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

Lesson 27: Honeyballs and Leafless Plants (Photosynthesis)

lesson image

"Down in the swamp where the Buttonbush grows,

Down in the swamp where the Honeyballs are,

Bees hum their joy, and in gay colored crowds

Butterflies gather from ever so far."

"What is that?" demanded Peter Rabbit, pricking up his long ears. "What is that you are saying, Little Friend?"

Little Friend the Song Sparrow cocked his head on one side and his bright little eyes twinkled as he looked down at Peter Rabbit. "I was just talking to myself, Peter," said he. "I have just been over in the swamp and I was thinking of the things I saw there. There are many interesting things in a swamp, Peter; things a great many people miss because they are afraid of getting their feet wet."

"Huh!" said Peter. "I'm not afraid of getting my feet wet! What is a Buttonbush, and what are Honeyballs?"

"Honeyballs grow on the Buttonbush, and the Buttonbush grows in the swamp, and that's all I'm going to tell you," replied Little Friend. "If you want to know more, ask the Bees and the Butterflies."

Little Friend flew away before Peter could ask another question, and a few minutes later Peter heard his tinkling song from over near the Laughing Brook. "Honeyballs," said Peter to himself. "Honeyballs. Now what can they be? The name sounds as if they must be sweet. I suppose if I want to find out about them I'll have to go over to the swamp. I haven't the least idea what to look for, and I don't know how I'm going to know those Honeyballs if I find them. Little Friend said they grow on a bush, and that is all I have to go by. I haven't anything else to do, so I may as well see if I can find them. I would like to know what a Honeyball looks like."

So away went Peter for the swamp. When he got there of course he had no idea in what direction to go. For some time he simply wandered about aimlessly. Every bush he came to he looked at closely. Of course he was looking for Honeyballs, though he hadn't the least idea what Honeyballs were like. He was discouraged and about ready to give up the search when from a point just to one side he heard the humming of Bees. Looking in that direction, he caught a glimpse of a Butterfly. Then he remembered what Little Friend the Song Sparrow had said about the Bees and the Butterflies gathering around the Honeyballs. Perhaps you can guess how eagerly Peter hurried towards the sound of that humming.

He stopped beside a bush three or four feet high. On it were many creamy white balls, and Peter didn't need to sniff the sweet fragrance from them to know that these were flowers. Bees and Butterflies and many other insects were hovering about them or alighting on them. Sure proof that they were filled with nectar. Peter didn't need to be told that he had found the Honeyballs.

Each ball or flower head was about an inch across and was made up of a great number of tiny tube-like flowers packed closely together. From the heart of each tiny tube a long pistil stood out. If Peter had known anything about such things, he might have been reminded of little round cushions stuffed full of pins. Besides being called Buttonbush and Honeyballs it is called Globeflower and Riverbush. It blooms practically all summer. Sometimes this bush grows as high as twelve feet.

When Peter started on he headed for the Green Forest which the swamp joins. He was still thinking of the Honeyballs when he left the swamp to enter the Green Forest. The ground was wet and rich, but it was not muddy nor was there standing water as in the swamp. Almost at once Peter saw a tall, stately plant that put all thought of the Honeyballs out of his head. The leaves of this plant grew in clusters around the stem, three to nine in a cluster. They were long, narrow and tapering, and the edges were cut into little teeth.

But Peter hardly gave the leaves a look. It was the top of the plant that interested and delighted him. Growing from the very top were three or four long spikes crowded with tiny white flowers. Peter had to sit up and tip his head as far back as he could in order to see them. These spikes were smaller toward the tips, and some of the tips bent over. The tiny flowers were crowded closely the whole length of these spikes. Each little flower was in the shape of a tiny tube with the outer edge in four rounded scallops. Standing out from each were two stamens and a pistil.

That those little tubes contained nectar Peter knew by the Bees and insects busy about them. Looking about, Peter discovered another plant of the same kind. The flowers on this instead of being white were slightly bluish; otherwise they were the same.

What the name of the plant was he had found Peter didn't know. It was a plant with several names. Some people call it Culver's Root. Some call it Culver's Physic. Some call it Bowman's Root, and by some it is known simply as Blackroot. It is said that the Indians and early settlers used to make use of this plant as a medicine. Later Peter found this plant growing on the edge of the Green Meadows where it was damp, and also along an old road.

Going on into the Green Forest, Peter hopped about this way and that for some time without finding any new flowers. At last he came to that part of the Green Forest where the pine trees grow. Peter always liked to hop about under the pines on the thick carpet of brown needles. He didn't expect to find any flowers there and wasn't looking for them. So his surprise was all the greater when he came upon a little group of the strangest plants he had yet found.

Flower and stalk were of one color, or perhaps I should say that they were colorless, for they were waxy white. The stalk was quite thick and had no leaves. Here and there along it were small white scales. The flower grew from the top of the stalk, which bent sharply so that the flower hung head down as if in shame. It had four or five oblong petals, which seemed more like scales than petals. They overlapped each other so as to make the flower bell-shaped. Within were eight or ten hairy stamens.

