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

Lesson 28: A Lesson in Beauty (Plants vs. Animals)

lesson image

"The rarest beauty often lies

In things so common that the eyes

Of those who pass, unseeing, miss

The very thing they seek, I wis."

"What do you mean by that?" demanded Peter Rabbit of Carol the Meadowlark, who had alighted on a fence post not far from where Peter happened to be sitting.

"I mean," replied Carol, "that there are some things which are very beautiful, yet so common that few people think of them as being beautiful at all. If they were rare no one would pass them without thinking of their beauty."

"What, for instance?" asked Peter.

"That plant growing just a few feet back of you," replied Carol.

Peter turned quickly. Sure enough, there was a plant with a slender, hairy stalk about two feet high, and leaves cut into such fine leaflets that they seemed to be almost lacy. At the top of a long stem was a broad, flat, circular, white flower head. It was the first Peter had seen, but he knew it instantly. "Pooh!" said he. "That is nothing but a Wild Carrot! Pretty soon you'll see them everywhere. There's nothing beautiful about that."

Carol the Meadowlark chuckled happily. "I thought you'd say that," said he. "All your life you have seen the Wild Carrot so often that it has become common to you, and I'll venture to say that you never once have looked at it closely or given it a thought. Yet there are few flowers I know of with more real beauty in them."

Peter looked over at that plant with new interest. Then slowly he hopped over for a closer look. He didn't like to admit that Carol was right, but he had to. The longer he looked, the more the beauty of this common weed, for this is what farmers call it, grew on him. It was beautiful. There was no use in denying it. That big, flat flower head was made up of very many tiny, delicate flowers, so dainty that the whole thing was not unlike a piece of fine lace. In fact it is often called Queen Anne's Lace.

Peter sat up close to it that he might see it better. Then he discovered that this big flower head was made up of many small groups, each little group on a separate stem. These little groups were composed of tiny, five-parted flowers with the smallest of yellow-tipped stamens. The flowers on the outer edge of the flower head were larger than those near the center.

Then he discovered something which he never had noticed before because he had never stopped to really look at a Wild Carrot. In the very center was a single, tiny flower wholly different from the others. Instead of being white it was dark purple.

But if until now Peter had known nothing of this plant, which all his life he had unheedingly passed, there were plenty of others who knew all about it and loved it. As he sat looking at it, it seemed to him that he never had seen so many kinds of insects around a flower as he now saw visiting that Wild Carrot. There were many kinds of Flies, small Bees and Wasps, and flying insects coming and going, and he knew by this that each of those tiny flowers contained nectar easy to obtain by even those with the shortest of tongues.

When Peter finally turned away he was honest enough to admit that Carol the Meadowlark had been right, and he wisely resolved that in the future he would not make the mistake of taking no notice of things because they were common and familiar. The Wild Carrot is beautiful, and the more Peter had looked at it, the more beautiful it had seemed. I am afraid, however, that had Farmer Brown come along he would have seen no beauty in it. To him it would have been simply one of the worst pests in his fields, for there is no plant which spreads more rapidly and which is harder to get rid of. It is not a native of America, but has come from Europe to make its home here and take possession of the land. When the flowers fade and the seeds are to be formed, all the little stems that make up the big, flat flower head turn upward to make something very like a nest. From this habit the plant has won the name of the Bird's Nest, though of course no bird uses it for a nest.

Peter was very thoughtful as he left the Wild Carrot. He was wondering how many times he had looked at things without really seeing them, and how often he had passed something interesting without giving it so much as a thought simply because it was common. All the time he kept his eyes open, looking this way and that way that he might not overlook anything.

At last he reached a piece of stony waste ground. "There isn't likely to be anything here worth seeing," muttered Peter, and half turned to go in another direction. As he did so he caught sight of a tall, straight, stout plant growing in the middle of that waste ground. Even at that distance Peter recognized it as an old acquaintance. Turning, he hurried over to see if it bore any flowers yet.

When he reached it he found a thick tuft or rosette of large, pale green leaves, sharply pointed at the tips, fairly broad in the middle and narrow at the base. From the middle of them a thick leafy stalk grew straight up for several feet above Peter's head. There were no stems to the leaves growing out from this stalk, and they were narrower than the leaves close to the ground.

Those leaves were the woolliest leaves of which Peter knew. They were so covered with very fine hairs that they were almost like velvet. The tall, stout stalk also was closely covered with fine hairs. It was as if the whole plant wore a coat of short, fine wool.

Crowded as closely as they could be packed around the upper part of the stalk so as to form a long spike were flower buds. At first Peter thought none was open, but when he hopped around to the other side of the plant he discovered that one was open, and he guessed that this was the very first one. It was light yellow and nearly an inch across. He could count the petals. There were five and they were quite broad and rounded. Looking closely he discovered to his surprise that they were not of equal size. Neither were the five orange-tipped stamens of equal length. Three of these were fuzzy and were shorter than the other two. The latter were smooth. The pistil was green.

