwells.
Nine or ten buttercups.
Thirty-five sorts of clover.
One hundred and seven British grasses.
And try to remember that "plants" may be tall trees or tiny lichens growing on the trunks of trees or on walls or mosses.

And last, remember the six parts of a plant:--
1, the root; 2, the stem; 3, the leaves; 4, the flower; 5, the fruit; 6, the seed.

Typed by happi, January, 2023; Proofread by LNL, June, 2023