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

Lesson 4: Shy Blossoms and Fairy Bells (Conserving Wild Plants)

lesson image

Peter Rabbit had climbed up the hill in the Green Forest to see once more the Saxifrage in bloom. Where, the first time he had visited that place, there had been but one cluster of blossoms there were now many peeping out from amongst the rocks. For awhile Peter sat and admired them. Then he started down the other side of the hill. He wasn't headed for any particular place and he had nothing in particular on his mind. As always, his wobbly little nose was continually in motion, trying to pick up news from the Merry Little Breezes.

"Ah!" said Peter, stopping very suddenly. Then he wriggled his wobbly little nose faster than ever; it had caught the sweetest of sweet perfumes. Peter sniffed long and hard. "Ah!" he exclaimed again. Then slowly he began to go forward in the direction from which that delightful scent came.

Little thrills of delight ran all over Peter. This was real fun. It was exciting. He knew that only a flower could give off that sweet fragrance, but he hadn't the least idea what flower was doing it. The wind was still cold, for it was early in April. But jolly, round, red Mr. Sun was doing his best to warm the brown earth.

Slowly Peter hopped along, looking eagerly ahead and to right and left in quest of a flower. But no flower did he see, nor any plant that looked as if it might have a flower. Still the sweet perfume grew stronger, and Peter sniffed and sniffed. Then just by chance he happened to look down at his feet. There, peeping out from the carpet of dead, brown leaves, was a beautiful little flower of the most delicate pink. It lay right on the ground. At least, that is the way it seemed.

Peter's first thought was that it had been dropped there. He always thought of flowers as having stems that stood more or less upright. He reached forward and brushed aside the dead leaves. Then he gave a little squeal of pleasure. You see he had uncovered a cluster of these beautiful, pink, fragrant little blossoms, and he saw at once that they were growing on a stem that, instead of standing upright, trailed along the ground. Peter had found that loveliest of spring flowers, the Trailing Arbutus.

The stem of the plant was tough and woody. The leaves were thick, smooth on top, and somewhat hairy underneath. They were oval in shape, alternated along the stem, and were a dull, rather dark green with rusty spots on them. They looked old. Peter thought of that right away. The truth is they were old. They had grown the summer before and had remained green all winter. The new leaves wouldn't appear until the flowers had gone.

It seemed to Peter that he would never get tired of looking at those dainty, delicate little blossoms. They gave him a wonderful feeling. Somehow they made him sure that sweet Mistress Spring truly had arrived. They seemed to have in themselves the very spirit of Mistress Spring.

Peter hunted for more, and presently he found them. They grew in little patches here and there all over that sunny hillside. Some peeped shyly out from under the brown, dead leaves which had kept them warm all winter. Others were tucked away in patches of dead grass. Some of the loveliest grew beneath pine trees. Some were the most delicate pink, and others were a deep pink, while still others were pure white.

Lovely as were the Hepaticas, now blooming all through the Green Forest, and dainty as were the Spring Beauties down near the edge of the Green Meadows, these Arbutus blossoms seemed to Peter the loveliest and daintiest flowers he had seen. And with their beauty was that wonderful fragrance. It is no wonder that Peter kept exclaiming, "Ah!" and "Oh!" as he found the shy little blossoms modestly hiding in the grass or beneath the leaves.

Peter went back there again the next day. At once he discovered a boy and a girl there, and it didn't take him long to find out that they, too, were in search of the Arbutus. They were picking them, and, because the stems were short, they often tore whole plants up by the roots. Peter was so indignant he didn't know what to do. Once he actually stamped with anger. This was a mistake, for the boy heard him and promptly came to look for him. Peter had to take to his heels while the boy shouted and chased him for a short distance.

Of course it was easy enough to get away from that boy, and the latter soon gave up. Then Peter stole back to watch the boy and the girl. They kept on hunting for the Arbutus and tearing them up by the roots. Peter grew angrier and angrier.

"Haven't they any sense at all!" cried Peter to himself. "Don't they know that if they tear those plants up by the roots there won't be any here next year? I never saw such stupidity! Probably next year they will come here and wonder why they cannot find any flowers. Why don't they think a little? If they can't pick them without pulling them up by the roots, they should leave them alone."

Peter was right. Flowers are never so beautiful as when growing, and to take them by the roots is to rob the Green Forest and the hillsides of some of their greatest charms.

Peter finally left in disgust and wandered down to the Laughing Brook. As he hopped along the bank he came to a sunny spot where he found something which for the time being drove all thought of that boy and girl from his head. All about were little nodding yellow bells. At least, this is what they looked like. They looked as if they might be the bells of fairyland. Of course they were not. Of course they were not bells at all. They were flowers. Each hung from the top of a quite long, straight, slender, smooth stem that rose from between two large, oblong, grayish-green leaves that were streaked and spotted with brown. They seemed to love the company of each other, for they crowded together along the bank and back and part way up the slope of a hill.

Peter had found the Dog's-tooth Violet, or Yellow Adder's-tongue, sometimes called Trout Lily. The latter is really the better name, for it is a Lily and not a Violet. It is the first Lily of the year. Though Peter didn't know it, he had found another flower that follows the light, turning on its stalk so as to always face jolly, round, bright Mr. Sun.

