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

Lesson 18: The Delightful Reward of Curiosity (The Leaf Factory)

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Peter Rabbit sat just outside of the dear Old Briar-patch. He wanted to go somewhere, but he didn't know where. He simply couldn't make up his mind. Blacky the Crow decided the matter for him. Blacky began cawing as if he were greatly excited. "Caw, caw, caw, caw!" screamed Blacky. "Caw, caw, caw, caw!"

Peter pricked up his ears. "Blacky is up in the Old Pasture," thought he. "I wonder what the black rascal has found now. If he were over in the Green Forest, I should think he had discovered Hooty the Owl, and was tormenting him. But Hooty wouldn't be over in the Old Pasture. Blacky must have found someone or something else to excite him."

"Caw, caw, caw, caw!" Blacky was hardly stopping long enough to get breath. And now there were answering "caws" over in the Green Forest, and Peter saw some of Blacky's relatives heading for the Old Pasture to join Blacky. Curiosity began to get the better of Peter's common sense. The longer he listened to that cawing, the more he wanted to know what it was all about.

"I believe I'll run over there," said Peter to himself. "I may as well go over there as anywhere else. To be sure Reddy Fox has his home over there, but there are plenty of bramble-tangles for me to hide in. My, what a racket those Crows are making! I simply must find out what it is all about."

So away went Peter, lipperty-lipperty-lip, for the Old Pasture. About the time he reached the edge of it Blacky and his friends stopped their noise. A few minutes later Peter saw them flying back to the Green Forest. He was disappointed. He had come over there for nothing. He was tempted to go back home, or else to go over to the Green Forest. But he didn't do either.

"Now that I am here I may as well see if there is anything new in the Old Pasture," said he to himself. "I'll call on Old Jed Thumper, the gray old Rabbit who lives over here. He'll probably try to chase me out, but I don't care if he does."

So Peter started on into the Old Pasture. For a wonder he wasn't thinking of flowers. In fact, he had quite forgotten to look for them at all. So his surprise and delight were all the greater when he came upon a little bush covered with clusters of feathery white flowers.

"Ha!" exclaimed Peter, and stopped to look closely at his find. It was a small bush a little over two feet high. The leaves were oval and pointed, and each leaf had three ribs. The edges were cut into fine little teeth, and the surface of the leaves was hairy.

But as usual it was the flowers which interested Peter most. They were very tiny and were crowded together around the ends of long slender stems. Each tiny blossom had five petals and five stamens. So small were these little blossoms, and so dainty, that each little mass looked soft and feathery. Of course he at once tested them with his wobbly little nose. There was a faint fragrance.

Peter scratched a long ear with a long hind foot. "I wonder what I've found now," said he.

But there was no one to tell him. He happened to think of the root and wondered what it was like. To find out he dug around it and discovered at once that it was of a deep reddish color. "I guess I'll have to name this thing myself," said he. "I'll call it Red-root. Yes, sir, that's what I'll call it."

Now it just happens that what Peter had decided to call it is the very name that other people have given it. However, it is much better known as New Jersey Tea. Way back in the days when this country of ours was first settled tea was a great luxury, and many people could not get it at all. Then they used to take the young, downy leaves of this plant, dry them and use them for making tea. So the plant became known as the New Jersey Tea plant. From the roots a dye was made, and so you see this little plant was very useful.

Peter felt that already his trip to the Old Pasture was quite well worthwhile, and he was in a very happy frame of mind as he continued on his way to look for Old Jed Thumper. But Old Jed Thumper was soon forgotten. On the edge of a bramble-tangle Peter found the first Rose of summer. It was the Low or Pasture Rose, the most abundant of all wild Roses, and a flower that Peter had loved from the days when he had started out in the Great World to find a place for himself.

The bush Peter had found now was not much above his head, though he knew places where the bushes grew as high as the head of a tall man. The leaves were compound. That is, they were divided into leaflets, each one of which was like a complete leaf. In most cases there were five of these leaflets, though Peter found one or two with seven. These leaflets were oval, rather shiny, and the edges were cut into irregular little teeth.

The branches were covered with little sharp thorns. At least, that is what most people call them, though they are not true thorns, but prickles. They grow out from the bark, but true thorns grow out from the wood itself and are really branches which have been changed into thorns.

But it was the flower itself that interested Peter most. How he loved it! Later there would be countless numbers of them all through the Old Pasture, but this was the first one, and Peter feasted his eyes on it, and his wobbly little nose rejoiced in the fragrance of it. There were five soft, pink petals, for the Rose goes in fives. You know there were five leaflets to each leaf as a rule. Back of the beautiful pink petals were five sepals. In the center was a cluster of pistils, and around these a circle of many bright yellow stamens.

While Peter sat there Busy Bee came along. To Peter's great surprise she hardly gave the Rose a look. He had thought that she would be as delighted as he was, but she appeared not at all interested.

"What is the matter with that Rose that you do not draw out its sweetness to make honey?" asked Peter.

"There is no sweetness in it to make honey of," retorted Busy Bee. "It would be a waste of time for me to look for any there." And with this Busy Bee went on in search of other flowers.

