Wildflowers of the Farm
Arthur Owens Cooke
Produced by Bryan Ness, David Garcia and the Online Distributed
[Illustration: ALMOND AND APPLE BLOSSOM.]
BY ARTHUR O. COOKE
FLOWERS OF THE FARM
II. In the Coppice
III. Flowers on the Walls
IV. Three Handsome Weeds
VI. In "Ashmead"
VII. In the Hay-field
VIII. In the Hay-field (_continued_)
IX. In the Corn-field
X. In the Corn-field (_continued_)
XI. On the Chase
XII. In the Lanes
I think that some of you have been with me at Willow Farm before to-day.
When we were there we went into the farmer's fields in early spring, and
saw the men and horses at work with ploughs and harrows. A little later
on we saw some of the crops sown, such as barley and turnips. In summer
we were in the hay-and corn-fields, and later still we saw the ricks
To-day we are at Willow Farm again, and I want to show you some of the
flowers that grow there. I do not mean those which Mrs. Hammond, the
farmer's wife, grows in her garden, pretty as they are. We will look
rather at the wild flowers in the fields, the hedges, and by the
road-side in the lane. No one sows their seed nor takes care of them in
any way; yet they grow and blossom year after year, and nearly all of
them are beautiful.
Before we begin to look at them we must make sure that we quite
understand just what a flower is. Even those of you who live in large
towns and have perhaps never been in the country, see flowers of some
sort, I feel sure; you see them in shop windows and they are also often
sold in the streets. You have seen wallflowers and daffodils in the
spring, roses in the summer, violets in winter, as well as other kinds.
You do not need to be told that these are flowers.
What about the grass on lawns, and in such places as Battersea Park and
Hyde Park in London? "Oh," you say, "that is not a flower at all--that
is just grass." Yes, it is grass, but the grass has a flower as well as
a rose bush or a violet-plant. It is only because the grass is kept cut
short that you do not see its flower on a lawn. If grass is not cut, or
eaten by animals, it grows tall in spring; then in May or June you would
see the flowers on tall straight stems which stand among the blades of
grass. Many of these grass flowers are very beautiful and we will look
presently at some of them in one of the farmer's fields.
Perhaps some of you have gardens or grass plots at your own homes. If
you see some dandelions in the lawn, or groundsel among the flowers or
vegetables in the garden beds, you say, "Those weeds must be pulled up."
You call the Dandelion and the Groundsel weeds, but they have flowers
all the same; the Dandelion is perhaps one of the most lovely yellow
flowers that we have.
They are weeds certainly in your lawn or garden beds, for they ought not
to be there. Weeds are plants in the wrong place. By and by, in the
farmer's fields, we shall see many pretty flowers which he calls weeds.
We speak of the Nettle as a weed, and do not usually admire it; yet the
Nettle has a flower, as we shall see.
Then what do you think of a tree having a flower? That is perhaps a new
idea to you. Yet if you look at a Horse-chestnut tree in June you will
see at once the large spikes of beautiful white flowers with which it is
covered. Apple trees have a beautiful pink, or pink and white flower,
and the Almond tree bears a lovely pink flower. All other trees have
flowers too, but they are often small. The flowers of the Oak and the
Beech are small, but, though you may not notice them, they are on the
tree each spring.
Almost all plants, including large trees, have flowers--they are
flowering plants. Just a few plants have no flower; ferns have none, nor
have the mosses and lichens which grow on walls and rocks and on the
stems of trees. Fungi, too, such as the mushroom, have no flowers.
Nearly all other plants have flowers. It is by the flower or blossom
that a plant is reproduced. After the flower has faded comes the fruit
and seed; the seed falls into the ground or is sown, and from it springs
another plant. Without the flower there would be no seed.
You see that there are rather more flowers than you had thought. Still,
while we are strolling in the fields and lanes at Willow Farm, we shall
look most at what are generally called flowers; we shall look at
comparatively small plants in which the flower or blossom is easily
noticed because it is large, or bright-coloured, or sweet-scented. But
while we are admiring a Daisy or a Dandelion in the spring, we must not
forget that the great Oak-tree above it also has a flower of its own--we
must remember that the Oak-tree also is a flowering plant.
IN THE COPPICE
Outside the front door of Willow Farm is a broad curving gravel drive,
at the far end of which a white gate opens into the lane. On one side of
this drive is a narrow strip of ground planted with flowers and shrubs,
and close to the front door there is a patch of grass on which stands a
large old mulberry tree.
On the other side of the drive is a lawn. Beyond that are more flowers
and then the vegetable garden; further on still is a little wood or
coppice of nut bushes. On this March morning we shall find some wild
flowers in this little wood.
Between the vegetable garden and the wood is a low grassy bank. It is
bright to-day with yellow primroses. The Primrose always blossoms early
here, for the bank is sunny and is sheltered from cold winds.
I daresay most of you have seen a Primrose before to-day. Each pale
yellow blossom is made up of five petals, which are joined together
forming a tube or corolla. The petals are notched or indented on the
outer edge. At the centre of the blossom, where the petals meet, each
petal is marked with a spot of darker yellow. Each flower grows alone on
a long slender stem. At the top of the stem is a kind of green tube out
of which the yellow blossom appears. The Primrose blossoms have a scent;
not strong, but very sweet and pleasant.
The leaves are called "radical" or "root" leaves. They are so called
because each leaf _appears_ to grow direct from the root. But the leaves
really grow from a short stem at the top of the root--a stem so short
that it does not appear above the ground at all.
Among the bushes of the coppice itself we will notice the flowers which
first catch our eye--the pretty blossoms of the Wood Anemone. The whole
coppice is starred with the beautiful white flowers. We pick one and see
that it has six--six what? "Six petals," you say. No, these are not
petals, for the Anemone has none. They are sepals. The sepals of a plant
generally enclose the blossom before it is opened, and they are usually
green. In the Anemone the petals are absent; the sepals take their place
and are white instead of green. Their under side is often not pure
white, but is streaked with pale pink.
