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

Lesson 26: Treasures of the Old Pasture (Pyrophytes)

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Sammy Jay had stopped in the dear Old Briar-patch for a bit of gossip and also to see what his sharp eyes might discover there. You know how it is with Sammy Jay. There is no one among the little people who wear feathers or fur who does more spying on his neighbors and is more interested in their affairs than this blue-coated scamp. He arrived silently, as is his way when he is spying. It wasn't until he had looked all through the dear Old Briar-patch with those sharp eyes of his and made sure that there was nothing new there that he made his presence known. He spoke suddenly from just above Peter's head.

"Hello, Peter!" said he.

Peter, who had been sitting half asleep, jumped at the sound of that harsh voice. "What are you doing, Sammy Jay, trying to scare a fellow to death?" he demanded rather crossly.

Sammy chuckled. It always tickles him to scare people. "Not at all, Peter. Not at all," said he. "You must be nervous this morning. I didn't expect to find you at home. How does it happen you are not out looking for flowers?"

"I've found so many that I don't believe there can be any more," replied Peter, still speaking rather crossly.

Sammy Jay chuckled again. "That shows your ignorance, Peter Rabbit," said he. "I don't suppose there is a day passes during this month that some new flower cannot be found by those who know where and how to look for them. I saw a couple this morning which I hadn't seen before this year, though that is probably because I hadn't been where they are."

Peter pricked up his ears. "Where did you see them?" he demanded.

"Over in the Old Pasture," replied Sammy. "They were pink," he added.

Peter turned up his wobbly little nose. "Pasture Roses," said he. "I found them some time ago."

"Nothing of the kind," retorted Sammy Jay, rather sharply, for he didn't like Peter's tone of voice. "Don't you suppose I know a Rose when I see it? Besides, I said that I saw two, and they were not at all alike and not at all like a Rose."

Once more Peter became interested. "What were they like?" he asked rather eagerly.

"I'm not going to tell you, Mr. Smarty," replied Sammy. "Go find them for yourself, if you want to know what they are like."

"In what part of the Old Pasture did you say you saw them?" inquired Peter.

"I didn't say, and I don't intend to say. They are there for anyone who wants to look at them." And without another word Sammy spread his blue wings and flew away.

He was hardly out of sight before Peter was on his way to the Old Pasture. You see Peter couldn't bear to think that Sammy Jay had found flowers of which he knew nothing. "He might have told me where to look," grumbled Peter, as he hopped along, lipperty-lipperty-lip. "The Old Pasture is a big place, and I may hunt all day without finding them. However, I may as well be over there as at home doing nothing."

But Peter didn't have to hunt all day. In fact, he found the first one on the very edge of the Old Pasture. It was his good fortune to reach the edge of the Old Pasture at the place where an old stone wall divided the Old Pasture from the Green Meadows. Along this old wall bushes grew thickly. Even before he was quite there Peter saw something pink in the bushes, and at once became much excited. Could that be one of the pink flowers that Sammy Jay had seen?

When he was near enough to see clearly he discovered a big, bell-shaped flower which was pink and white. The outer edge had five scallops or points. The small part of the bell was white, while the upper and spreading part was pink with a white strip running down into the heart of it, from each one of the points. The flower was so far above Peter's head that he could not see into it, and so could not see the five stamens which it contained.

"I didn't know there was any bush with a flower at all like this," said Peter, talking aloud to himself. "There isn't. At least if there is, I don't know it," buzzed Lady Bumblebee, so close to one of Peter's long ears that he ducked his head.

"Well, isn't that flower right up there on a bush?" demanded Peter.

"It is and it isn't," buzzed Lady Bumblebee. "Use your eyes a little. Don't you see that there are two kinds of leaves up there? One kind belongs to that bush. The other kind, those that are shaped like an arrowhead, are on a vine, and that vine is climbing all over the bush. That flower belongs to the vine, not to the bush. Up in Farmer Brown's garden I've seen flowers that look very much like this one. They open just in the morning and are called Morning-glories. I guess this flower here belongs to the same family."