They did not seem like real flowers, but more like white ghosts of flowers hiding from the sunshine. Had Peter scraped away the pine needles and a little of the earth from around them, he would have found that each plant was springing from a ball of fine, brittle rootlets which had no real home in the earth. Peter stretched out his wobbly little nose and touched one of the flowers. There was no odor, and he didn't like the feeling of it. It was cold.

He knew what he had found, for often he had seen them before. He had found the Indian Pipe, or Ice Plant, also called Ghost Flower and Corpse Plant.

Had one of those flowers been picked, it would have turned black in a very short time, or had the sun been able to creep in there and shine fully on them, the same thing would have happened. Occasionally this plant is tinted with pink, but this is not often. It is one of the lowest orders of plant life.

Of course Peter didn't know these things, and he rather admired the curious little white plants growing where no other flowers grew. But he couldn't help noticing that there were no Bees or Butterflies about these. They were left quite to themselves. In fact, Peter himself soon lost interest in them and went on his way. Had he returned that way later, he might have found that those little plants had lifted their heads. These are held proudly erect to bear the seeds.

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

Lesson 27: Honeyballs and Leafless Plants (Photosynthesis)


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 discovers a bush topped with Honeyballs, sweet-smelling white balls. Bees, butterflies, and other insects swarm around the Honeyballs, collecting sweet nectar. The white balls consist of flowers packed tightly together with long pistils sticking out. Peter next finds Culver's Root and its spikes of white flowers. Long ago, the American Indians and settlers used this flower as medicine for liver disorders and constipation. Lastly, Peter finds the Ghost Flower or Corpse Plant hiding in the shade, the strangest plant yet. The flower and stalk are a ghostly, waxy white, and the plant has no leaves. When picked or if the sun shines directly on the Ghost Flower, it turns black. The Ghost Flower contains no green chlorophyll. It does produce energy with photosynthesis as do other plants.


Chlorophyll: Any of a group of green pigments that are found in plants.
Photosynthesis: Any process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy.
Oxygen Gas (O2): Molecular oxygen, a colorless, odorless gas at room temperature.
Carbon Dioxide Gas (CO2): A colorless, odorless gas formed during respiration and combustion and consumed by plants during photosynthesis.
Glucose: A simple sugar and a principle source of energy for cellular metabolism.



  1. Honeyballs and Culver's Root have green stems and leaves due to chlorophyll, a pigment which allows them to take energy from the sun.
  2. The Ghost Flower has no green chlorophyll and takes no energy directly from the sun.

Plants require the following to generate energy using photosynthesis:

  1. Sunlight
  2. Water from the ground
  3. Carbon dioxide gas from the air

Plants use these things for photosynthesis and create the following:

  1. Glucose/sugar as energy for the plant to grow
  2. Oxygen gas

Can you imagine if humans had chlorophyll (picture yourself with green skin and hair) and could generate our own sugar energy using water, sunlight, and carbon dioxide? Perhaps we'd no longer need to eat!


Activity 1: Narrate the Story

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

Activity 2: Can You Find It?

Review the diagram showing photosynthesis and find the following:

  • Light Energy
  • Carbon Dioxide Gas
  • Water
  • Chlorophyll
  • Sugar
  • Oxygen Gas

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

  • Embark upon a nature walk.
  • Locate a specimen of a plant that has chlorophyll and uses photosynthesis to generate energy (pretty much any green plant).
  • Imagine sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide flowing into the plant.
  • Imagine the plant growing larger due to sugar produced with photosynthesis.
  • Imagine the oxygen gas flowing out of the plant.
  • Make observations of the plant and its habitat and gather data.
  • Use the gathered information to create the field book entry.

Activity 4: Complete a Field Book Entry   

After your nature walk, complete page 32 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

Why might someone guess that the Ghost Flower has no photosynthesis just by looking at it?
1 / 3

Answer 1

The Ghost Flower is white, not green with chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is necessary for photosynthesis.
1 / 3

Question 2

What are three inputs for photosynthesis?
2 / 3

Answer 2

Water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight are needed for photosynthesis.
2 / 3

Question 3

What does photosynthesis output?
3 / 3

Answer 3

Photosynthesis outputs oxygen and sugar.
3 / 3

  1. Why might someone guess that the Ghost Flower has no photosynthesis just by looking at it? The Ghost Flower is white, not green with chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is necessary for photosynthesis.
  2. What are three inputs for photosynthesis? Water, carbon dioxide, and sunlight are needed for photosynthesis.
  3. What does photosynthesis output? Photosynthesis outputs oxygen and sugar.


  1. 'Veronicastrum virginicum.' Wikipedia. n.p.
  2. 'Photosynthesis Image by Masroor.nida.ns. (CC BY-SA 4.0)' Wikimedia Commons. 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.