Several blossoms which we pick have six of these sepals. That is the
usual number, but sometimes there are only five, and sometimes more than
The blossoms of the Anemone grow on longer and stronger stalks than
those of the Primrose, and on each stalk are three leaves. These leaves
grow round the stalk in a ring. Each leaf is "tri-partite"--in three
parts or divisions; the edges of these divided leaves are deeply
serrated. Besides the three leaves on each flower-stalk similar leaves
grow from underground stems which creep along not far below the surface
of the soil. Such creeping underground stems are usually called
At the further side of the coppice, where a hedge separates it from the
little meadow called Home Close, are Sweet Violets. We catch their
fragrant scent before we see them, for the tiny flowers are half hidden
among broad green leaves. Each blossom has five petals of a dark purple
colour; there are white Sweet Violets too, but none are growing in our
little wood to-day.
At the base of the blossom--the part where it joins the stem--one of the
petals has a little spur which points back towards the stem. The blossom
is therefore said to be spurred; we may presently see other plants with
There is another violet which grows wild in England--the Dog Violet. It
is larger than our Sweet Violets here, but it has no scent.
While we have been examining the flowers on the ground, the nut bushes
above our heads are waiting to remind us of what we said just now--that
trees also have flowers. The flowers of the nut bush or hazel are easily
seen, for they appear before the leaves are open. What we see to-day are
often called catkins, but the name which country children give them is
lambs'-tails. It is a very good name, too, for they are more like the
tail of some tiny lamb than anything else.
These catkins are yellowish-white in colour, and soft and almost woolly
to the touch. They hang in clusters from the hazel twigs, and in the
strong March wind which blows to-day, they shake and flutter like the
tails of lambs at play. Some of them leave a dusty powder on our fingers
when we handle them; that is the pollen of the flower.
It is not where these yellow "catkins" are dancing on the twigs to-day
that the hazel nuts will appear in autumn. The nuts will grow on twigs
where there are very small red flowers--something like tiny
paint-brushes. These are the female flowers; they will be fertilized by
the yellow pollen of the catkins, and will produce the nuts.
FLOWERS ON THE WALLS
Behind the narrow strip of ground with flowers and shrubs on the other
side of the drive there is a low stone wall. A piece of the lawn on
which the mulberry tree stands has been cut away, and a flight of steps
leads down to a little gate into the foldyard.
This wall between the garden and the foldyard is very old and rough--not
like the smooth brick walls you see in towns. The stones are of
different shapes and sizes, the mortar has fallen out of it in many
places, and here and there are holes and crevices. Yet it is a very
beautiful old wall, for many things grow on it; mosses and grasses, and
other flowers too, are there.
On this May morning we not only see, but also smell, one of the flowers
which grow upon the wall--it is the beautiful sweet-scented Wallflower.
It grows here and there along the top of the wall, and a few plants of
it are even springing from the sides. Some of the plants are quite large
and their stems are tough. These have grown here for a long time. The
Wallflower is a perennial plant; unless it is killed or torn up by the
roots it will live and grow for many years. Others are quite young and
only a few inches high. These have grown from seeds dropped last autumn
by the older plants.
You very likely wonder how the Wallflower or any other plant can grow
upon the wall, for there is no earth to be seen--nothing but stones and
crumbling mortar. But if we pull up one of the smaller plants we shall
find earth clinging to its roots. Dry dusty earth has been blown upon
the wall by wind, and has lodged in chinks and holes. Dust and soil,
too, were mixed with the mortar when the wall was built; and dead leaves
falling on it and decaying have produced a little more--for decayed
leaves make earth or "soil." Wallflowers and other plants which grow on
walls and rocks find very little soil sufficient for their needs.
Most of the blossoms of the wallflowers upon this wall are of a golden
yellow colour and are very sweet. Some of the blossoms are, however, a
darker yellow than others, and here and there are petals which are quite
If we look at the garden behind us we shall see that Mrs. Hammond has
several beds of Wallflower this year; it is a flower of which she is
very fond. There are wallflowers of two different colours in her beds.
One kind has bright golden blossoms, rather deeper in colour than any of
those upon the wall; the other has flowers that are a rich dark brown.
These plants are sturdier and more bushy than those upon the wall, and
there are more flowers on each plant. The flowers are finer, too, and
have a stronger scent. If Mrs. Hammond had wished she could have sown
seed to produce many different shades of brown and yellow Wallflowers.
She might also have had a purple Wallflower, and even a Wallflower of so
pale a yellow as to be almost white.
If you and I were clever gardeners and had plenty of time and patience,
we could get purple or nearly white wallflowers from these
yellow-flowered plants upon the wall. It would perhaps take us many
years, but we should succeed at last. This is how we should set about
Suppose that we wished to have a Wallflower nearly white. We should look
carefully along the wall in spring, when the blossoms are out, until we
found the very palest yellow blossom we could see. We should mark that
plant, and when the flower was over and the seed was ripe, we should
collect the seed. Among the plants grown from this seed we should choose
again the plant that had the palest flowers, and should save the seed
from _that_. We might have to go on doing this for twenty years or more,
but in time we should have a Wallflower so pale as to be almost white.
_Quite_ white we should never get our Wallflower, for no _pure_ white
flower can be obtained from a yellow one. However pale our Wallflower
might be there would still always be just a tinge of yellow or cream
colour in it.
If, on the other hand, we wanted a purple or a very dark brown
Wallflower, we should save seed from those blossoms which were nearest
to the colour we wanted--dark brown or with a tinge of purple in them.
We should sow seed from the darkest blossoms again and again, and at
last we should get what we wished to have.
[Illustration: RED VALERIAN.]
[Illustration: STINGING NETTLE.]
[Illustration: WHITE DEAD NETTLE.]
Besides choosing seed from the lightest or darkest blossoms, we should
tend our plants very carefully and well, giving them plenty of good rich
soil. This would make them grow bushy and with many flowers, as we see
them in Mrs. Hammond's garden beds.
