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.
This slender plant grows in bogs and damp places all over Britain and blooms in autumn.
It has large white flowers, which grow singly at the end of tall green stalks. These stalks are square and slightly twisted.
Each flower has five creamy-white petals, covered with delicate veins. Inside this ring of petals, lying at the bottom, are five curious scales, like tiny hands. The hands have each ten fingers, tipped with yellow dots, so you may count fifty dots altogether. On the scales are glands which hold honey. This, you may be sure, the bees very soon find out.
In the centre of the flower is a round pale green seed-vessel, and in between the scales with the tiny yellow dots lie five fat stamens with heavy yellow-heads.
The Grass of Parnassus has also five green sepals, whose tips you can see appearing in between each of the five white petals, as you look down into the flower.
Most of the green leaves of this plant grow from the root. They are oval, with smooth edges, and each leaf has a stalk of its own.
But often you will find a single leaf clasping the flower-stalk half way up its stem, and this leaf has no stalk of its own.
The Common Bladder Campion is to be found all summer by the edge of fields and pastures.
It is a tall, slender plant, with white flowers which grow each on a thin short stalk, two or three close together at the end of a smooth stem.
The flowers have five petals, and each petal has V-shaped notches cut in the outer edge. The lower part of the petals is hidden from sight in the calyx-cup.
The five sepals which form this calyx-cup are joined together, and they are swollen like a bladder. This bladder is covered with a fine network of reddish veins, and has five teeth round its mouth.
You will easily recognise the Common Bladder Campion by this curious calyx.
In this white Bladder Campion the stamens and the seed-vessel are found in the same flower, and you can always see the forked tip of the seed-vessel, rising among the dark green heads of the stamens.
The leaves of the Common Bladder Campion are smooth and shiny. They grow opposite each other in pairs, and wherever a pair joins the main stem, the stem is swollen like the joint of a finge
The Sea Campion grows by the seashore, by the side of mountain streams, or on wet rocks among the hills.
It blooms all summer, and although it is really a smaller plant than the Common White Campion, the flowers are larger.
These flowers have five white petals, each with a V-shaped notch in the outer edge. Half way down these petals there is a white-fringed scale. These scales stand up like a crown round the inside of the flower.
The calyx is swollen like a bladder, and is covered with fine veins, the same as in the Common Campion. Round the mouth it has five sharp teeth.
In this plant the flowers do not grow in groups of two or three. Each flower appears singly at the end of a slender stalk, and there are several pairs of small leaves a good way below the flower.
These leaves are slightly thick and juicy. They grow so close together on the ground that it looks as if it were covered with a green mat.
This humble little plant is to be found everywhere on heaths and meadows and pastures. It blooms plentifully in summer and autumn. The flowers of the Eyebright grow in clusters of four to six at the end of the main stem. They are white, or pale lilac streaked with pink, and they are small and unattractive. The petals are joined together into a tube, with two lips at the mouth. The upper lip has two divisions, and the lower lip is cut up into three. They appear to be five unequal petals standing round the mouth of the tube.
Inside the tube are four purple-headed stamens, two long and two short. You can see them appearing at the mouth of the tube, also the slender white point which rises from the seed-vessel.
The calyx is a green cup with four deeply pointed teeth at the mouth. The tube of the flower goes down into the cup, and the five unequal petals stand round its mouth.
The Eyebright stem varies much in height. Sometimes you find it only about two inches from the ground, and in other places it has straggled eighteen inches high. These stems are very hairy.
The leaves grow opposite each other in pairs up the stem. They have no stalks, and the edges are cut all round into blunt teeth. They are rather hairy leaves, and are dark green and crinkled. In shape they are oval with a blunt point at the end.
The White Dead Nettle is fairly common everywhere except in the North of Scotland. You find it in waste places, by the roadside, and on ditch banks, and it blooms from spring to autumn.
This is a much more attractive plant than the Stinging Nettle we have all learned to avoid.
The flowers grow in beautiful whorls or circles round the stem. In this plant the flowers are snowy white, tinged with green, but in other Dead Nettles you find them rose pink or deep purple.
