Plant Nature Study I by Various Plant Nature Study I by Various    

Lesson 15: Buttercups and Lily Cousins (Plant Bulbs)

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Carol the Meadow Lark had stopped at the dear Old Briar-patch for an early morning call on Peter. Of course he knew, as by this time everybody knew, of Peter's interest in flowers. "Have you seen the Buttercups yet, Peter?" he asked.

"No," cried Peter, pricking up his ears. "Do you mean to say the Buttercups have come?"

"One has, anyway, for I saw it only yesterday," replied Carol.

"Where? Tell me where, Carol, that I may see it too," Peter begged.

"I am surprised at you, Peter. I am much surprised at you that you should ask such a thing," replied Carol, with a twinkle in his eyes that Peter couldn't see.

"Why?" demanded Peter, looking very much surprised and puzzled.

"Haven't you learned yet that half the pleasure in finding things lies in hunting for them and finding them without help?" inquired Carol.

"That's true," replied Peter, thoughtfully. "I hadn't thought of it before, but it is true. I don't want you to tell me where you saw that Buttercup. No, sir, I don't want you to. If there is a Buttercup in bloom I am going to find it myself. If you should try to tell me now, I would stop my ears. I would so."

Carol chuckled, then flew away. Peter watched him drop down in the grass far out in the Green Meadows and guessed that somewhere near there Carol had a nest. "Let me see," said Peter, talking to himself. "If Carol has seen a Buttercup it must be somewhere on the Green Meadows, for that is where Carol lives. Now I think of it, I have usually seen the first Buttercup on the Green Meadows, so that must be the place to look. I'll start out right away."

First making sure that the way was clear and no enemy in sight, Peter started out. He didn't know which way to go. That Buttercup might be almost anywhere. One place was as good as another. So Peter hopped about aimlessly, this way and that way, sitting up every few jumps to look about him on all sides. He hunted and hunted until at last he was becoming discouraged. He was just about to give up and go over to the Green Forest when he thought he saw a tiny yellow spot off at one side.

"Probably it's a tall Dandelion," muttered Peter, as he started over towards it.

But it wasn't a tall Dandelion. Peter knew that as soon as he got near enough to see the shine on that yellow blossom. It was the same shine that had made the Cowslip he had found earlier in the season glisten in the sun. "It is a Buttercup!" cried Peter, happily, and hurried forward.

Peter was right; it was a Buttercup. It was like a little cup of shining gold with its five glossy yellow petals and yellow stamens. The plant wasn't as tall as would be the Buttercup Peter would find later in the season, the Common Meadow or Tall Buttercup, for this was one that comes just before that. The stalk and leaves were much the same. The latter were many times divided, and each leaflet was again divided into narrow parts. The stems were quite hairy, much more so than the stems of the Meadow Buttercup.

Had Peter dug down to the root, he would have found it swollen into something very like a bulb, which is not the case with the root of the Meadow Buttercup. From this it gets its name of Bulbous Buttercup, and it is because this root is so big that it has stored in it the energy to make quick growth in the spring, and so be the first of the Buttercups to bloom.

It was with a sense of great contentment that Peter at last turned towards the Green Forest. He had hunted for and found that first Buttercup without help from anyone, and he would be quite satisfied if he didn't find another flower that day.

But Peter was to find other flowers that day. He found one almost as soon as he had entered the Green Forest. It was near the place where he had found the Wake-robin, or Purple Trillium, a place where the ground was rich and damp. He had passed several of these plants without more than a glance, for he had taken them to be the Wake-robin he had already found. The leaves were much the same, three of them at the top of a smooth, stout stalk. He was hurrying on when he happened to glance directly at one of these plants, and then he stopped short. He stopped short and simply stared. Just above those three broadly oval and sharply pointed leaves was a pure white flower. He could hardly believe it, for you see had he thought about it at all he would have expected to see a purple flower there.

This flower was in shape like that of the Purple Trillium, but it was much larger and pure white, very lovely to look at. The three, long, pointed, white petals turned outward in a graceful curve. They were rather less pointed and somewhat broader than the petals of the Purple Trillium.

Of course Peter knew that he had found another member of the Trillium family.

"I wonder if this one smells as badly as the other," said he, and stretched forth his wobbly little nose to sniff. It didn't smell bad. In fact, there was no smell at all, whereat Peter was glad. It was the Large-flowered Wake-robin, also called the White Trillium, and this is scentless.

Peter continued on his way, still thinking of the Trilliums. He decided to first visit the Laughing Brook. Almost the first thing he saw when he reached it was another group of Trilliums growing a little back from the bank. Just out of idle curiosity he hopped over to them to see which kind these were. Imagine his delight when he discovered that they were neither of the two he had already found. The plants appeared much the same, but the blossoms were more beautiful than either of the others. There were three petals, as is the case with all of the Trilliums. They were waxy-white like those he had just left, but the edges were wavy, and each petal was beautifully striped at the base with pink.

"Oh!" cried Peter. "This is the loveliest yet!"

And so it was, for Peter had found the Painted Trillium, which is the most beautiful of all the family. Should he come that way later in the season, he would find in the place of each flower a bright red, egg-shaped berry, while the fruit of the Large-flowered Wake-robin is nearly black.

One more Trillium Peter found and later learned that it was the most common of all. This was the Nodding Trillium, or Nodding Wake-robin, so called because the white or pinkish blossom hangs downward from its short stem so that often it is quite hidden by the leaves. The Nodding Trillium is one of the earliest of the family to bloom. All the Trilliums belong to the Lily family.

Wanting to see the beautiful Blue Flag again, Peter followed the Laughing Brook down to the Green Meadows. Another blossom had opened on the Blue Flag, and for some time Peter sat admiring these wonderful colors. Finally he started along out on to the Green Meadows. Here where the ground was moist he unexpectedly came upon some small, blue flowers like tiny blue stars with yellow centers.

