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

Lesson 33: Two Who Come in August (Ancient Plants)

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All summer long Peter's friends and neighbors had laughed at him for spending so much time hunting for flowers. They couldn't see why he was so interested in them. But though they laughed at him and often teased him they didn't forget him when they found flowers they suspected he had not seen. They would tell him about them and where to look for them.

Early one morning late in August Sammy Jay dropped into the dear Old Briar-patch on his way up to the Old Orchard. "Found any new flowers lately, Peter?" he inquired, after they had talked about the weather and such things.

"Not many," replied Peter. "I guess most flowers are through blooming. I don't suppose I can hope to find many more."

"Probably not many," replied Sammy. "But there will be some new ones, just a few even right into the fall. By the way, did you ever see a flower on a fern?"

"No," replied Peter promptly, "and I never expect to see one. Ferns don't have flowers."

"Are you sure of that, Peter? Are you quite sure of that?" inquired Sammy, a twinkle of mischief in his bright eyes.

"Of course I am," replied Peter. "Everyone who knows anything about the Green Forest knows that ferns do not have flowers."

"All right, Peter. All right. Have it your own way. I saw some yellow flowers that seemed to be growing on a fern over in a thicket on the edge of the Green Forest this very morning, but of course I may have been mistaken," replied Sammy.

"Where?" demanded Peter, all interest at once. Sammy told him, and then flew away towards the Old Orchard. Peter watched him out of sight. Then, making sure that the way was clear, he started, lipperty-lipperty-lip, for the Green Forest as fast as his legs could take him. "I wonder if he really did see flowers on a fern," he kept saying over and over to himself. "Of course he didn't. He couldn't have. He probably said that to get me over here for nothing. It probably is one of his tricks."

But when Peter reached the thicket Sammy had told him about, a thicket where the ground was high and dry, he at once discovered some dainty, light yellow, bell-like flowers. At first glance they seemed to be growing on a fern. Yes, sir, they did so. For a moment or two Peter was fooled. He actually thought he had found a fern with flowers on it.

But when he looked a little more closely he saw that the plant was not a fern. It looked like a fern because the leaves were fern-like. That is, they were cut into many little leaflets after the manner of a fern. The stalk was very slender and much branched and was perhaps three feet high. Happening to touch it, he found that it was rather sticky. The leaves were light green, soft and downy, and, as I have said before, very fern-like.

The pretty yellow flowers were bell-shaped, more than an inch long, and nearly as broad. The outer edge was in five rounded scallops and these curled back. Peeping into the heart of one of them, Peter could see four stamens. He discovered that the flowers were both hairy and sticky.

"I don't know what I have found, but they are pretty anyway. They ought to have a pretty name," remarked Peter, speaking aloud as is his way sometimes when he thinks he is alone.

"You have found a Fern-leaved False Foxglove," declared Hummer the Hummingbird, who had come up just in time to overhear Peter.

"Huh!" exclaimed Peter. "I don't like the name. I don't like anything that has anything to do with a Fox."

"But these flowers don't have anything to do with a Fox," squeaked Hummer. "And I never have known a Fox to have anything to do with them."

"Then what are they called Foxgloves for?" demanded Peter indignantly.

But this was too much for Hummer, and he darted away without answering.

"I like the first part of the name all right, the Fern-leaved part, but I don't like the rest. I don't like being reminded of Foxes. I have to think enough of them, —too much — as it is. Now I'll never see one of these flowers without thinking of Reddy Fox. People do certainly find strange names for flowers. I would like these ever so much better if they had another name."

Peter stopped talking to himself and turning his back on the pretty yellow flowers, started along the edge of the Green Forest towards the swamp. Of course, it was silly of him to have any such feeling, but you know how constantly Peter has to watch out to keep from furnishing Reddy Fox with a dinner, so perhaps he is not to be blamed for not wanting to be reminded of any such unpleasant thing even by a name.

When he reached the edge of the swamp he came upon a clump of beautiful, purple flowers so high above his head that he had to sit up and tip his head back to look at them. They were Asters. He didn't need to look twice to know this. The daisy-like shape of them enabled him to be sure of this. It seemed to Peter that he had never seen a more beautiful member of the Aster family. Each flower head was nearly two inches across. The petal-like or ray flowers were a rich purple, and there were forty or fifty of these. The tiny center flowers were yellow, stained with purple. A little way from this clump was another clump. The flowers of this were light violet, but they were the same kind of flowers. The stalk was stout, rough and covered with leaves. These were hairy, lance-shaped and pointed at the tips.

It was the New England Aster Peter had found, so pleasing a flower that it frequently is transplanted to gardens. Had Peter been watching it at sunset, he would have seen all those little purple petallike parts close, to open again the following morning.

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

Lesson 33: Two Who Come in August (Ancient Plants)


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.


Sammy Jay claims he's seen yellow flowers growing from ferns. Peter is skeptical but hops over to check it out. When Peter finds the flowers, he realizes the plant, the Fern-leaved False Fox Glove, is not a fern, although it looks like one. Next, he finds the New England Aster, a compound flower of purple ray florets encircling the yellow disk florets. The New England Aster closes at night and opens back up in the morning.


Fern: A fern is a plant with leafy green fronds that has neither seeds nor flowers.
False: Untrue, not factual, factually incorrect.


Ancient Plants:

  1. In the story, Sammy Jay mistakenly tells Peter he's seen flowers growing from ferns. Peter later learns this is untrue.
  2. Ferns are ancient plants that do not produce seeds or flowers.
  3. The fossil record indicates ferns first appeared 360 million years ago.
  4. This means ferns in some form existed during the time of the dinosaurs.
  5. Plant-eating dinosaurs, such as the Stegosaurus and Triceratops may have enjoyed eating ferns.
  6. The Raptor pictured roaming in a forest of ferns would not have eaten the ferns, as it was a carnivore.


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 Fern-leaved False Fox Glove:

  • Something fern-like
  • Something bell-shaped
  • Something that not a fern
  • Stamens

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

  • Embark upon a nature walk.
  • Locate a specimen of a new plant (perhaps a fern) that you have not studied before.
  • Locate the pistil, stamens, roots, stem, etc. of one of the flowers.
  • Make observations of the flower 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 38 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

How do we know Sammy Jay was mistaken about flowers growing from ferns?
1 / 3

Answer 1

Ferns are ancient plants that do not produce seeds or flowers.
1 / 3

Question 2

Might dinosaurs have eaten ferns?
2 / 3

Answer 2

Yes, plant eating dinosaurs may have eaten ferns, which grew during the time of the dinosaurs.
2 / 3

Question 3

Would a Tyrannosaurus rex, a carnivore, have eaten ferns?
3 / 3

Answer 3

No, carnivores, such as the T. rex, only eat meat.
3 / 3

  1. How do we know Sammy Jay was mistaken about flowers growing from ferns? Ferns are ancient plants that do not produce seeds or flowers.
  2. Might dinosaurs have eaten ferns? Yes, plant eating dinosaurs may have eaten ferns, which grew during the time of the dinosaurs.
  3. Would a Tyrannosaurus rex, a carnivore, have eaten ferns? No, carnivores, such as the T. rex, only eat meat.


  1. 'Dinosaur and Fern Picture by Papafox. {(CC0 1.0)}' Pixabay. n.p.
  2. Burgess, Thornton. Burgess Flower Book for Children. Ithaca, Boston, Massachusetts. Little, Brown, and Company, 1923.
  3. Comstock, Anna Botsford and Gordon, Eva L., Handbook of nature-study (Twenty-fourth edition). Ithaca, New York Comstock Publishing Company, Inc, 1911.