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

Lesson 17: How the Lady Slippers Were Saved (Optimized Design)

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Peter had gone over to the Green Forest. He was hopping along the Lone Little Path where it winds in and out among the pine trees. He was startled by hearing a shout just ahead of him.

"I've found one! I've found one!" cried a voice. Peter stopped abruptly. He didn't like that voice. He knew it the instant he heard it. It was the voice of the boy he had seen picking Arbutus, and who had chased him that time.

"I wonder what he is doing over here," muttered Peter. He stole forward very carefully. At last he reached an old stump from behind which he could peep out and see what was going on. A boy, the same boy he had seen before, and a girl, the same one who had been picking Arbutus, were running about hunting for something.

"I've found one!" cried the little girl, and held up a beautiful pink flower.

Even at that distance Peter knew what it was. It was the beautiful Moccasin Flower or Pink Lady's-slipper. Sudden anger filled Peter so that he almost choked. "They are at it again," he muttered. "Yes, sir, they are at it again. They are picking all those beautiful flowers, and that means that there will be no seed. Why can't they be satisfied with just one or two? If they picked only one or two, there would be no great harm done, though what they want to pick them for at all I can't understand. But they are picking every one they see. There is nothing more beautiful in all the Green Forest than these flowers, but some day if all the blossoms are picked, there will be no plants left. That would be dreadful. I wish I could stop them."

But of course Peter couldn't stop them, and there was nothing for him to do but to sit there and vainly wish that he were as big as Buster Bear.

Suddenly the little girl screamed and started to run as fast as she could. "A snake! A snake! A horrid, great, black snake!" she screamed.

"Pooh!" said the boy. "I'm not afraid of snakes. Where is he?"

The little girl didn't stop running until she was at what she thought was a safe distance. Then she turned and pointed to a big tree. "He is right over at the foot of that tree," said she. "I was just going to pick a flower when I saw him. He is the biggest snake I have ever seen. You better keep away from there."

But the boy said "Pooh!" again, and picking up a stick slowly walked over towards the tree his sister had pointed out. Now the boy pretended to be very brave and unafraid. That was because his sister was watching. In his heart he was foolishly afraid of snakes. He hoped that by the time he got over to that tree that snake would have disappeared.

But Mr. Blacksnake, for that is who it was, was still there. He was big. Yes, sir, he was big, though not nearly as big as he looked to the boy. When the boy was a few feet away Mr. Blacksnake decided that was no place for him and started away from there in a hurry. Now when Mr. Blacksnake is in a hurry he moves fast, very fast indeed. It looked to the boy as if Mr. Blacksnake were rushing right at him. The boy didn't wait. He turned and ran faster than his sister had run. When she saw him do this she turned and once more ran. When he caught up with her he took her hand and together they raced out of sight.

Peter, who had seen it all, chuckled. "This," said he to himself, "is the first time I've ever seen any good in Mr. Blacksnake. He certainly scared that boy and girl, though I have an idea he was just as badly scared himself. I guess they'll keep away from here now. I hope Mr. Blacksnake will stay around until those flowers are through blooming."

Then Peter hopped out from behind the old stump and began to look for flowers. He found a number of plants from which the flowers had been picked, but for some time the only one he found with the flower still in bloom was the one the little girl had started to pick when she saw Mr. Blacksnake. Peter sat down beside it to admire it. Rising from the brown pine needles on the ground were two large, thick, pointed, oval leaves which were slightly hairy and had many ribs. Close to the ground the leaves were clasped around each other. From between them rose a quite long, slender stem, at the top of which hung one of the most beautiful of all the flowers of May, and at the same time one of the most interesting. There were both petals and sepals, which were narrow, pointed and looked much alike. They were greenish-purple in color.

But it was not these that made the beauty and wonder of the flower. It was the curious shape and beautiful color of one of the petals. This was in the shape of a dainty bag with a slit nearly its whole length on the upper side, and having the edges folded inward. It was a most beautiful, delicate pink, and covered with little veins or lines of darker pink or purple.

Lady Bumblebee came along and alighted on the beautiful pink bag. Then she forced her way in through the opening on the upper side, which immediately closed after her. It looked very much as if she were in a trap, and Peter wondered how she would get out. For a time she was quiet. You see she was sucking up the sweet nectar within.

Then Peter heard her begin to buzz rather angrily, and he watched to see her try to get out by the way she had entered. But she did nothing of the kind. To Peter's great surprise he saw her head finally appear at an opening in the neck of that pink bag close to where it was attached to the stem. She seemed to be having hard work to force her way out, but finally she was free. All down her back was pollen. She had got it there in her struggle to get out.

"Phew!" said she. "One certainly does have to work to get the nectar from these flowers. At least one has to work to get away with it. But it is worth the trouble. Yes, sir, it is worth the trouble." Then off she flew to look for another, and Peter knew that when she tried to squeeze her way out of the next flower she would leave some of the pollen which had stuck to her back, and at the same time get a new supply.