A Bee in search of pollen alighted on the flower. "Buz-z-z-z," said the Bee. "I wish more of these flowers opened at a time. It would save me a lot of work."

"Perhaps more will be open tomorrow," spoke up Peter.

"Certainly. Of course," replied the Bee, rather crossly. "But there won't be more than two or three, or at most half a dozen. Only a few ever open at a time, and if I am not on hand the day they open I miss them altogether. If they remained open two or three days it would help some."

"Don't they?" asked Peter, in surprise.

"No," replied the Bee, shortly. "They are open one day, and that is all. If I hadn't happened along today I would have missed this flower altogether."

"They are so pretty it is a pity they don't last longer," said Peter. "But by the number of buds I guess they make it up in the length of time flowers are to be found. It looks as if there would be flowers on this plant the rest of the summer."

Peter was right. He had found the Great Mullein, also called Velvet or Flannel Plant because of its woolly leaves, and it blooms from June to September. Peter remembered how he had often seen in winter the tall, brown stalks of the Mullein standing above the snow. Later Peter found a near relative, the Moth Mullein, a smaller plant but with flowers as big or bigger. Some were yellow and some were white. They were on separate plants and grew in spike-like clusters. Usually there were no leaves.

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

Lesson 28: A Lesson in Beauty (Plants vs. Animals)


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 is unimpressed by the Wild Carrot at first. But the longer he studies its tiny and delicate white blossoms, the more entranced he becomes. Each tiny flower has its own miniscule yellow stamens. Peter discovers in the very center of the white blossoms, a dark purple flower. Many insects visit the Wild Carrot, for its nectar is easily obtained. Although beautiful, the Wild Carrot is fast growing and a weed to humans. Next, Peter finds the Great Mullein, or the Velvet or Flannel Plant. It has woolly leaves and beautiful yellow blossoms. The blossoms only open for one day, so only a few blossoms are ever open at once, frustrating any bees in search of pollen.


Woolly: Having a thick, soft texture, as if made of wool.
Velvet: A closely woven fabric with a thick short pile on one side.
Flannel: A soft cloth material woven from wool, possibly combined with cotton or synthetic fibers.


Plants vs. Animals:

  1. Peter Rabbit, Carol the Meadowlark, and the Bee are very different from the plants they see.
  2. Plants derive energy from the sun, whereas animals get energy by eating plants or other animals.
  3. Plants take in carbon dioxide and emit oxygen, while animals breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide.
  4. Many animals are mobile, while plants are largely immobile.
  5. Plants and animals have different parts. Plants have leaves whereas people have arms. Plants have roots while people have legs and feet.
  6. Animals often raise their young, but plants do not nurture or raise their young.


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?

Find the following on the image of the Wild Carrot:

  • Something that looks lacy
  • Something that looks like a bird's nest
  • A small purple blossom

Activity 3: Take a Nature Walk, Visit a Flower Shop, or Research Online - Plants vs Animals

  • Embark upon a nature walk.
  • Locate a plant specimen and an animal specimen.
  • Compare and contrast the plant and animal. How are they alike? How are they different?
  • Make observations of the plant and animal and their habitats.
  • Use the gathered information to create the field book entry.

Activity 4: Complete a Field Book Entry   

After your nature walk, complete page 33 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

Which living things care for their young - animals or plants?
1 / 6

Answer 1

Animals care for their young.
1 / 6

Question 2

Which living things inhale oxygen gas and exhale carbon dioxide gas - animals or plants?
2 / 6

Answer 2

Animals inhale oxygen gas and exhale carbon dioxide gas.
2 / 6

Question 3

Which living things can often walk, run, and jump - animals or plants?
3 / 6

Answer 3

Animals often walk, run, and jump.
3 / 6

Question 4

Which living things have roots and stems - animals or plants?
4 / 6

Answer 4

Plants have roots and stems.
4 / 6

Question 5

Which living things often contain chlorophyll - animals or plants?
5 / 6

Answer 5

Plants often contain chlorophyll.
5 / 6

Question 6

Which living things can typically make their own food using sunlight - animals or plants?
6 / 6

Answer 6

Plants can typically make their own food using sunlight.
6 / 6

  1. Which living things care for their young - animals or plants? Animals care for their young.
  2. Which living things inhale oxygen gas and exhale carbon dioxide gas - animals or plants? Animals inhale oxygen gas and exhale carbon dioxide gas.
  3. Which living things can often walk, run, and jump - animals or plants? Animals often walk, run, and jump.
  4. Which living things have roots and stems - animals or plants? Plants have roots and stems.
  5. Which living things often contain chlorophyll - animals or plants? Plants often contain chlorophyll.
  6. Which living things can typically make their own food using sunlight - animals or plants? Plants can typically make their own food using sunlight.


  1. 'Adorable Red Panda by Pexels. {(CC0 1.0)}' Pixabay. n.p.
  2. 'Queen Anne's Lace Bud Opening by leoleobobeo. {(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.