But if Busy Bee was not interested in the Pasture Rose, some of her relatives were. They came to it to collect the pollen with which it was most generous. Peter knew that in the fall where the beautiful blossom now was there would be a bright scarlet berry, and then certain of his feathered friends would be quite as interested as he now was.

It was with real regret that Peter finally started on his way. He knew that there would soon be many of these beautiful blossoms, but there is never quite the joy that comes with the finding of the first one. A little later he would find the Swamp Rose on the edge of the swamp. This would have stout, hooked prickles, while those of the Pasture Rose were straight. Then would come the Meadow Rose, sometimes called the Smooth Rose, which would have few if any prickles. The blossoms of all are much alike.

The Rose family is a large one, and contains many members that at first sight would seem not to be related at all. Most of our fruit trees belong to the Rose family, and you remember that the Wild Strawberry and the Cinquefoil are also little cousins of the Rose.

By this time Peter had forgotten all about Old Jed Thumper, and instead of keeping on to look for him he hurried back to the dear Old Briar-patch to tell little Mrs. Peter that Rose time had begun.

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

Lesson 18: The Delightful Reward of Curiosity (The Leaf Factory)


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 spots the tiny, feathery white blossoms of the New Jersey Tea, a flower whose leaves may be dried and used for brewing tea. The reddish root of the New Jersey Tea produces a dye which can be extracted. Peter next spots the Pasture Rose, a flower with a prickly stem, five pink petals, and a golden center of stamens and pollen. Busy Bee has no interest in the Pasture Rose, as it has no nectar, but some of her relatives collect the pollen. Peter later finds the cousins of the Pasture Rose, the Swamp Rose and the Meadow Rose.


Pasture: Land, specifically, an open field, on which livestock is kept for feeding.
Feathery: Resembling feathers.
Brew (verb): To make tea or coffee by mixing tea leaves or coffee beans with hot water.
Tea: The dried leaves or buds of the tea plant, or the drink made by infusing these dried leaves or buds in hot water.
Dye: A colorant.
Prickle: A small, sharp pointed object, such as a thorn.
Starch: A widely diffused vegetable substance found especially in seeds, bulbs, and tubers.
Sugar: Sucrose in the form of small crystals, obtained from sugar cane or sugar beet and used to sweeten food and drink.


The Leaf Factory:

  1. Flowers need light to grow.
  2. Read the story of Uncle John's Starch Factory to find out why.

Plants are like us; they must have food to make them grow. But where is the food and how do they find it? Every green leaf is a factory making food for the plant. The green pulp in the leaf is the machinery and the leaves get the raw materials from the ground and from the air. The machinery makes mostly starch, for this is the chief food of plants. The machinery is run by sunshine-power, so the leaf-factory can make nothing without the aid of light; the leaf-factories begin to work as the sun rises and stop working when it sets. But the starch has to be changed to sugar before the plant can use it for nourishment and growth. The leaves, after making the starch from the ground and the air, are obliged to digest it, changing the starch to sugar; for the growing parts of the plant feed upon sweet sap. Although the starch-factory in the leaves can work only during the daytime, the leaves can change the starch to sugar during the night. So far as we know, there is no starch in the whole world which is not made in the leaf-factories.


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

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

Activity 2: Draw a Leaf Factory   

Complete page 22 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade' by drawing your artist's conception of a leaf factory.

On the daytime side show:

  • The inputs - Sunshine, materials from the roots, and materials from the air.
  • The green pulp of the leaves as machinery.
  • The first output as starch.

On the nighttime side show:

  • The dark night sky and the moon.
  • The leaf converting starch into sugar.

Activity 3: Conduct an Experiment - Which Amount of Light is Best for Beans?


  • Three Bean seeds
  • Potting soil
  • Three small containers for growing the beans


  • Fill the containers with potting soil.
  • Plant a bean seed in each of the three containers.
  • Water the seeds. Keep the soil damp over the duration of the experiment.
  • Place one container where it gets plenty of light, one where it receives partial light, and the final one in a dark place that receives very little light (e.g. cupboard, closet).
  • Complete your first week observation of the newly planted bean seeds.
  • Use the gathered information to create the field book entry.

Activity 4: Complete a Field Book Entry   

As you conduct your experiment, complete page 23 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

Where do plants get materials for producing starch?
1 / 4

Answer 1

Plants get materials for producing starch from the ground via their roots and from the air.
1 / 4

Question 2

What do plants produce during the day?
2 / 4

Answer 2

Plants produce starch during the day.
2 / 4

Question 3

What do plants produce during the night?
3 / 4

Answer 3

Plants produce sugar out of starch during the night.
3 / 4

Question 4

Why do plants need sunlight?
4 / 4

Answer 4

Sunlight powers the leaf factories, enabling them to manufacture starch.
4 / 4

  1. Where do plants get materials for producing starch? Plants get materials for producing starch from the ground via their roots and from the air.
  2. What do plants produce during the day? Plants produce starch during the day.
  3. What do plants produce during the night? Plants produce sugar out of starch during the night.
  4. Why do plants need sunlight? Sunlight powers the leaf factories, enabling them to manufacture starch.


  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.