The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

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

by House of Education Students.
Volume 15, 1904, pg. 377-381

No. V.--May.
By. S. Smith.

The merry month of May! What a wealth of meaning is conveyed by these words! For does not this queen of months bring joy to all created beings, particularly to mankind, but most of all to the Nature student as he steps forth on his travels with vasculum in hand, all aglow with eagerness, and we might say bewilderment, to see the enchanting sites and hear the many entrancing sounds which are so freely lavished on all who have eyes to see and ears to hear?

However, we must not stay to philosophise, we must be up and doing, for not a single day of this precious month should be lost.

April may have been sunny and glad, but there is no sun like that of May, and no gladness to compare with that we are now feeling. The only drawback I can conceive in this month is, that we cannot give enough attention and observation to each of Nature's gifts; they overlap one another in their abundance, so to speak, and all we can do is to glance hurriedly at them all.

No matter where we go, be it to wood or field, lane or riverside, our eyes will have plenty of work to do, and all our energy will be needed for noticing--

      "Each little flower that opens,
      Each little bird that sings."

The woods are gay with bluebells, and overhead, the cherry trees are in fullest blossom, shedding their snow-white petals on the grass. The lark is so full of joy that he can hardly spare a moment to feed or attend to his sitting mate, but soars continuously into the blue vault of heaven, uttering his song of contentment and thankfulness.

If we linger for a few moments in the woods close by, they will be well spent. Almost on the outskirts trail the stems of the yellow dead-nettle or archangel, with its large labiate flowers, much resembling its white relation in form, but more fastidious in its choice of habitat. There is a smell like new-mown hay coming from the sweet woodruff under our feet, its blossoms are cross-shaped and snow-white, and then the hop trefoil. On the short grass of our lawns the smaller kind will be seen (Trifolium minus) and the Dutch variety may be noticed in many waste places. In gravelly and sandy situations the subterranean clover is showing its cream-colored, three-fingered blossoms, growing quite flat on the ground. These little flowers bend lower and lower as they advance in age, until when mature, long fibres are sent out into the earth, burying the fruit in the soil. Thus the plant sows its own seed.

There is a very lovely little flower which I have found growing in company with the last named, at first sight we might mistake it for the common stitchwort, which it very closely resembles, but which in reality is the field mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium arvense). Its foliage is of a greyish-green tint instead of the bright green of the common stitchwort, but the blossoms appear to me to be almost identical with those of the commoner flower.

Down by the streams and marshes we may spend many a pleasant hour. The grass is growing tall, and the meadow buttercups overtop the rest of the vegetation. The ragged robin may be noticed mingled with the grass close to the water's edge, and water forget-me-nots we are sure to see an abundance. In a still wetter situation the dwarf red-rattle (Pedicularis sylvatica) will be sending forth its rosy, labiate blossoms, the leaves are beautiful and ferny, and the whole plant looks very superior. It sometimes goes by the disagreeable name of lousewort. The larger kind of Pedicularis will be growing in a similar situation, but it will hardly be in flower as yet.

The name of red-rattle reminds me of another marsh-loving species which should be looked for in the same meadow, the yellow-rattle (Rhinanthus crista-galli), while the wild iris (Iris pseudocorus) will be standing there tall and strong, side by side with bunches of great valerian, both, however, flowering rather later.

By the hedge-banks the geranium tribe will be well represented. The herb robert, dove's foot and cut-leaved geranium, may all be noticed, and perchance the long stalked variety may be seen trailing its long stems up the bank; it is a straggling thing and varies much according to situation and position.

The grasses, though despised by many for their absence of bright coloring, yet have for the botanist a peculiar fascination. The delicate shades and tints of the cat's tail grass (Phleum pratense) have a wonderful beauty all their own. This grass is a common constituent of the hay, as is also the sweet anthoxanth which is one of the first of its tribe to flower. The beautiful quaking grass so well beloved by all will be found in many a rich meadow, and clumps of the common holcus, together with rye grass and false oat, will be all coming into blossom during the month.

There is also a very beautiful, though common species called the wood melick which loves a shady place, and is abundant especially where bluebells grow. The panicle is loose and drooping, composed of purplish-brown spikelets, striped with green, its bright leaves form a dense mass of luxuriant growth. The mountain melick is still more graceful, but we may only hope to find this in mountainous parts of the country.

Another delight of this first summer month is its store of insect life. The pupae of many beetles, flies, gnats, and other small creatures are now effecting their change under the influence of the sun's bright rays. The may-fly enjoys its short, but joyous life as a winged insect, dancing ceaselessly over the river for one day only, it then lays its eggs and dies even before night-fall. The big, brown cockchafer is essentially a creature of May, for he is called by many the May bug. He has enjoyed a long life underground, and has been voracious and greedy, and even now, having completed his change, his appetite seems none the poorer, for he does his best to strip the oaks and beeches of their tender green leaves, by eating as fast as he can for the two months or so which he has left to live.

In the ponds, swarms of tadpoles may be seen congregating in dense masses. Now and then a fine, crested newt will appear above the surface, while the little water-measurer skims along like a breath upon the water. The whirligig beetles go round in a giddy dance, and the dragon fly, just emerged from his pupa case, feels he is monarch of all he surveys, as he flies off triumphantly in search of helpless prey with which to appease his insatiable appetite.

The whole world of Nature is revelling in this month of delights, when neither of vestige of winter remains, nor a breath of autumn has yet touched a living thing.

Typed by Tina, August, 2023; Proofread by LNL, August, 2023