The text on this page is taken from the book 'Flowers shown to the Children\ by C E Smith and illustrated by Janet Harvey Kelman,
The pages are courtesy of the Gutenburg Project. The Book is not in copyright under the Gutenberg license visit www.gutenberg.org
The coloured images/photographs are my personal choice. [see reuse of images below}
This page is aimed at educating children the future custodians of our countryside.
You will have no difficulty in recognising this plant. It has masses of grey-green flowers, and big bunches of feathery tufts; and you will find it growing in summer right over the tops of the hedges.
There are some unusual things about this flower. It has really no petals. There are four pretty sepals of a grey-green colour, which are covered with soft white woolly down. These woolly sepals soon fall off, and within you find a big bunch of whitish green stamens. When the seeds which grow in the centre of the bunch of stamens begin to ripen, they each send out a long feathery tail. These tails wave in the air, and look like tufts of down clinging to the hedges.
The leaves are dark green above and paler green below. They grow opposite each other on the stem. Sometimes their edges are quite smooth, and sometimes they are cut like the teeth of a big saw.
The stem of the Traveller's Joy is very tough and woody. It is easily bent, and would not be able to rise from the ground were it not that there are little curly green threads called tendrils below the small leaves. These tendrils twist themselves round the stems of the hedges, and with this support the plant can climb as high as the top of the hedge.
This is one of the daintiest of our wild plants. You find the woods carpeted with it in early spring.
The flower has six delicate white sepals. These are long and rather narrow, and on the outside they are often tinged with purple or pink. The buds are usually quite pink until they open. These pink sepals form the calyx. There are no petals.
Within the pink sepals are many stamens with little yellow heads set on stems as fine as a hair, and in the centre of these stamens there is a small green knot of seeds.
The Wood Anemone has two kinds of green leaves. The flower grows on a short, smooth stalk, which rises from the centre of three soft, dark green leaves. These leaves are each divided into three parts, which are deeply cut up round the edge, and their short stalks are covered with fine hairs.
The second leaves rise on slender stalks straight from the root. They are divided very much the same as the others. If you dig up the Wood Anemone root you find that it is like a rough brown bit of stick. It creeps along underneath the ground instead of going straight down into it, and you can see that the flower and the first set of three leaves rises at a different part from the stalk which bears the other leaves.
The Water Crowfoot is really a white Buttercup, and it likes to grow in ponds or in rivers that run very slowly. The flowers are at their best in May and June.
These flowers have five glossy white petals, and each petal has a yellow patch at the foot. Behind these beautiful white petals there are five green sepals which fold back close round the flower-stalk.
Within the flower there are stamens with thick yellow heads, growing in a circle round a small green knot which holds the seed-vessels.
This Water Crowfoot has two kinds of leaves. Some grow underneath the water, and these leaves are divided into fine hairs, which are each forked at the end. The water runs very easily through these hairs.
But those leaves which are above the water are solid. They are dark green and glossy, and are nearly round. Each leaf is divided into three parts, and sometimes the edges are cut up, and often they are quite smooth.
You may sometimes find a leaf with one-half made up of hairy threads while the other half is solid.
The Shepherd's Purse is a very common plant, and it is not at all attractive. It is found all summer by the roadside and in waste places.
The flowers grow close together on short stalks near the top of a spike. They are very small, with tiny white petals, and those flowers which grow lowest on the spike always come out first. The buds are in a cluster at the very tip of the spike.
After the flower is withered, the seed-vessel, which still clings to the end of the short stalk, begins to swell. It looks like a small green heart, with a hard knot in the centre. You will easily recognise the Shepherd's Purse by these seed-vessels, which are far more noticeable than the tiny white flowers.
This plant has two kinds of leaves. Those that grow close to the ground have short stalks, and they spring from the root in the form of a rosette. Each leaf is long and narrow, and the edges are deeply cut up, nearly to the centre vein of the leaf.
But the Shepherd's Purse has other leaves which grow further up the flower-stem. These are shaped like the head of an arrow, and at the bottom they clasp the stem closely.