Many of our garden flowers have been produced in this way, by selecting
and improving wild flowers. Of course all flowers grow wild _somewhere_;
some in England, but many more in foreign countries, where the air is
warmer and the soil richer and better. The Pansy is a little English
wild flower with yellow, blue, and red petals. From this little flower
gardeners have produced large and beautiful pansies of many different
colours and shades of colours--white, yellow, blue, and brown. This has
been done by careful selection, just as we spoke of doing with the
But if the large single-coloured pansies of which I have told you, or
Mrs. Hammond's dark brown wallflowers, were allowed to seed
themselves--that is, were allowed to drop and sow their own seed year
after year--do you know what would happen? They would gradually revert
or turn back to their original form and colour. The flowers would become
mixed in colour and less fine in size; at last they would be simple wild
Now it is June, and the blossoms of the Wallflower have faded and
fallen. The old wall is, however, growing gay with another plant--the
Red Valerian. We must be careful to remember that it is the Red
Valerian, for there are other valerians. There is the Great Valerian
which does not grow on walls or rocks, but in damp and shady places; its
flowers are pale pink.
The blossoms of the Red Valerian on the wall are bright crimson, and
they grow in rows on small stems which spring from a stout stalk a foot
or two in height. Each blossom of five petals forms a little tube or
corolla. The base or foot of each little tube appears as a point on the
under side of the flower stem; the Red Valerian, like the Violet, is a
The leaves are long and pointed, and they grow in pairs, on opposite
sides of the stalk. Sometimes the edges of the leaves are quite smooth;
sometimes they are serrated, or toothed, like the edge of a saw. If we
pulled a plant of Red Valerian from the wall we should find the roots
very long and branching; they need to be so, for the plant often grows
on rocks and other places where it is exposed to wind. If the roots had
not a firm hold the tall stems laden with blossoms might be blown down.
The Red Valerian flowers all through the summer. Its clusters of crimson
flowers are as great an ornament to the old wall as were the wallflowers
Now let us go down the steps into the foldyard; there is a wall on
either side of us as we descend. The wall which faces the north is
nearly always in shadow, and there are ferns growing but of it between
the stones. One of these is a beautiful Hartstongue fern, with large and
shining leaves. We said just now, however, that ferns have no flowers,
so we will turn to something that grows on the wall opposite.
This is the ivy-leaved Toadflax. It grows on walls and rocks, as the Red
Valerian does, but it is a very different plant in appearance. The stems
of the Red Valerian are tall and upright; those of the Toadflax are
slender and drooping. There is a large mass of it on the side of the
wall, and we find that the root is at the highest point of the whole
mass. The stems with the flowers and leaves hang down below the root; it
is a trailing plant.
There are, however, other roots clinging to the wall here and there
below the main root. The plant, like several others, is able to throw
out fresh roots from the joints of its stems, and these give it a firmer
The flowers are small, and their colour is a pale lilac-blue with a
bright yellow spot in the centre. These flowers too are spurred. The
leaves are smooth and thick--what is called fleshy. They are divided
into five lobes or divisions, and are not unlike an ivy-leaf in shape.
When we turn a leaf or two over we see that the under side of some is
[Illustration: IVY-LEAVED TOADFLAX.]
This little plant is usually said to prefer a damp situation, and to
blossom from May till October. This wall beside the steps is certainly
rather damp, for the moisture from the garden above soaks down to it. In
my own garden, however, the ivy-leaved Toadflax grows on some very dry
old walls, and I have found it in flower in the middle of December.
Neither the Toadflax nor the Red Valerian are really natives of England.
They were brought to our country many hundreds of years ago. They have
spread so much that they have now become wildflowers. In the same way
many others of our wild flowers were once unknown in England.
Now that we have come down the steps into the foldyard we see that it
lies a good deal below the house and garden. Built round the foldyard
are the stables for the cart-horses, the cowhouses, and the great barn.
Behind the stables is the rickyard. That, like the garden, is above the
foldyard; from it there are only two or three steps to the door of the
loft or "tallet" above the stables. It is there that we will go now.
The wall of the tallet is of stone and is very old; the roof is tiled.
There is a little hole cut in the bottom of the door, and you will see
one like it in the door of the granary. It is made so that old Tib and
the other cats can go in and catch mice. Growing between the stones of
the wall just by the tallet door is the plant I want to show you now.
It is the Stonecrop. Some of the stems grow upright, while others are
trailing. At the top of each upright stem is a cluster of bright yellow
flowers. Some of these are fully open, and we see that each blossom has
five pointed petals. The trailing stems have no flowers at all, they are
barren; but the leaves on the barren stems are much more numerous and
closer together than those on the upright flowering stems.
[Illustration: COMMON STONECROP.]
These leaves are very curious. They are not flat like the leaves of the
Red Valerian, the Toadflax, and most other flowers; they are very thick
and fleshy--something like a short round pointed stick. They grow close
against the stalk, not in pairs, but alternately, first a leaf on one
side of the stalk, then a leaf on the other. They are erect too; that
is, they point in the same direction as the stalk.
On the barren stems the leaves grow so closely that they quite cover the
stalk. They have a hot sharp taste, and the plant is sometimes called
"Wall-Pepper." The roots are very thin and can spread easily through
narrow chinks of the wall.
We will see one more plant of the walls before we look for flowers
elsewhere. Our next plant is not very common at Willow Farm; still I
know where to look for it. Built against one side of the big barn in the
foldyard is a little lean-to shed. Often there are calves in it; but
just now we are more interested in something that is on the roof.
Standing close to the wall of the shed is a cattle crib--a kind of big
square box or trough on legs, in which hay or chaff is put for the
cattle. The shed is not very high, and by standing on the crib we can
scramble on to the roof. Here is the plant we want to see.
It is the Houseleek, of which a clump is growing between the tiles.
Almost flat on the tiles is a dense mass of large green fleshy leaves.
These leaves are evergreen, they do not die and fall off in winter. From
this cluster of leaves rise straight thick stems nearly a foot high. The
stems are thickly covered with erect leaves which grow smaller towards
the top of the stem.
At the top of the stem is a cluster of very handsome rosy-red flowers.