Lady Bumblebee had made a very good guess. The flower Peter was looking up at was the Wild Morning-glory, or Great Bindweed, also called Hedge Bindweed. In some places it is called Lady's Nightcap. The reason it is called Bindweed is because it grows on a very fast-growing vine that twists around bushes and plants so tightly that often it chokes them. It is very fond of climbing over old stone walls and fences, and often is found trailing over the ground. If you have ever seen the Morning-glory in a garden you cannot mistake the Bindweed when you find it.

"Well," said Peter, "I've found one of Sammy Jay's two pink flowers, so now I'll go hunt for the other. I haven't the least idea where to go, so I suppose one place is as good as another."

So Peter hopped along aimlessly here and there, following old cow paths which twisted and turned through the Old Pasture. He was beginning to be discouraged and was thinking of turning back when he drew near a part of the Old Pasture which the year before had been swept over by the Red Terror, which we call fire. Peter remembered how black and dreadful that place had looked. "It will be of no use to keep on in this direction," thought Peter. Then desire to see if the place still looked as ugly and bare as he remembered it led Peter to keep on.

When he reached this place, he was delighted and surprised to find that it was no longer a black waste. The bushes were still bare and black, for they were dead. But everywhere grass and green plants were springing up so that the ground no longer appeared a blackened waste. But an even greater surprise awaited Peter. Growing all about in the open places, where the Red Terror had burned most fearfully, were tall plants varying from twice as high as was Peter, when he sat up, to three and four times as high. Long, narrow leaves which made Peter think of the leaves of the willow tree grew out from the stalk on very short stems.

But Peter gave the leaves hardly a glance, for above them were pink flowers growing in a long, loose cluster. Only the lower ones were open. Above these many buds drooped, or hung with heads down. Those nearest the open flowers were almost ready to open. Above these were buds but half grown. Above these were still smaller buds and so on to the very tip, where the buds were very tiny. Of course this meant that the plant would bear flowers for a long time. As fast as the lower ones faded there would be new ones just above.

The open blossoms were a beautiful pink. Each flower had four wide-spreading, rounded petals which were broadest above the middle. Each of these flowers was about an inch across. Each contained eight stamens and a single pistil which near the bottom was hairy. The tip of the pistil was divided into four parts. Peter had found the first of these flowers to blossom. Had he been a week later these first blossoms would have dropped, and in place of them he would have found little narrow, purplish pods which later would split open and set free tiny seeds attached to a downy, silky substance, which the Merry Little Breezes would send floating far away.

It was the Great or Spiked Willow-herb which Peter had found, this name being given to it because of its willow-like leaves. A far more common name for it, however, is the Fireweed, for there is no other flower which so quickly follows where the Red Terror has been. It is in such places that it delights to grow, and its bright masses do much to make beautiful the places which fire has blackened and laid waste.

When he had admired the Fireweed to his heart's content Peter decided that he had just about time enough to run over to the Green Forest, so away he went, lipperty-lipperty-lip. He didn't really expect to find any more flowers over there, but of course he kept his eyes open. It is well that he did. Otherwise he might have missed a most charming little flower.

He was hopping along rather aimlessly where the ground was dry, but where decayed leaves had made it fairly rich, when off at one side he saw some white, waxy little flowers on curved stems a few inches above the ground. Hurrying over to them, he discovered that each flower had five petals and that some were pinkish instead of pure white. The pistil was very large and thick and green. Around it were ten stamens. As he drew close to them Peter's wobbly little nose discovered that these flowers had a delicate fragrance. The little blossoms grew in a cluster at the top of a smooth stem which seemed to spring out from the center of an upper circle of leaves at the top of a short reddish stalk. Below this circle of leaves other leaves grew.

It was when he looked at these leaves that Peter squealed right out with pleasure. He knew that plant. He knew it at once, for it was one of the very few plants that remained green all winter. The leaves were rather thick, a dark shining green, with white markings along the veins and were lance-shaped and toothed around the edges. It was the Spotted Pipsissewa, or Spotted Wintergreen.

Had Peter looked more closely, he would have discovered that what seemed to be the stalk of the plant was really a branch, and that the main stalk crept along the ground like a vine, sometimes partly buried in the soil, the branches standing upright like separate little plants. Some bore flowers and some did not. It is a member of the Wintergreen family.

"Well, I have learned something," said Peter, when at last he started for home. "I didn't know until now that this plant has flowers. I'm so glad I came over here."