Both kinds of leaves are usually hairy all over, and so are the stalks, but sometimes you find plants where they are quite smooth
The Common Scurvy Grass likes to grow on muddy shores and on rocks by the seaside, where you will find its masses of white flowers all summer.
The flowers grow close together in a cluster on short stalks. Each flower has four white petals, which are sometimes tinged with purple. The four tiny sepals are tinged with purple too. And the buds which are crowded together at the end of the cluster are nearly all purple.
After the flowers are withered, the seed-vessels still cling to the end of the flower-stalks. In this plant the seed-vessels are round, like small berries, and they are greenish-brown in colour. You usually find eight or ten of these berries halfway up the stem; then there will be several white flowers still in full bloom, and at the top of the stem comes a cluster of purple buds.
The Common Scurvy Grass has two kinds of leaves. Those that spring directly from the root have long stalks. They are broad, with smooth edges, which are slightly waved, and they are thick and fleshy. The second kind of leaves has no stalks; they grow clasping the stem closely, and they are shaped like arrow-heads.
The stem of the plant is hollow, and four-sided.
This dusty-looking plant grows on dry places such as rocks, or on the top of old walls or on hedge-banks.
The flowers of the Hairy Rock Cress are white and very tiny. They have four petals, which are not at all attractive, and they grow on each side of a tall spike. After the flowers are withered, the seed-vessel, which is in the middle of each flower, grows into a long thin pod like a needle. The green needle remains at the end of the flower-stalk, and you will see ever so many of these slender green pods standing straight up round the flower-spike.
You will easily recognise this plant by these green needle pods.
The leaves of the Hairy Rock Cress are very rough, and have coarse hairs all over them. Some are long and narrow, and cling closely to the stem. Others are broader, and they have short stalks and wavy edges. Those leaves which have stalks usually grow close to the ground at the foot of the main stem.
The Common Chickweed is found all over the country. It grows in fields, in waste ground, and on hedge-banks, and it is in flower from spring till autumn.
The Chickweed is a feeble, straggling plant, and it grows in an untidy mass near the ground. It is one of those plants that look very different in different places. It does not thrive well in dry, stony ground, where it looks small and dried up. But in untidy gardens where there is good soil you will find it in large bunches, with many white flowers and good-sized leaves. The canary birds like it best when there are many white flowers and seeds.
The white flowers are small, with tiny strap-shaped petals, and there are five small, green sepals with sharp points which show like the rays of a green star behind these tiny white petals.
Each flower grows at the end of a stalk which rises between the leaf and the main stem. The Chickweed leaves are oval, with smooth edges, and they grow in pairs up the stem. If you look closely at this stem you will see a line of fine hairs running down one side, and if you break this stem in two you will find that there is a green thread inside, which is more difficult to break than its soft green covering.
The Mouse-eared Chickweed is very common all over the country. It grows in dry places, on old walls or on sandy ground, and it is in flower all summer.
It is a much smaller plant than the Common Chickweed. The white flowers are very tiny, and most of them grow in clusters at the end of short stalks which branch from the main stem. But you will also find a single flower appearing between the green leaves which grow in pairs at intervals up the main stem.
These leaves are very hairy. Sometimes they are sticky, and the whole plant is usually covered with dust, and is not at all attractive.
The Mouse-eared Chickweed is not such a feeble, straggling plant as the Common Chickweed. Its stems are stronger, and they rise straight from the ground without requiring support.
You will find the Greater Stitchwort in many places. It grows in grassy meadows, in woods and in thickets, and also on rocks among the mountains; and it blooms in spring or early summer.
The Stitchwort is a tall, slender plant, and the flowers are large and very pretty. They grow singly at the end of short stalks, which usually branch in pairs again and again from the main stem, oftenest where two leaves join. These flowers have five snowy white petals, each of which has a deep notch cut in the outer edge, and there are delicate green veins all over the petals. Within the flower there are ten yellow-headed stamens. Some of these stamens are long, and some are quite short; and in the middle there is a fat green seed-vessel.
Behind these beautiful white petals grow five narrow pointed sepals, which have very little colour. These sepals are like tiny scales, slightly tinged with green, and they lie flat behind the white flower.