Each blossom is star-shaped when fully open, and generally has twelve
[Illustration: HOUSE LEEK.]
If we could see the roots we should find them very thread-like or
fibrous, like those of other flowers we have been looking at to-day. I
do not think I can very well show you the roots, however; we should have
to pull up a plant, and that would not please Ben, the cowman, at all.
There is a belief in country places that it is bad luck to disturb the
Houseleek--that someone in the house on which it grows is sure to die
soon afterwards. Certainly the plant is not growing on a house
here--only on the calves' cot. Still, if any misfortune should happen to
the calves we might be blamed by Ben. Besides, it would be a pity to
disturb so handsome a plant, would it not?
We have spent some time in looking at these flowers on the walls and
roof because we think them very wonderful. We see how little soil they
can have in which to grow, and how, in dry weather, they can have very
little moisture either. Yet the leaves of several of them are thick and
fleshy, and the flowers of some are large and beautiful. What could be
more handsome than the blossoms of the Wallflower, the Red Valerian, and
THREE HANDSOME WEEDS
At the end of the drive, near the front door, another white gate leads
to the "nag" stables, where Mr. Hammond keeps the two horses which he
rides and drives. Billy, the old brown pony, has a little stable of his
own close by, and further on are the granary and the poultry yard.
Perhaps you have heard the saying, "Ill weeds grow apace." It is
certainly a true one, for most of the plants which we call weeds grow
quickly and well wherever they are allowed to remain. We shall not have
far to look for the three weeds which I want to show you this morning.
The first of them is the Stinging Nettle. It grows round the wood-pile
in the middle of the poultry-yard, and there are great clumps of it
beside the hedge which divides the poultry-yard from the kitchen garden.
It is really a very handsome plant, though you may not have thought so
before. Look how tall and straight the stems are, and how evenly and
regularly the dark green pointed leaves grow from it. They grow in
pairs, on opposite sides of the stem, and are serrated. There is
something rather unusual about the stem of the Nettle which we will
notice at once. I have brought out a pair of thick leather gloves, so
that we can pick a stem without being stung.
You know what shape the trunks of trees are. Round? Yes; round or nearly
so. So are the stems of most plants; the stems of the Red Valerian are
round. The stem of the Nettle, however, is square, or if not perfectly
square, it has four distinct sides. Perhaps you had never noticed this
before, for the Nettle is certainly not a plant with which one cares to
have very much to do.
Both the stems and leaves are covered with tiny hairs. These hairs are
really small hollow tubes ending in a sharp point. When the Nettle
stings you it first pricks the skin with these sharp points, and then a
drop of poison falls from the tube into the wound the point has made.
If you happen to get stung by a nettle do _not_ bathe your hand with
cold water; that will only make the pain worse. While you are waiting
for the pain to pass off remember that in India there are nettles whose
sting causes great pain which lasts for several days. You might be much
worse off, you see!
The small greenish-yellow flowers of the Stinging Nettle grow in long
feathery clusters on stalks which spring from the main stem close to a
pair of leaves.
The young leaves of the Nettle are said to be very nice boiled as
vegetables; I cannot say that I have ever eaten them myself. Years ago
country people used to take a great deal of nettle tea as medicine in
spring. Nowadays they seem to prefer patent medicines from the chemist's
shop. A dye is made from the roots of the Nettle, and another dye from
the stem and leaves. The young leaves or tops, when chopped up, are good
for poultry, especially for turkeys. So nettles are useful, you see--not
merely stinging weeds. The Nettle, too, is a relation of the hemp plant
from which we get our string and ropes.
[Illustration: TRAVELLER'S JOY.]
You may sometimes see or hear of the White, Red, and Yellow Dead Nettle,
but these are not really nettles at all. Their leaves are somewhat
similar, but they are quite different plants.
Hanging over this great patch of nettles by the hedge there is another
weed, the Traveller's Joy, or Old Man's Beard. Its stem has climbed not
only up the hedge, but high into a hawthorn bush which stands there. It
has many small white feathery flowers with a pleasant scent. On each
leaf stem there are usually five leaflets, one at the end of the stem
and two pairs lower down. These leaf stems are long and tough, and it is
chiefly by them that the plant can climb as it does; they twine round
any branch or twig they touch, and give the Traveller's Joy a firm
support. I have seen trees in woods covered with this plant to a height
of twenty feet from the ground.
In the autumn and early winter you would admire the Traveller's Joy as
much as you do now. The flowers will certainly be gone, but each seed
which takes the place of a blossom will have a little plume of silky
white threads attached to it--a sort of feathery tail. These serve as
wings by which the seeds are often carried long distances by the wind.
The seeds of some other plants which we shall see have something of the
There is another climbing plant in the hedge, the Large Bindweed or
Convolvulus. To look at it, however, we will go round into the garden
where there is more of it than Mrs. Hammond cares to see. It is
certainly a beautiful plant, with its large three-sided pointed leaves,
and its great pure white bell-shaped flowers--something like the mouth
of a trumpet.
In the farmhouse garden, however, it is certainly a weed--a plant in the
wrong place. We see that at once. Close to the hedge are some gooseberry
and currant bushes, and into these the Bindweed has climbed. The
Bindweed's stems are twined round the stems and branches of the bushes
till they are almost hidden by it, and are bent down by the weight.
[Illustration: LARGE BINDWEED.]
The Bindweed climbs, as we see, by twisting its stem round the tree to
which it clings; but though it is a climbing plant its stems can grow
for a foot or more from the ground without support. Some of the shoots
of the Bindweed are two or three feet away from the stems of the fruit
bushes, but they have grown unsupported till they could reach an
overhanging bough and cling to that.