There are often as many as eighteen flowers on one whorl. The flower petals are joined together into a tube which stands in a shallow calyx-cup, edged with five very long, sharp teeth. The mouth of the white flower-tube is cut very irregularly. The upper part bends over like a hood, and underneath this hood are hidden the four long stamens. The lower part of the flower-tube hangs down like a tongue, and it is fringed and rounded at the end. Amongst the stamens you see the slender forked point which rises from the seed-vessel.
The leaves of the White Dead Nettle are very similar in shape to those of the Stinging Nettle; but they are a paler shade of green. They grow in pairs close to the stem, with a good space in between each pair, and the ring of stalkless flowers clusters round the stem beside them.
This Orchis is common all over the country, where it grows in damp woods, on chalky banks, and in meadows and pastures.
You find it in summer.
The leaves are stained with purplish-black blotches as in the early Purple Orchis, but they are narrower and taper more to a point. Notice the small leaves which cling at intervals to the flower-stalk all the way up.
The flowers grow in a dense cone-shaped head at the top of the flower-stalk. The petals are pale lilac or nearly white, and are spotted or streaked with purple. They are curiously shaped. The broad petal, which folds back like a hanging lip, is deeply waved round the edge, and behind it there is a long lilac spur.
Two petals stand erect, and form a hood which covers the stamens and the slender column of the seed-vessel.
There are also three small lilac or white sepals which you will scarcely be able to distinguish from the petals.
The flower sits at the top of what looks like a swollen stalk, but is really the seed-vessel.
Where this stalk-like seed-vessel joins the main stem there is always a tiny purple or green leaflet.
The Red-Berried Bryony is very common in the South of England, where it climbs over the hedges and grows among the thickets. But it does not grow wild in the North. It is in flower all summer and autumn.
The stems of this plant are soft and easily broken, and they have not enough strength to keep the leaves and flowers upright. But at the bottom of each leaf-stalk, there are long curly green tendrils, and with these the Bryony catches hold of some stronger plant, which helps to support it.
The flowers are greenish-white in colour, and they grow in loose heads which spring from between the leaf-stalk and the stem.
These flowers have five separate greenish-white petals covered with a fine network of veins and with many transparent hairs.
At the back of the petals sits a green calyx-cup edged with five pointed teeth.
When the flowers are withered they are followed by groups of beautiful dark red berries.
The Red Bryony leaves are very large, and are shaped like a hand with five blunt fingers. The green colour is pale and bright, and each leaf is covered with short white hairs.
It is delightful to find the Chickweed Wintergreen as it is rather a rare plant. It grows in fir woods and on heaths in hilly districts, and it blooms all summer. There is no other plant at all like this Wintergreen, so you will have no difficulty in recognising it.
The stem is very delicate and wiry, and at the end it bears a spreading rosette of six long pointed leaves. These leaves are smooth and shiny: in autumn they are often tinged with purple.
You may find one or two solitary leaves lower down on the stem; if so, these leaves are quite small, and they are rounded at the ends.
The flowers look like white stars. They have five or seven long narrow petals with pointed tips. These petals lie open in a circle, and you can see five or seven thread-like stamens with tiny pink heads rising in the centre, round a small green seed-vessel.
The flower-stalks grow from the centre of the green leaf rosette. Each flower has a delicate pink stalk of its own, and you may find three or four stalks springing from the same place. But more often the flower is solitary.
This is one of our most curious wild plants. It is common in England and Ireland, but rare in Scotland. It grows on hedge banks and in open woods, and blooms in late spring and early summer.
The large glossy leaves are arrow-shaped, and they are covered all over with dark purple blotches.
From amongst them rises a pale green twisted sheath, which is completely closed when in bud. Like the leaves, it is spotted all over with purple blotches, and the edges are stained a pale yellow-brown.
Inside this sheath rises a tall narrow purple cone, on a stout green stalk. Fastened round this green stalk are three curious collars.
First comes a collar of tiny green pear-shaped glands, of which nobody knows the use. Then comes a purple collar made up of stamen heads without any stalks.
And a little way below these there is a deep band of round green seed-vessels like small beads. These are hidden in the lower part of the green sheath; but in autumn they grow much larger, and soon burst open the covering sheath. Then they turn into beautiful scarlet berries. These berries are very poisonous.