The stem of the Greater Stitchwort is not very strong, and it has always a line of hard, short bristles, running up each side. The leaves are like blades of grass, narrow and pointed, but they are harder than grass, and the edges curl backwards. On these edges are hard bristles, the same as those on the stems.
1. GOUTWEED. 2. WILD ANGELICA
3. YELLOW BEDSTRAW. 4. HEMLOCK WATER DROPWORT. Note number 3 is upright hedge parsley not yellow bedstraw.
This plant grows in all parts of Britain. You find it among old ruins, and by the roadside on damp hedge-banks. It blooms in summer.
The flowers are white and very small. They grow in clusters at the end of long green spokes, like the ribs of an umbrella, and you will notice that there are no little green pointed leaves either at the back of the separate flower clusters, or at the top of the stem where all the green spokes join.
The seed-vessels are almond-shaped, with little hollows running from top to bottom, and they have two long green hairs hanging out at the top.
The stalk of the Goutweed is hollow. It is very glossy and smooth, and has many ridges.
The leaves are shaped rather like rose leaves. They are pale green and are softer than rose leaves, and there is only one other plant with umbrella spokes whose leaves are at all similar. They are quite different from the fern-like leaves of so many other umbrella plants.
Notice the broad sheath where each leaf joins the main stem.
This bushy plant is common all over Britain. It flowers in summer and autumn, and it likes to grow in damp places, especially beside streams. At first you might mistake the Wild Angelica for Goutweed, as the leaves are very similar, but there are several differences. The Wild Angelica flowers are small and white, sometimes they are tinged with lilac, and they grow in clusters at the end of green spokes like the ribs of an umbrella.
At the back of each cluster of flowers you will find three tiny pointed green leaves, and at the top of the stem where all the spokes join there are other three. This is the first difference.
The seeds of the Wild Angelica are quite a different shape from the Goutweed seeds. They are much broader, with rough ridges running up them, and they have no bristles standing up at the top. This is the second point to notice.
The Wild Angelica stalk is beautifully tinged with rich purple, not in spots as in the Common Hemlock, but all over; and it is smooth, with fine lines running up and down. This is a third point.
And lastly, the leaves grow from the end of a curious large round sheath. This sheath is pale green and is very smooth and silky. It clasps the stem, which seems to grow right through the middle of it.
In summer you will find the Upright Hedge Parsley all over the country, on hedge-banks and in waste places.
The tiny flowers are white, and are very often tinged with pink. They grow in clusters on green spokes which rise from the end of the main stem like the ribs of an umbrella. These green spokes are rough and hairy, and you will recognise this plant by these rough spokes.
There is a ring of narrow pointed green leaves at the top of the main stem where all the spokes join, and there are also little leaves at the back of each cluster of flowers.
In the Upright Hedge Parsley the seed-vessels are different from those of any of the other umbrella plants in this book. They are a dark pinky purple in colour, and are covered with short, thick bristles. At the top of each seed-vessel there are two long, thin bristles which bend over, very much like those in the Goutweed. You will always be able to recognise this plant by these bristly, purple seed-vessels.
The leaves of the Upright Hedge Parsley are dark green and hairy. They are like ferns, and have many divisions, which are cut into teeth all round the edge.
This is one of the most poisonous plants that grow in Britain. A great many accidents have been caused by cattle and human beings eating its leaves and roots.
The Hemlock Water Dropwort is common all over the country, and it is in flower most of the summer.
The flowers grow in large clusters at the end of green spokes. They are white, and they have each five stamens with large pink heads, so that from a distance the clusters look pink. There are little pointed green leaves at the back of the flower clusters as well as where the spokes join the main stem.
The seed-vessels of the Hemlock Water Dropwort are a light brown colour, with slight ridges, and they have two little points standing up at the top. You will know this plant by these seed-vessels and by the curious roots.
The stems are tall and straight, with grooves running from top to bottom. They are hollow, and so tough that they are very difficult to gather. The roots are shaped like the fingers of your hand, long, fleshy fibres that grow very thick. These poisonous roots have sometimes been mistaken for Water Parsnips. The leaves are dark green and glossy. They are not fern-like, as are those of so many of the other umbrella plants.