Every now and then, Dan, who looks after the garden when he has time,
cuts oft all the Bindweed close to the ground, and pulls some of it up
by the roots; but fresh shoots soon appear again. It is of little use to
dig up the ground near the bushes, for the Bindweed is twisted all among
You think the Bindweed and the Traveller's Joy beautiful flowers, and
so they are. At the same time these plants are far more troublesome and
dangerous weeds than the Stinging Nettle. Nearly all plants that cling
to other plants do harm; they prevent the stems and boughs to which they
cling from swelling freely. See how tightly the Bindweed stems are
twisted round the boughs of this currant bush. Ivy, Bindweed, and other
clinging plants often kill or seriously injure valuable trees in this
I said all I could to make you admire the Nettle, and to see what a
handsome and even useful plant it is. I am afraid, however, that you do
not care much for it; I do not see that any of you have gathered a
handful to take home. When we go in to dinner presently, if Mrs. Hammond
were to say, "Will you have green peas or nettle-tops?" I believe you
would all say, "Peas, if you please!" So we had better look for a flower
that you may like better. We will go to Ashmead, where the cows are
grazing, and will find some Clover.
Mr. Hammond grows Clover in some of his fields every year. Those of you
who have been at Willow Farm before, and have walked about the farmer's
fields, know this, for we saw the bailiff sowing Clover broadcast.
Besides the fields of Clover, however, there is always plenty of it
growing among the meadow grass. We find some directly we go through the
gate into Ashmead. It is a plant with a bright purplish-red blossom.
Let us sit down and examine it carefully.
The blossom is a little knob, or ball of colour, almost round. It is
made up of a great many little purple stalks, standing upright and very
close together. Pull a few of these stalks from the blossom and put
their lower ends between your lips. They are quite sweet like sugar.
Nearly all flowers contain honey, or rather _nectar_ of which the bees
make honey. Some flowers have much nectar, some less, and some have none
at all; the Clover contains a great deal.
Now look at the leaves; each has three leaflets. If you can find a leaf
with four of these leaflets, the country children will think you very
fortunate, for a four-leaved Clover is said to bring good luck, just
as a four-leaved Shamrock does in Ireland. A four-leaved Clover is,
however, rather rare; I hope you may find one, but I am rather afraid
you will not.
Here is another Clover, not quite so handsome as the Red Clover at
which we have just been looking; the flowers are white, and are rather
smaller. This is White or Dutch Clover. It is a perennial plant, and one
which spreads over a great deal of ground if it is allowed to do so.
We saw, you remember, that the ivy-leaved Toadflax on the wall by the
foldyard steps sent out fresh roots from its stems as it grew. The White
Clover does the same. The stems creep along the ground, send out fresh
roots, and in this way the plant spreads quickly.
Keeping a few stems of both these clovers in our hands we will go a
little further up the lane. There, in a field, we shall see something
that even country people cannot see every day. The Clover which farmers
usually sow is either the Red Clover or the White, or else another kind
called Alsike. This year Mr. Hammond has sown a field with a fourth
Did you ever see a more beautiful sight? The whole field is a blaze of
rich crimson colour. I shall never forget the day I first saw a field
of Crimson Clover. I was so delighted that I asked the farmer--not Mr.
Hammond, but another friend--if he would have a field of it for me to
admire every year! He said he would tell me by and by. At the end of the
year he said he did not find it such a useful food for his animals as
the Red and White Clovers, and he should not sow it again--at least not
very soon. You see pretty things are not always the most useful.
Let us see what differences we can find between the three clovers we
have gathered. We look first at the blossoms. That of the Red Clover is,
as we have said, like a little round ball, or knob. The flower of the
White Clover is of much the same shape, but is less fine. The flower of
the Crimson Clover is altogether different in shape. It has indeed many
small crimson stems, but these do not form a round ball. They are
arranged in the form of a little circular cone or pyramid which is large
at the bottom and pointed at the top.
[Illustration: CLOVER LEAVES. 1. White; 2. Crimson; 3. Red.]
There are other differences. Immediately below the flower of the Red
Clover is a pair of leaves; the blossom is said to be "sessile" or
seated on these leaves. Other leaves, and also other blossoms, grow
on the same stem. Now look at the White Clover. The blossom grows on
a stalk without any leaves or other blossoms on it--only the single
blossom at the top of the stalk. The blossom of the Crimson Clover has
leaves below it.
To-day we easily distinguish one clover from the others by the flowers.
Supposing, however, that we looked at them some day before the flowers
were out; what then? Are there any differences in the leaves? All three
have leaves formed of three leaflets--they are trefoils--but the leaves
are otherwise different.
Those of the Red Clover grow on stems branching from the flower stem,
and sometimes on the flower stem itself. Both leaves and stems are
hairy, and on the leaves there is generally a white mark, something the
shape of a horseshoe.
The leaves of the White Clover grow, like the flower, at the top of the
stem--a single leaf on each stem. The under sides of the leaves are
smooth and glossy. The leaves of the Crimson Clover grow on the flower
stems like those of the Red Clover; but the leaflets are broader and
rounder than the Red Clover leaflets. The Crimson Clover is an annual,
while the others are perennials.
All these clovers are good food for the farmer's animals or stock. The
Red Clover is, perhaps, the most useful. Bees, however, prefer the White
Clover, for they can more easily get at its nectar.
Sheep are exceedingly fond of Clover, but Mr. Hammond is always careful
not to turn them into a field of Clover when they are very hungry,
or to let them stray in by accident. If they got in they would eat it
ravenously, and many would very likely die. Too hearty a meal of Clover
has the same effect on them as a great quantity of new bread would have
on you or me.
We have spent so much time this morning looking at the clovers that we
have only a minute or two to stand at the gate of a field of beans. The
blossoms are pretty--white with dark spots--and they are very fragrant.
A field of beans in flower gives us one of the most delightful of all
There are many other flowers besides the Clover in Ashmead to-day, and
this afternoon we will look at some that grow among the grass. One of
these you may perhaps call a weed, yet it is one of the most beautiful
wild flowers in England. I mean the golden Dandelion.
On a lawn or in a garden bed it would certainly be a weed, and a very
troublesome one. Here among the grass we need only think of it as a very
lovely flower. See what a rich golden yellow the little florets of the
blossom are. Plants like the Dandelion, in which the blossom is composed
of a number of florets, are called "composite" plants.