Though Peter didn't know it, the Lady's-slipper is a member of the Orchid family, and therefore is in a way related to the beautiful Arethusa which he had so much admired. It is a family which contains some of the most beautiful and most wonderful flowers in all the Great World.

A little later this same month Peter found a cousin of the Pink Moccasin Flower. This was the Large Yellow Lady's-slipper, or Yellow Moccasin Flower. It was growing in the Green Forest where the ground was quite wet. The plant itself was quite different from its cousin growing under the pines. Instead of having only two leaves it had several growing out from a stalk nearly two feet in height.

At the top hung a flower much the same shape as that of its pink cousin, but the curious bag shaped lip was pale yellow, streaked with fine purple lines. The sepals were pointed and quite broad, but the two other petals were narrow, long and twisted, and were brown in color.

Of course Peter was delighted with his find, but he was still more delighted when a few moments later, and growing quite near, he found another Yellow Lady's-slipper, this one only about half the size of the other. It was not only lovely, but fragrant, as Peter's wobbly little nose soon found out. Like its larger cousin it had two twisted petals above the baglike yellow petal. It is commonly called the Small Yellow Lady's-slipper. How glad Peter was that none of these blossoms had been picked!

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

Lesson 17: How the Lady Slippers Were Saved (Optimized Design)


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 Rabbit admires the beautiful Pink Lady's-slipper and the Large and Small Yellow Lady's-slippers, three members of the Orchid family which contain a pouch of nectar and pollen. Peter watches Lady Bumblebee disappear into one Lady's-slipper pouch, drink the sweet nectar within, and squeeze back out. When she emerges, yellow pollen dusts her back. Lady Bumblebee then enters another Lady's-slipper pouch, delivering some pollen from the previous flower as well as picking up some new pollen.


Blacksnake: Any of several relatively harmless North American snakes.
Slipper: A low soft shoe that can be slipped on and off easily.
Orchid: A plant of the orchid family, bearing unusually-shaped flowers of beautiful colors.
Optimized: Made the best, most favorable, or desirable.
Design: A plan for the structure and functions of an artifact, building or system.


Optimized Design:

  1. The Lady's-slipper has a clever design optimized to help spread its pollen.
  2. The Lady's-slipper has a bag of pollen and nectar with a narrow opening.
  3. To get the nectar inside the bag, bees must squeeze through the opening.
  4. The narrow opening ensures the bees dust themselves with the Lady's-slipper's pollen.
  5. The Lady's-slipper's design is optimized for pollen drop-off and delivery.


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

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

Activity 2: Optimized Design Activity

Materials: Plastic Baggie, Sugar Water, and Flour

  • Place a small amount of sugar water (nectar) into the (Lady's-slipper) bag.
  • Moisten the opening of the bag and dust it with flour.
  • Partially close the bag so your hand may barely slip through.
  • Pretend your hand is Lady (or Lord) Bumblebee.
  • Slip through the opening of the bag to sip the nectar within.
  • When you remove your hand, what happens?

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

  • Water the seeds over the final week of the experiment. Keep the sand, rocks, or soil damp over the duration of the experiment.
  • Complete your last week of observations of the bean seeds.
  • Which seeds have growing well? Which seeds are doing poorly?
  • Use the gathered information to create a final field book entry on your experiment.

Activity 4: Complete a Field Book Entry   

As you conduct your experiment, complete page 21 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

Why is Peter happy when Mr. Blacksnake scares the children away?
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Answer 1

Peter is happy when Mr. Blacksnake scares the children away because they greedily pick too many flowers.
1 / 3

Question 2

To which family does the Lady's-slipper belong?
2 / 3

Answer 2

The Lady's-slipper belongs to the Orchid family (like the Arethusa or Dragon's mouth).
2 / 3

Question 3

How is the Lady's-slipper design optimized for pollen drop-off and pickup?
3 / 3

Answer 3

The narrow opening to the nectar and pollen bag ensures bees dust themselves with pollen.
3 / 3

  1. Why is Peter happy when Mr. Blacksnake scares the children away? Peter is happy when Mr. Blacksnake scares the children away because they greedily pick too many flowers.
  2. To which family does the Lady's-slipper belong? The Lady's-slipper belongs to the Orchid family (like the Arethusa or Dragon's mouth).
  3. How is the Lady's-slipper design optimized for pollen drop-off and pickup? The narrow opening to the nectar and pollen bag ensures bees dust themselves with pollen.


  1. Burgess, Thornton. Burgess Flower Book for Children. Ithaca, Boston, Massachusetts. Little, Brown, and Company, 1923.
  2. Comstock, Anna Botsford and Gordon, Eva L., Handbook of nature-study (Twenty-fourth edition). Ithaca, New York Comstock Publishing Company, Inc, 1911.