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

Lesson 36: The End of Peter's Search (Annuals vs. Perennials)

lesson image

Matching the bluebird in its hue,

Or the autumn skies of cloudless blue;

Shy as a soft-eyed startled fawn

By the Laughing Brook at break of dawn;

A-bloom in a landscape turning sere

In the shortened days of the waning year

The Gentian sways to the wind's caress,

Ethereal in its loveliness.

September had come. Summer was over. Peter no longer thought of searching for flowers. Many of those which he had found still were in bloom, but it didn't seem possible that there could be any that had put off blooming until most plants had ripened and already scattered their seeds. So Peter's curiosity was concerned with other things, with the doings of his neighbors who were laying up supplies of food for winter, with the departure of many feathered friends for the Sunny South, with the preparations of Johnny Chuck and a few others for that strange, long sleep through the cold and discomforts of winter.

So it came about that one morning as he was hopping along the edge of a thicket where the ground was rich and somewhat damp he stopped abruptly to gaze with round-eyed surprise, followed by a little gasp of joy, at what he saw before him. It was a little group of plants about two feet high, bearing clusters of flowers that seemed to have taken their color from the very sky itself.

These flowers were an inch to an inch and a half long, and stood upright in a crowded cluster at the top of the stalk. There were a few also growing out from the places where the upper leaves joined the stalk. Each flower was a light blue at the base, becoming deeper blue towards the top. Every one of them was closed. They appeared to be buds just ready to open. But they were lovely, very lovely just as they were. Peter went from plant to plant, hoping to find at least one open. But he was disappointed.

"I must come over here again and see them when they are open," said Peter, talking to himself aloud as is his way when he thinks he is alone. "They are lovely just as they are, but they must be lovelier still when they are open."

"Buz-z-z," said a voice almost in his ear. "Buz-z-z. You'll wait a long time if you wait for these flowers to open, Peter Rabbit."

It was the voice of Lady Bumblebee as she alighted on one of those clusters of flowers.

"What do you mean by that?" demanded Peter in surprise.

"I mean that they never will open," replied Lady Bumblebee. "They are in full bloom now."

Then, before Peter could recover from his surprise and this astonishing news sufficiently to find his tongue, Lady Bumblebee thrust her long tongue through a tiny opening in the tip of one of those flowers, and then pushed with all her might until she had forced those petals apart sufficiently to get her head in. Then she kept on until only her hind legs and the tip of her body were outside. She was smart enough not to go wholly inside, knowing that if she did, those petals she had forced open would spring together and make her a prisoner. When she had secured all the nectar she backed out, and Peter could see some little grains of pollen sticking to her head. Then she did the same thing at another flower, and of course she left those little grains in that one. So she went from flower to flower, until she had visited all of them, always carrying some pollen from the one just visited to the next one entered.

Thus it was that Peter became acquainted with the Closed Gentian, sometimes called Blind Gentian and sometimes called Bottle Gentian, and learned that there is at least one flower which does not have to open in order to make perfect seeds. The stalk of this Gentian is smooth and stout, and the leaves grow in pairs on opposite sides and are large, lance-shaped with rather pointed tips, and have smooth edges.

"Well," said Peter, when at last he turned to go on his way, "I guess this is the last flower of the year."

But Peter was mistaken. A little later in the month he had quite as happy a surprise as the closed Gentians had given him. This time it was down on the Green Meadows not far from the Smiling Pool where the ground was damp. There he came upon a little group of one of the loveliest of all our American wild flowers. These also were blue, a lighter blue than the Closed Gentians, a blue that was even nearer to the color of the sky.

The flowers were at the top of a smooth, grooved, rather slender, branching stalk between two and three feet high. Each flower was like a beautiful little vase two inches high, and spreading at the top, where the four petals were wonderfully fringed. It was Peter's good fortune that he found them on a sunny day, for otherwise they would not have been open. On dull and cloudy days they remain closed, and they close at night. When they close, those four fringed petals twist around each other in a most interesting way.

Peter guessed that he had found a cousin of the Closed Gentian, and he was right. He had found the Fringed Gentian, a flower so lovely that it is worth going far to see. It is almost the last flower of the year, and it is fitting that it should be one of the most beautiful.

Peter sat admiring them for a long time. He would have remained even longer had he not been startled by a shout. Instantly he sat up for a look around. There, coming straight towards him, was the boy he had so often seen picking flowers. Peter's first thought was to run. There was time enough for him to get away without being seen. Then he looked at those beautiful Gentians. He knew just what would happen if that boy should find them. He knew that he would pick every one of them. Peter couldn't bear to think of it.

What do you think Peter did? He started off at once, lipperty-lipperty-lip, but not to seek safety by hiding. Instead of running away from that boy he ran straight towards him. You see, he knew that that boy had no terrible gun, and he wasn't very much afraid of him. He wanted that boy to see him, and so he ran, lipperty-lipperty-lip, to meet him.