Image courtesy of Lairich Rig geograph.org.uk CC BY-SA 2.0 license
The Cow Parsnip is a common plant which you find all over Britain in summer and autumn.
It is one of a large family of plants which have from eight to twenty stiff green spokes at the end of the stem. These spokes are all about the same length, and they stand up like the ribs of an umbrella. In late autumn, when the flowers are withered, the brown ribs still remain on the plant.
Each green rib carries a flat bouquet of flowers. In the centre of this bouquet there are green buds, and all round the buds is a ring of small white flowers.
The stem of the plant is rough and hairy, and it is deeply grooved. The inside is hollow, and when the winter comes, small insects creep into these hollow stems for shelter.
The Cow Parsnip has large, rough leaves. These are covered with coarse hairs, and they always look dusty and shabby. You will notice curious green knobs which appear close to the stem.
These knobs are covered with a thin green sheath, and the flower-bud, with all its spokes still closed, is inside.
This bud grows bigger and bigger until it bursts the sheath. Then the flowers unfold, leaving the green covering still growing from the stem, with a curious green leaf coming out of the end.
This is a slender plant which is very common on hedge-banks and in open woods. It blooms all spring and summer.
The flowers are white, and they grow in clusters at the end of green spokes which look like the ribs of an umbrella. Notice that there is no ring of feathery green leaves where these spokes join the main stem. Before the flowers open, these green spokes bend downward.
There is a ring of tiny pointed leaves at the back of each cluster of flowers. These tiny leaves are tinged with pink, and when the flowers are fully opened, they fold back close to the main stem.
In the centre of each flower there is a long, thin seed-vessel. After all the white petals have fallen off, these seed-vessels grow into fat green beaks, each on a short stalk, and with two green points at the end.
The Wild Chervil is easily recognised by these clusters of green beak-like seed-vessels.
The leaves of the Wild Chervil are pale green, with fern-like divisions. Wherever they join the main stem there is a broad sheath.
The Wild Chervil has a stem which is deeply grooved. This stem is not spotted, but you will find another Chervil, the Rough Chervil, which is very like this one.
In it the stem is covered with purple blotches, and the leaves are blunter and less fern-like.
The Sea Carrot is common in many parts of Britain, where it blooms on the seashore all summer and autumn.
It belongs to the large family of plants that carry their flowers on green spokes like the ribs of an umbrella, and as these flowers are very confusing, you must notice the differences carefully.
The flowers of the Sea Carrot are usually small and white, though sometimes they have a pinky tinge. They grow in masses at the end of the green spokes. Before the flowers are fully out, these spokes stand straight up in the air, very close together, with the clusters of flower-buds all turned inwards.
But when the buds begin to open, these green spokes fold down so as to give the flowers room to look up towards the sun.
You will always know the Sea Carrot by the curious way the spokes stand close together until the flowers open.
At the top of the main stem, where all the spokes join, there is a circle of feathery green leaves. These feathery leaves each end in three points, and they have a special name which you will learn some day.
The leaves of the Sea Carrot are like fine soft ferns. They are so pretty that people use them for decoration among flowers.
The Hemlock is a common plant which is found all summer in waste places by the roadside and in open woods. It is poisonous, and you should look at it carefully, so as to know and avoid it.
The flowers grow in clusters at the end of green spokes like the ribs of an umbrella, which do not droop before they are fully out.
At the back of each little cluster of flowers you find three tiny pointed green leaves which are all turned to one side. This is the first point by which to recognise the Common Hemlock.
The stem is covered with purple blotches, and there is only one other umbrella plant which has a spotted stem.
The Common Hemlock stem is not hairy. It is smooth, with green ridges running up it, and it is not swollen where the leaves branch from it. This is the second point to notice.
The third point, and a very important one, is the shape of the seed-vessels. In the Wild Chervil these are little green beaks, rather long and thin, standing up in clusters. But in the Common Hemlock the seed-vessels are short and round; they are like two small apples stuck close together, and each has a little green swelling at the top. These seed-vessels are covered all over with rough ridges.
The leaves are fern-like, and resemble many of the other umbrella plants.
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