The root of the Cuckoopint is a rough brown knob with many white rootlets hanging from it.
This strange-looking plant grows in many parts of the country, and its spikes are found during summer in ponds and ditches. The flowers are so tiny that you may scarcely notice them. They grow in a circle close round the main stem where the leaves join it, and they are greenish in colour. These flowers have no petals, and all you can see is a small green ball with a yellow dot on the top of it.
The leaves of the Common Mare's Tail grow in circles up the stem at short distances apart. They are very narrow and pointed, exactly like short green straps, and you find from six to twelve of these strap-leaves in the same circle.
The Common Butterbur grows in wet places, especially beside streams. It is not found in the North of Scotland, but is common in the South country. The flowers appear very early in spring, before the leaves, and they are nearly withered by the time the leaves are at their best.
The flowers grow closely crowded together in cone-shaped heads, near the top of a thick fleshy stalk. These flowers are made up of tiny pink tubes with toothed edges, and there is a row of long-headed pink stamens clinging to the inside of each tiny tube. Outside the head of flowers there is a thick bundle of narrow green pointed leaves, and each little bundle of green leaves and pink tubes has a short stalk of its own.
You will notice the narrow green leaves which grow singly up this main stem. Sometimes these leaves become much broader at the tips, and when this is the case these leaf-tips are dark green and have toothed edges.
The root leaves of the Butterbur are very large. They are roughly heart-shaped with sharply cut teeth round the edge. Each leaf is dark green and smooth above, but underneath it is woolly, and the short stalk on which it grows is hollow.
The Greater Burdock grows in waste places by the roadside and on the borders of fields. It is fairly common all over Britain and flowers in autumn.
The Burdock is a low-growing bushy plant with strong stems. Growing close to the ground it has large coarse leaves not unlike rhubarb leaves. They are dark green, very wrinkled, and with slightly waved edges.
The leaves which grow on the flower-stems are much smaller, and are long and rather narrow.
The flowers are scarcely seen. They are made up of small rose-coloured and purple tubes, which are crowded close together at the end of stout round stalks. But these small flowers are completely surrounded by a ball of green bristles, so that you require to pull the bristles apart and look into the top of the green ball if you wish to find the flowers.
Each of the bristles on this green ball ends in a tiny hook, and with these hooks they cling to whatever they touch. You often see these prickly balls sticking to the wool on a sheep's back. If you throw one at a companion it will hang to his clothes by its sharp little hooks.
This little plant grows plentifully in the East of England, but it is not found all over Britain. It flowers in summer.
You will easily recognise it by the curious way the seed-vessels grow. You remember in the Buttercup there was a little hard knot of seed-vessels like a green raspberry in the centre of the ring of stamens?
The Mouse-Tail is a cousin of the Buttercup, but the seed-vessels grow on a long pointed spike which shoots up in the middle of the flower, and is just like a mouse's tail.
Each flower has five yellowish-green petals, shaped like pale yellow tubes, with a lip at the top. There are five long, narrow, yellow-green sepals, with little spurs at the bottom. And there is also a ring of stamens with yellow heads which stand straight up round the foot of the Mouse's Tail.
The leaves are long and narrow, with a line down the centre. They are rather thick leaves, and they all grow in a tuft from the root.
Is there any child that has not played at 'Soldiers' or at 'Lords and Ladies,' with the flower-heads of the Ribwort Plantain? It is common everywhere, and flowers from spring to autumn.
The narrow pointed leaves grow in a circle straight from the root. They are dark green on one side, and silvery green on the other, and have long 'ribs' running from the bottom to the top. From these 'ribs' the plant gets its name of 'Ribwort.'
The flowers are closely crowded together in brown, cone-shaped heads. Each flower consists of a narrow white tube, with four graceful yellow points folded back at the mouth.
The large yellow heads of the stamens stand up beyond the mouth of this tube, but you can scarcely see the tip of the seed-vessel which is hidden inside.
When the flowers are fully out, you do not notice the white tubes; all you see is a big cluster of fuzzy yellow-headed stamens.