If we examine the plant closely we shall find that each stalk which
bears a blossom, and each long deeply indented leaf, grows, like the
flower-stem and leaf of the Primrose, from a very short underground
stem. It is from the indented leaves that the Dandelion gets its name.
The leaves have something the appearance of the teeth of a lion. Now
the French name for lion's tooth is _dent de lion_, and we English have
corrupted this into _dandelion._
Each flower-stem is round and, when we pull one, we see that it is a
hollow tube. We bite a piece of the stalk as we did with the Clover
blossom. What a difference! The Clover was quite sweet, but the
Dandelion is very bitter. You may not like the taste perhaps, but the
white milky-looking juice is quite wholesome. Dandelion tea and
Dandelion beer are often made by country people, and the leaves give a
pleasant flavour to a salad.
Shall we pull up a plant and examine the root? I am afraid we cannot,
unless you care to go back to the house for a fork or a trowel. The
Dandelion has a very long strong root--tap-root--which goes deep into
the ground; and there is no tall main stem of which we can take
hold--the leaves and flower stalks only break off in our hands.
Here is a stalk from which the flower has fallen, leaving only the seed.
Of what does it remind you? Of the Traveller's Joy in autumn? Yes; the
Dandelion has what is called a "pappus" attached to its seed, rather
similar to the feathery tail of the Traveller's Joy. This makes the
Dandelion a troublesome weed; the seeds are easily carried by the wind
and, if a patch of dandelions is allowed to go to seed, it will produce
fresh plants quite far away. Before the seeds are scattered each head is
like a round white fluffy ball.
Here are daisies, with their dainty white florets often tinged with
pink. In the centre of each blossom is a yellow spot. Every night the
white florets fold up over the yellow centre, and do not open until the
morning. This fact explains to us the Daisy's name; it is the Day's Eye
which opens at dawn and shuts at night.
The Daisy is a little flower which everyone knows and loves, yet in the
wrong place it is a weed. It is a perennial and it spreads very fast. Of
course both perennials and annuals spread by means of their seed, but
perennials also spread in other ways as well. We will see how the Daisy
There; with my pocket knife I have easily dug up a plant. The root is
small and compact, not long like that of the Dandelion. But, when I try
to lift the Daisy plant from the grass, I find that it is still held
down by a stout tough thread branching from the root. This thread is
connected with another Daisy plant; from that one there is another
thread connected with a third plant. When we have at last got our plant
clear away from the ground, three more are hanging to it by these
That is how the Daisy spreads; it throws out these thread-like shoots
from the root, and from these grow another root and plant. I knew only
too well what we should find; there are far too many daisies in my lawn
at home, and I found out long ago the way in which they spread so fast.
If daisies are allowed to increase in this way they form large clumps
which smother and kill the grass. We notice that each flower-stem and
each leaf of the Daisy springs from a very short underground stem, as
those of the Dandelion do.
Daisies and dandelions are plentiful in Ashmead, and so are the yellow
buttercups. There are, however, not quite so many buttercups as you
might think at first. The real name of what we call the Buttercup is the
Bulbous Crowfoot, and there is also a Meadow Crowfoot in the field. A
third crowfoot is the Corn Crowfoot. To-day we will notice one or two
differences between the two plants we see here.
[Illustration: BULBOUS CROWFOOT.]
The blossoms of both plants have five smooth shining yellow petals.
We see, however, that those of the Bulbous Crowfoot or Buttercup form
a real cup, while the petals of the Meadow Crowfoot spread out almost
flat. The Meadow Crowfoot grows two or three feet high; the Buttercup
is a shorter plant.
The flowers are pretty, but that, I am afraid, is all that we can
say for either of these plants. They are both of them bitter and
unwholesome, and horses and cattle avoid eating them. Some people even
say that to carry a bunch of the stems will make the hands sore; so I
think that we will only look at and admire the flowers where they grow.
The Cowslip is a very different plant indeed and we will not call it a
weed. Even Mr. Hammond is not sorry to see it here; for he is fond of a
glass of the sweet cowslip wine which Mrs. Hammond will make if we busy
ourselves and take home some large basketfuls of the drooping blossoms.
Before we set to work, however, let us examine the plant.
Looking at a stalk of Cowslip blossoms we see something peculiar about
it at once--something unlike the other flowers we have seen. Six or
seven drooping blossoms grow from the stalk we have picked, and they
all grow from the very top of the stalk. The point at the top of the
stalk from which the blossoms grow is called the "umbel."
Each blossom has five yellow petals joined together to form a corolla.
In the centre of the blossom, where these petals meet, each is marked
with a spot of deep orange-red colour. The yellow petals are
comparatively small, and peep out of a long pale green sheath called
Surely we have seen a flower like this before--the Primrose in the
little coppice. Yes; the Primrose had five pale yellow petals, rather
larger than those of the Cowslip, and joined together to form a corolla;
they grew out of a long green calyx. Also each petal had a spot of
darker yellow in the centre of the blossom. The leaves of both the
Primrose and the Cowslip are much wrinkled, and they grow from a short
But, you say, each Primrose blossom grew alone on the top of a long
stem. Yes, but if we had dug up a Primrose plant, we should have found
that several flower stems grew from the same point--the top of a very
short stem which hardly appeared above the ground. They grew from an
umbel, and the Primrose is closely related to the Cowslip. The
difference is that the blossoms of the Primrose grow on _long_ stems
from a _short_-stemmed umbel. Those of the Cowslip grow on _short_ stems
from a _long_-stemmed umbel.
IN THE HAY-FIELD
Here we are in the hay-field at the end of June. It is not really the
hay-field yet, but it will be so as soon as the grass is cut for hay.
This will be done in a few days, so we must lose no time if we wish to
look at some of the flowers before they are cut down.
We must not stroll all over this field as we did in Ashmead, for the
long grass should not be trampled down, or it will be difficult for the
machine to cut. Quite near the gate, however, are plenty of flowers, and
we shall find others if we step carefully along the side of the hedge.