Peter looked for his friend, the little Bee, but he couldn't see her. In fact, those dainty little flowers appeared to have no visitors. Peter wondered if there were no nectar in them. It didn't seem possible that such lovely little flowers could be lacking in sweetness. That afternoon he returned for another visit and right away he discovered yellow Butterflies very busy among those nodding blossoms, and a number of small cousins of Bumblebee. Then Peter knew that the sweetness which is called nectar was in those flowers just as it was in the other flowers he had found.

Peter remained there watching the busy workers until the first hint of the Black Shadows warned of the approach of night. Then those dainty little Lilies began to close and the Butterflies and Bees departed. Remembering that he had found several colors among the Hepaticas, and that on this very day he had found both white and pink Arbutus, Peter made a careful search among the little Lilies to see if all were alike. They were. Each little bell was of a pale yellow, and Peter concluded that this was the only color of the Adder's-tongue. But in this he was wrong, for in some parts of the country it is white instead of yellow.

It was some weeks later that Peter returned to that place. Then he looked in vain for the fairylike flower bells. Not one was to be seen. What was more, he had hard work to find a trace of those big, spotted, grayish-green leaves. It was as if those beautiful little plants never had been. You see, shortly after the flowers withered and the seed was formed, those leaves began to wither also, and presently disappeared. The Adder's-tongue comes just to gladden the spring. Then, its duty done, it goes into a long sleep, to be awakened only when sweet Mistress Spring once more returns.

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

Lesson 4: Shy Blossoms and Fairy Bells (Conserving Wild 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.


Peter smells something sweet and finds the dainty pink and white blossoms of the Trailing Arbutus growing along the ground. The Arbutus has a woody stem, thick dark green leaves with rusty spots, and hairy undersides. Peter sees a boy and girl pulling up Arbutus flowers by the roots. Peter escapes to the Laughing Brook. He finds the Trout Lily, named for the mottled brown or gray leaf markings that resemble the trout fish. Like the Spring Beauty, the Trout Lily turns to follow the sun, and like the Dandelion, the Trout Lily closes up at night time. Peter sees butterflies sipping the nectar of the Trout Lily. When Peter returns to see the Trout Lily a few weeks later, the flowers are gone, for they only bloom a short time during the spring.


Trailing: Something following behind or dragging behind on the ground.
Rusty: Reddish or reddish-brown.
Trout: Any of several species of fish closely related to the salmon.
Lily: Any member of a group of flowering plants growing from bulbs and having large flowers.


Conserving Wild Plants:

  1. The boy and girl from the story anger Peter because they selfishly pull up wildflowers by the roots.
  2. When you take your nature walks, respect the plants and flowers you see.
  3. Never uproot plants or wild flowers.
  4. If you pick flowers, just take a couple, and target those in abundance.
  5. Some plants and wildflowers are rare and protected under state law.
  6. Preserve the plants and flowers to ensure all can enjoy their beauty.
  7. Discuss other ways you can preserve the beauty of plants and wildflowers for all.


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 Pictures

Study the picture of the Trailing Arbutus and find the following:

  • Five petals
  • Something rusty
  • Something hairy underneath
  • Something sweet smelling

Study the picture of the Trout Lily and find the following:

  • Something that turns to follow the sun
  • Something that closes at night
  • Something mottled like a trout
  • Something butterflies sip nectar from

Activity 3: Take a Nature Walk, Visit a Flower Shop, or Research Online - Pick Common Flowers

  • Embark upon a nature walk.
  • Find and pick two or three common wildflowers for Activities 4 and 5.
  • Make observations and gather data.
  • Complete Activity 4 immediately upon completion of the nature walk.

Activity 4: Caring for Flowers

Right after the nature walk, observe the flowers you picked.

  • If they are not wilted, wait fifteen minutes and recheck the flowers.
  • When the flowers are wilted, take care to observe the flowers.
  • Place the cut end of the stems in water and look at it occasionally over an hour.
  • Describe what happens to the stern, the leaves, the blossom.

Discuss the answers to the following questions:

  • When a plant is wilted how does it look?
  • How does its stem act?
  • Do its leaves stand up?
  • What happens to the flowers?

Activity 5: Complete a Field Book Entry   

After your nature walk and wilted flower experiment, complete page 7 in 'Science Field Book for Third Grade.'


Question 1

Why do the boy and girl from the story anger Peter?
1 / 4

Answer 1

The boy and girl from the story anger Peter when they uproot and destroy wildflowers.
1 / 4

Question 2

How did the Trout Lily get its name?
2 / 4

Answer 2

The Trout Lily was named for its mottled brown or gray leaf markings that resemble the trout fish.
2 / 4

Question 3

Describe how the Trout Lily moves.
3 / 4

Answer 3

The Trout Lily turns to follow the sun and closes up at night time.
3 / 4

Question 4

What does a wilted flower look like?
4 / 4

Answer 4

Wilted flowers have limp and withered stems and leaves.
4 / 4

  1. Why do the boy and girl from the story anger Peter? The boy and girl from the story anger Peter when they uproot and destroy wildflowers.
  2. How did the Trout Lily get its name? The Trout Lily was named for its mottled brown or gray leaf markings that resemble the trout fish.
  3. Describe how the Trout Lily moves. The Trout Lily turns to follow the sun and closes up at night time.
  4. What does a wilted flower look like? Wilted flowers have limp and withered stems and leaves.


  1. Burgess, Thornton. Burgess Flower Book for Children. Ithaca, Boston, Massachusetts. Little, Brown, and Company, 1923.
  2. Comstock, Anna Botsford. Handbook of nature-study (Twenty-fourth edition). Ithaca, New York Comstock Publishing Company, Inc, 1911.