Now that boy was like most boys. The instant he saw Peter, he gave a whoop of delight and started after him. Of course he knew he couldn't catch Peter, but he liked to see him run. Peter would run a short distance, then stop. The boy would come on, looking for him. When he was very near, Peter would bound away again, and the boy would whoop. It was like a game, very much like the game of hide-and-seek.

So Peter gradually led the boy across the Green Meadows and into the edge of the Green Forest. When he felt sure that they were so far from where the lovely Gentians were growing that the boy would not go back there, Peter soon got rid of him.

Later, back in the dear Old Briar-patch, Peter thought it all over, and the feeling that he had saved those lovely flowers from being picked made him tingle with gladness. It was a gladness which comes from the doing of a good deed.

How good that deed was not even Peter knew. You see the Fringed Gentian is one of those plants which dies every year. Even the roots die. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that these plants shall ripen their seeds, and these seeds be scattered where they can sprout and grow the next season. If all the flowers are picked there can be no seeds, and of course no more flowers. So Peter had saved not only those flowers that were blooming there on the Green Meadows but the flowers of next year. The Closed Gentian does not have to depend on seeds, for the roots live through the winter, and in the spring new plants spring up from them.

Until the last blossom of the Fringed Gentians faded late in the fall, Peter daily visited the place where he had found them. It was with something of sadness that he turned away from there for the last time. His search for flowers was at an end for that year, and it had been such a happy search. Already he began to look forward to the coming of another spring and the return of the flower friends he had learned to know and love, and of the coming of the many, many whose acquaintance he had not yet made.

"Flowers are wonderful. They are truly wonderful," said Peter to himself, as he hopped along towards the dear Old Briar-patch. "They are as wonderful as they are beautiful, and until this year I had never given them so much as a thought. How strange it is that people with eyes to see often see so little and miss the beauties and the wonders all about them. I have learned a lot about flowers, but I am going to learn more. Yes, sir, I am so."

I am quite certain that Peter will, and I hope that you, too, may do likewise.


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

Lesson 36: The End of Peter's Search (Annuals vs. Perennials)


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.


September arrives and summer is over. Most of the flowers have already bloomed, and the plants had scattered their seeds. Many of Peter's friends are busy storing food for the winter, migrating to the Sunny South, or getting ready for a long winter's hibernation. So Peter is surprised when he finds the Closed Gentian newly blooming. Each of the flowers appear closed, but Lady Bumblebee pushes her long tongue through an opening and pushes her head inside to retrieve the nectar. Even later in the month, Peter finds a cousin of the Closed Gentian, the Fringed Gentian. It is almost the last flower of the year and is one of the most beautiful. Each flower is like a beautiful purple vase with a fringed top. The flowers close at night and on dull, cloudy days. Peter sees a boy and wishes to protect the flowers from being picked. Peter runs at the boy to distract him and leads him away. Peter knows it is imperative that the Fringed Gentian ripens its seeds, for the Fringed Gentian is an annual plant that dies and must be planted and grown anew each year.


Hibernate: To spend time in hibernation, a state of inactivity and metabolic depression in animals during winter.
Migrate: To relocate periodically from one region to another, usually according to the seasons.
Annual: Having a life cycle that is completed in only one growing season.
Perennial: Having a life cycle of more than two years.
Fringe: A decorative border.


Annuals vs Perennials:

  1. The Fringed Gentian is an annual plant that dies each year.
  2. Some plants, such as the Bee Balm, are perennials and live from year to year.
  3. When plants a garden, people decide whether to grow annual plants, perennial plants, or some combination of the two.
  4. If a gardener plants annuals, new seeds or new plants must be planted each year.
  5. If a gardener plants perennials, the plants come up on their own, year after year.


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 Fringed Gentian:

  • Something shaped like a vase
  • Something fringed
  • Something that closes at night and on cloudy days
  • An annual plant

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

  • Embark upon a nature walk.
  • Locate a specimen of a flower and research online whether it is an annual or a perennial.
  • 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 41 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

You plant a flower garden of annuals. Will you have to replant the flowers next year?
1 / 3

Answer 1

Yes, annuals must be replanted each year.
1 / 3

Question 2

You plant a flower garden of perennials. Will you have to replant the flowers next year?
2 / 3

Answer 2

No, perennials come back for multiple years.
2 / 3

Question 3

What are three things animals can do to survive a long, cold winter?
3 / 3

Answer 3

Animals can hibernate, migrate, or store food to survive a cold winter.
3 / 3

  1. You plant a flower garden of annuals. Will you have to replant the flowers next year? Yes, annuals must be replanted each year.
  2. You plant a flower garden of perennials. Will you have to replant the flowers next year? No, perennials come back for multiple years.
  3. What are three things animals can do to survive a long, cold winter? Animals can hibernate, migrate, or store food to survive a cold winter.


  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.