We will look first at those flowers which are most important to the
farmer, the flowers of the grass. We saw, you remember, that the grass
has flowers just as the Rose and the Wallflower have. If you had thought
that the flowers of all grass would be alike, you see now that you were
quite mistaken; there are many different grass flowers here.
[Illustration: SECTION OF GRASS STEM.]
Not only are the flowers different, but so are the stems, and also the
leaves or blades. Mr. Hammond could come into the field in early spring
or autumn, when the grass is not in flower, and could tell you to which
kind of grass any blade belonged. To-day we shall easily distinguish the
different kinds of grasses by their flowers, though we will also notice
differences in their stems and leaves.
Let us pick a stem or culm of grass. We see that the greater part of it
is hollow; but at intervals there are joints, and here the stem is
solid. From each joint grows a leaf-sheath which is wrapped round the
stem for a little distance above the joint. Out of each sheath grows a
leaf. All grass leaves are long and narrow compared with those of most
other plants, but some grass leaves are longer and narrower than others.
Now for a flower. The stem which we have picked is the stem of perennial
Rye Grass. The blossom, we see, consists of several small spikelets;
there are eighteen on our stem. They grow alternately on two opposite
sides of the stem, first one on one side, then one on the other. They
have no stalk of their own; they are sessile or seated on the stem. As
the spikelets are flat and grow on two sides of the stem only, each stem
looks as if it had been pressed in a book, as perhaps you have sometimes
The leaves are dark green, glossy and shining. On the under side of each
leaf there is a prominent rib which extends the whole length. This rib
is one of the signs by which Mr. Hammond can tell a blade of Rye Grass
at once without seeing the flower.
This is one of the farmer's most useful grasses. It forms a close thick
carpet or sward, and, the more it is trodden on by animals grazing, the
better it seems to thrive.
Here is another excellent grass, with a flower quite different in
appearance from the last. It is called Timothy Grass. It was first
cultivated in America by a man named Timothy Hanson, and it is now
always known by his Christian name. Mr. Hammond knows this, and now you
know it too; but a good many farmers who have plenty of Timothy Grass in
their fields do not know the reason of its name.
[Illustration: HONEYSUCKLE AND WILD ROSE.]
[Illustration: GRASSES. 1. Cocksfoot; 2. Sweet vernal; 3. Meadow
foxtail; 4. Common Timothy; 5. Tufted hair; 6. Common rye grass.]
The spikelets of Timothy are very small and grow in dense clusters at
the end of the stem, so that the blossom forms a kind of tail. Indeed
Timothy is sometimes called Meadow Catstail, a name which gives a very
good idea of its appearance. This cluster or tail of spikelets is green
and also rather rough to the touch. Notice these two points about it; we
shall see the reason presently. The green leaves have a greyish tint and
are broader than many grass leaves. When cut and made into hay, the
leaves are rather stiff and hard.
Timothy grows in good thick clumps, but does not make a very spreading
sward. Moist weather suits it best, though it can stand a dry summer
fairly well. It is a late grass. Other grasses in the field are in full
flower to-day, but there are only a few ears of Timothy to be seen; its
flowering-time is July. In one way it is a valuable grass for hay; it is
heavy, and hay is always sold by weight. On the other hand Timothy hay
is rather hard.
Now here is a grass something like Timothy, yet different in several
ways. It is Meadow Foxtail. The ear formed by the cluster of spikelets
is of the same shape as an ear of Timothy, like a round tail slightly
pointed. But the ear of Timothy was green, while this is a beautiful
silvery grey. Timothy was rough; the ear of Meadow Foxtail is very soft
and silky to the touch. The silkiness and the silvery grey colour are
given to the ear by a soft hair called the "awn" which grows from each
spikelet. The leaves are broad and juicy, and there are many of them.
Meadow Foxtail, unlike Timothy, is an early grass; you may find it
in flower in April. An early grass is always valuable to the farmer,
who wants herbage for his sheep and cattle after the long winter.
The Foxtail, moreover, is a spreading grass. Some of its stems are
prostrate; they do not stand upright but creep along the ground. From
these prostrate stems fresh roots grow and produce fresh plants. Thus
Meadow Foxtail makes a good sward.
Another useful grass is Cocksfoot. Each culm has four or five thick
clusters of spikelets growing on small stalks of their own. The clusters
grow from the culm in a way which reminds us of the claw of a fowl; that
is the reason of the name. Cocksfoot is a tall and quick growing plant,
and both the stem and flower feel rough and hard. The blue-green leaves
are very juicy. The root goes deep into the soil, so that this grass
resists drought well.
We must notice the Sweet Vernal Grass, though there is not much of it in
the field; for this grass, when it is dry, gives out much of the sweet
scent we smell in or near a hay-field. If we chew a stalk, we notice the
scent ourselves, and animals like the pleasant flavour which it gives to
hay. Though it is an early grass it also lasts till late in the autumn.
The spikelets make a cluster or tail at the end of the stalk, but they
do not grow so closely together as those of the Timothy and Meadow
Look at this Tufted Hair Grass. It is very pretty, perhaps one of the
prettiest grasses we have seen; but the farmer looks upon it as a weed.
It has a large and spreading head of flower; the spikelets grow on
stems, and become gradually smaller towards the top of the stalk. The
flower is purple, with a shining silvery light upon it. It grows in
thick clumps or tussocks, and cattle do not care about the leaves.
IN THE HAY-FIELD (_continued_)
There are many other grasses in the field; some of them are useful,
while others the farmer would call weeds. We must now look at other
flowers, and, as the grass is so tall, it will be better to choose tall
flowers which can easily be seen. We soon spy a Thistle among the grass
near the gate.
There are several kinds of Thistle in England--the Milk Thistle, the
Nodding Thistle, and some others. This is the common Field Thistle. It
is far too common to please Mr. Hammond or any other careful farmer. It
is true that it is only an annual; but, like the Dandelion, it has a
pappus attached to its seed. However hard Mr. Hammond tries to get rid
of thistles from his fields, fresh seeds are constantly blown into them
from thistles on the road-side banks, or in the fields of farmers not so
careful as himself. It is very disheartening to a good farmer to have
careless neighbours. When Mr. Hammond hears that a new tenant is coming
to a neighbouring farm, he always hopes that he will be a "clean"
farmer--that he will try to keep his fields free from weeds.