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

Lesson 26: Treasures of the Old Pasture (Pyrophytes)


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 finds some beautiful bell-shaped pink and white Morning-glories in the Old Pasture. Morning-glories grow on vines that climb around bushes or other objects. Although beautiful, the vines of the Morning-glory grow so fast and twist around other plants until they choke them. Morning-glories get their name because they open in the morning and close later during the day. Peter next finds the Fireweed, which grows after a fire burns an area. Fireweed are tall plants with many pink blossoms growing from the main vertical stem. Finally, Peter observes white, waxy little flowers growing on the curved stems of the Spotted Wintergreen.


Vine: Any climbing or trailing plant.
Vertical: Standing, pointing, or moving straight up or down.
Waxy: Resembling wax, an oily, water-resistant substance, in texture or appearance.
Pyrophyte: Any plant that is resistant to fire, or that needs fire to propagate.
Germinate: Of a seed, to begin to grow, to sprout roots and leaves.



  1. Are wildfires good or bad? Most people would say bad. People have lost their homes and even their lives to wildfires.
  2. Imagine a wildfire raging through a forest. Animals flee. Trees and plants burst into flame.
  3. Wildfires are dangerous and destructive, but did you know that some plants tolerate, benefit from, or even help wildfires?
  4. Pyrophytes are plants that either resist fires, benefit from fires, and/or help fires burn.
  5. Some pyrophytes resist fire by: 1) Growing partly underground, 2) Growing tough protective bark, and 3) Having a high moisture content to prevent burning.
  6. Some pyrophytes (called pyrophiles) require fire for their seeds to germinate (sprout and grow).
  7. Some pyrophytes even produce oils that help fires burn.


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

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

Activity 2: Study the Story Picture

Study the picture of the Fireweed and find the following:

  • Something that grows after wildfires burn an area
  • Something that will drop and be replaced with purple seed pods
  • Willow-like leaves

Activity 3: Take a Nature Walk, Visit a Flower Shop, or Research Online - Pyrophytes

  • Embark upon a nature walk.
  • Locate a pretty woodsy setting and imagine it ravaged by a wildfire.
  • Draw the scene as it would look after being ravaged by a wildfire.
  • Draw some fireweed sprouting from the blackened earth, signifying hope and renewal.
  • Use the gathered information to create the field book entry.

Activity 4: Complete a Field Book Entry   

After your nature walk, complete page 31 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

Describe the inspiration for the name 'Morning-glory.'
1 / 4

Answer 1

Morning-glories get their names because they open in the morning.
1 / 4

Question 2

From what destructive element do Pyrophytes benefit?
2 / 4

Answer 2

Pyrophytes benefit from wildfires.
2 / 4

Question 3

How do Pyrophytes benefit from wildfires?
3 / 4

Answer 3

Some pyrophytes (called pyrophiles) require fire for their seeds to germinate (sprout and grow).
3 / 4

Question 4

How do Pyrophytes protect themselves from fire?
4 / 4

Answer 4

Some pyrophytes resist fire by: 1) Growing partly underground, 2) Growing tough protective bark, and 3) Having a high moisture content to prevent burning.
4 / 4

  1. Describe the inspiration for the name 'Morning-glory.' Morning-glories get their names because they open in the morning.
  2. From what destructive element do Pyrophytes benefit? Pyrophytes benefit from wildfires.
  3. How do Pyrophytes benefit from wildfires? Some pyrophytes (called pyrophiles) require fire for their seeds to germinate (sprout and grow).
  4. How do Pyrophytes protect themselves from fire? Some pyrophytes resist fire by: 1) Growing partly underground, 2) Growing tough protective bark, and 3) Having a high moisture content to prevent burning.


  1. 'Pyrophyte.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  2. 'Wildfire Forest Fire Blaze Smoke by skeeze. {(CC0 1.0)}' Pixabay. n.p.
  3. Burgess, Thornton. Burgess Flower Book for Children. Ithaca, Boston, Massachusetts. Little, Brown, and Company, 1923.
  4. Comstock, Anna Botsford and Gordon, Eva L., Handbook of nature-study (Twenty-fourth edition). Ithaca, New York Comstock Publishing Company, Inc, 1911.