There are four small green sepals at the bottom of the flower-tube, and these sepals are often stained with brown blotches.
The stems are ribbed all the way up and are covered with short hairs. They are juicy and very easily broken.
This uninteresting plant is abundant everywhere. It is found in damp, shady places by the side of ditches, and it is at its best in summer and autumn.
At first you scarcely notice the flowers. They are small, dull green bells stained with brown, and are not at all attractive. But when you examine them, you find that the mouth of each bell is prettily waved all round the edge, and inside there are two long stamens and two short ones, as well as a fat green seed-vessel, with a curly point standing up in the middle.
There is a green calyx-cup with five teeth at the mouth, and as the small green bell soon withers and falls off, you oftenest notice this calyx-cup with a green seed-vessel sitting in the centre.
The tiny flower-bells grow in loose clusters, which spring from between the leaf and the main stem.
The Knotty Figwort is a tall and stout plant, with a four-sided stem which is curiously twisted.
Be sure to pull up the root, and you will find it covered with small bulbs or knots. From these knots the plant gets its name.
The leaves near the foot of the Knotty Figwort stem are large and broadly oval, with short stalks. But those that grow further up the stem are narrower and more pointed, and they all have the edges cut like the teeth of a saw.
Image courtesy of gailhampshire CC BY-SA 2.0 license.
The Lady's Mantle is a curious little plant and is common everywhere in summer. The beautifully shaped green leaves at once attract you, but the flowers are so small that you scarcely notice them. They are crowded into clusters at the end of short stalks, which branch many times from the main stem. These flowers have no petals. If you look at them very closely, you find that they have eight green sepals, which lie flat open when the flower is in bloom. These sepals are all pointed, and vary in size. The four which are utmost are smaller than the sepals which form the inner circle.
In the middle of these green sepals there is a yellow ring, and in the centre of this ring sits the tiny seed-vessel, sunk almost out of sight. There are four stamens, each of which stands out separately from this yellow ring.
The root-leaves of the Lady's Mantle are rounded, and they are covered with a fine network of veins. Each leaf looks as if it had been folded into five or seven folds, and each fold is divided round the edge into scollops. The edge of these scollops is cut into sharp teeth. Sometimes you find a big diamond dew-drop lying in the folds of the Lady's Mantle leaf.
You will also notice a frill of tiny pointed green leaves clasping the main stem wherever it forks.
The Dog's Mercury grows abundantly in England and Scotland but is rare in Ireland. You find it during early spring in woods and shady places and thickets.
This is one of our green flowers. It has no beautiful coloured petals to attract the bees or insects.
The Dog's Mercury is a bushy, upright plant, with a stout, four-sided green stem, closely covered with pretty leaves.
These leaves grow in pairs, on alternate sides of the stem: they are oval, and slightly hairy, and the edges are cut all round into sharp teeth.
Where each leaf joins the stem a flower-stalk rises, and in the Dog's Mercury there are two kinds of flowers. On one stalk you find groups of small flowers clustered at close intervals round the stalk. Each of these flowers has three broadly pointed green sepals, which curl slightly at the tips. In the centre of these sepals rises a large bunch of eight to sixteen yellow-headed stamens. In these flowers there are no petals, and no seed-vessel.
But you will find different flowers on another plant. These flowers have also three green sepals, and are without petals. But in the centre lie two hairy green seed-vessels, like small peas joined together, and on the top of these seed-vessels are two tiny green horns.
What child does not know the Common Stinging Nettle? We have all learned to avoid it after having felt its sting.
You find this Nettle everywhere in late summer and autumn.
It has a four-sided stem, which is rough with bristly hairs. The leaves grow opposite each other in pairs with a good space between each pair. They are dark green and rather coarse, and are covered with a network of veins and with many stinging hairs.
Close to the stalk the leaves are heart-shaped, but the tips are sharply pointed and the edges are deeply toothed all round.
The flowers of the Common Nettle grow on slender stalks which rise between the leaf and the main stem. These flowers are green, and they are very small and unattractive.
On one flower you find four green sepals and four yellow-headed stamens, but there are no petals and no seed-vessel.
In another flower there is a fat green seed-vessel, with four sepals round it.
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