"Well, I never!" exclaimed Peter. "I didn't know before that grass has such pretty little flowers."

'What are you talking about?" buzzed Busy Bee, who happened along just in time to overhear him. "That isn't grass. You ought to know that without being told." Then before Peter could make a reply Busy Bee was on her way.

Peter looked a little more closely. Then he saw that what he had taken for grass leaves were really stems and leaves of a plant not even related to grass. But they looked very grasslike, for they were long, narrow and shaped much like blades of grass. They looked so much like some kinds of grass that Peter felt he was really excusable for making the mistake.

The little blue stars were at the top of stalks about a foot high, and these stalks were flat and two-edged, which made them rather grasslike. There was one little blossom at the top of each stalk, and one or more buds not yet open. It was lucky that Peter had happened along on a bright, sunny morning for otherwise he would not have seen them at all. You see, they open only in the bright sunshine of the morning. In the afternoon they would close tightly, never to open again, for they open but once and remain open only a few hours.

Peter had found the Blue-eyed Grass, which in some places is called Eyebright, although that name is also given to another flower. Blue Star is another name sometimes used.

"Well," said Peter, looking at the leaves again, "this may not be grass, but it certainly looks like it."

"Perhaps it does to people who do not use their eyes, but anyone who looks closely enough will never mistake a cousin of the Blue Flag for a member of the grass family," buzzed Busy Bee, who had just returned.

"What!" cried Peter, and his surprise was funny to see. "Do you mean to tell me that these little blue flowers are related to that wonderful Blue Flag back there? I don't believe it."

'What you believe or don't believe doesn't matter the least little bit. Facts are facts, and these little flowers belong to the Iris family and so does the Blue Flag," retorted Busy Bee.

Busy Bee was right. The Blue-eyed Grass is a member of the same family as the wonderful big Blue Flag.

    Plant Nature Study I by Various Plant Nature Study I by Various    

Lesson 15: Buttercups and Lily Cousins (Plant Bulbs)


Study the lesson for one week.

Over the week:

  • Read the story.
  • Review the synopsis.
  • Recite aloud the vocabulary words and their definitions.
  • Learn the concepts.
  • Complete the enrichment activities.
  • Study the review questions.


Peter visits the Green Meadows and finds a buttercup, a little golden cup with five glossy yellow petals and yellow stamens. Peter digs up the buttercup's root and finds a swollen bulb, which enables the buttercup to store enough energy to bloom early in the spring. Peter continues on to spot the three large white petals of the Wake-robin or White Trillium. Peter also finds the Painted Trillium, which has three white petals striped in pink at the base. Finally, Peter finds the petite blue star blossoms of Blue-eyed Grass.


Meadowlark: Any of several songbirds of the genera Sturnella and Leistes, native to the Americas.
Tri: Three (the TRI-llium has three petals).


Plant Bulbs:

  1. The buttercup grows a plump bulb under the earth to store enough energy to bloom early in the spring.
  2. Other types of flowers that grow from bulbs and bloom in the spring include the Daffodil, the Gladiolus, the Hyacinth, and the Crocus.
  3. Study the image of the tulip. Find the green shoot, the old brown bulb, the roots, and the new white bulb.
  4. After a tulip plant grows from a bulb, the old bulb dries up.
  5. But a new tulip bulb grows down from the old, ready to bloom again in the spring.


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

  • After reading or listening to the story, narrate the story events aloud using your own words.

Activity 2: Things with 'Tri'

  • The TRI-llium is thus named because 'tri' indicates three and the trillium has 3 petals.
  • What other objects contain 'tri' to indicate three of something?
  • Check the references section for some example words containing 'tri.'

Activity 3: Continue Your Experiment - Which Soil is Best for Beans?

  • Continue to water the seeds. Keep the sand, rocks, or soil damp over the duration of the experiment.
  • Complete your second week of observations of the bean seeds.
  • Which seeds have sprouted? Which seeds are doing poorly?
  • Use the gathered information to create the field book entry.

Activity 4: Complete a Field Book Entry   

As you conduct your experiment, complete page 19 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

Where do buttercups store extra energy to bloom early in the spring?
1 / 4

Answer 1

Buttercups store extra energy in a bulb under the ground to bloom early in the spring.
1 / 4

Question 2

What number is associated with 'tri?'
2 / 4

Answer 2

'Tri' is associated with the number three.
2 / 4

Question 3

How many petals does the White Trillium have?
3 / 4

Answer 3

The White Trillium has three petals.
3 / 4

Question 4

How many petals does the Painted Trillium have?
4 / 4

Answer 4

The Painted Trillium has three petals.
4 / 4

  1. Where do buttercups store extra energy to bloom early in the spring? Buttercups store extra energy in a bulb under the ground to bloom early in the spring.
  2. What number is associated with 'tri?' 'Tri' is associated with the number three.
  3. How many petals does the White Trillium have? The White Trillium has three petals.
  4. How many petals does the Painted Trillium have? The Painted Trillium has three petals.


  1. 'Tulip Bulb Photo by Amada44. {(CC0 1.0)}' Wikimedia Commons. n.p.
  2. Burgess, Thornton. Burgess Flower Book for Children. Ithaca, Boston, Massachusetts. Little, Brown, and Company, 1923.
  3. Comstock, Anna Botsford and Gordon, Eva L., Handbook of nature-study (Twenty-fourth edition). Ithaca, New York Comstock Publishing Company, Inc, 1911.
  4. tricycle (3 wheels), triceratops (3 horns), triathlon (3 events), trident (3 tips), triple (3)