The stiff stem of the Thistle is often three or four feet tall, and
divides into smaller branches which bear a flower at the end. These
flowers are a little like those of the Red Clover; each blossom has many
small upright florets, purplish-red in colour. The leaves are not very
tempting to touch, but they are very interesting. They are divided into
several lobes or divisions, and each lobe ends in a sharp point. They
have no leaf stem to connect them with the stalk of the plant. What is
curious about them is that they do not grow from a small point on the
stalk. They are "decurrent," or running along the stalk; a broad strip
at the base of each leaf is attached to the stalk.
Docks too are far too numerous among the grass. They are very
troublesome weeds; they are perennials, and they also scatter a great
deal of seed. They have large clusters of small flowers without any true
petals. The leaves are very large and pointed, growing on long leaf
stems. The stems of the Dock are tough, and they blunt the mowers'
scythes and the knives of the mowing-machine.
Some people have a good word even for the Dock. They say that a Dock
leaf wrapped round the part stung by a nettle will lessen the pain;
others advise us to rub the part with Dock _seed._ I do not think myself
that either remedy has much effect; but the leaves of the Sorrel, which
is a relative of the Dock, _will_ lessen the pain of nettle stings. Mrs.
Hammond always uses Dock leaves to wrap round the pats of butter which
she sends to market.
Above us, in the hedge, are two of the sweetest flowers of the farm. The
pink Dog Rose is one. The petals of each blossom are five in
number--what a number of five-petalled flowers we have seen! The leaves
have five, or sometimes seven, serrated leaflets, one of which is always
at the end of the leaf stem. These leaflets are not always perfectly
straight; sometimes the pointed end turns a good deal to one side.
Of course we want to gather some of the flowers--who does not want to
gather Roses? We want some fully opened blossoms and many of the dainty
buds. But the straggling stems of the Rose soon teach us the truth of
the proverb: "No Rose without a Thorn." The stems are thickly covered
with thorns; these are not only sharp, but hooked as well, and we do not
get our bunch of roses without a scratch or two.
The other beauty of the hedge is the Honey-suckle--a lovely flower which
may also be a dangerous weed. The tight grasp of its strong twining stem
will soon seriously injure any young tree to which it clings. Here it is
doing little harm, and we need only think of the clusters of fragrant
flowers. Each cluster grows at the end of a stalk. Some are pale pink,
others golden yellow, while some are almost white. After the blossom
comes the bright red berry which contains the seed. The leaves grow in
pairs. Those low down on the stem have leaf stalks, but the upper ones
are sessile on the stem.
Taking care not to trample the grass, we have strolled down the
hedge-side till we have reached the other end of the field, where there
is a ditch. At once there is a fragrant scent in the air--a scent like
that of almonds. It is the Meadow Sweet which grows on the banks of
streams or damp ditches.
[Illustration: MEADOW SWEET.]
It is a beautiful plant, as well as a fragrant one. At the top of the
tall stems are large clusters of small five-petalled flowers,
creamy-white. The stem itself is handsome; it is often three or four
feet high, smooth, stout, and of a reddish colour. The large leaves grow
alternately on the stem; they are made up of several pairs of leaflets
with a single leaflet at the end. The upper surface of the leaves is
dark green, but the under side is generally covered with a soft white
The scent of Meadow Sweet is very pleasant in the field to-day, but I
think we should find it rather too strong if we took a bunch into the
house. Yet Queen Elizabeth is said to have loved Meadow Sweet strewn on
the floors of her apartments.
IN THE CORN-FIELD
One morning early in July, while we are having breakfast at Willow Farm,
we ask Mr. Hammond if he thinks we shall find any flowers in his
wheat-field. The farmer laughs and says he hopes we shall not, but he is
very much afraid that we shall. As we are here on purpose to look for
flowers we are glad to find them anywhere. Mr. Hammond thinks more about
his crops than about flowers, and does not care to see a single blossom
in his corn, however pretty it may be.
We are soon at the field, and there is no mistake about the flowers
being there too. Close to the gate, where the wheat is not quite so
thick as elsewhere, there is a splendid patch of scarlet poppies. This
is perhaps the very brightest wild flower that we have.
Some plants, as we have seen, are annuals, others are perennials. An
annual only lives for one year. The plant springs up from the seed,
grows through the summer, and in the autumn or the winter dies. A
perennial lives for many years. The flowers fade and fall as those of
annuals do; even the leaves and stems may droop and die. The roots and
lower part of the stem do not die; they live in the ground through the
winter, and in the following year fresh stems appear. The White Clover
which we found in Ashmead is a perennial, the Crimson Clover is an
If you sowed a patch of your garden with Poppy seed you would have the
flowers growing there year after year. You might therefore say, "Surely
the Poppy is a perennial. I only sowed the seed one year, yet the
poppies appear again and again." That is because the plants sowed their
own seed. The flowers faded; then the seed-cases shed their seed upon
the ground. Next spring the seeds produced fresh plants. Most annual
wild flowers sow their own seed in this way, but we must not mistake
them for perennials because year after year they grow in the same place.
In your patch of garden you can easily prevent the poppies from growing
more than one year if you wish to do so. All that is necessary is to
pick off every flower before it fades. Then no seed will fall and you
will be rid of the poppies.
Mr. Hammond might do the same, you think, if he wishes to rid his field
of poppies. But you see there are many poppies growing among the wheat
all through the field. To get at each plant and cut off all the flowers
would trample down the wheat and do more harm than good. All that the
farmer can do is to have as many weeds as possible hoed up while the
wheat is young and short. Even then many more come up later in the
The seeds of the Poppy have no pappus like those of the Thistle and some
other plants; they are not blown far away by the wind, but fall close to
the plant. There are, however, an immense number of very tiny seeds in
each seed-case, as we see by opening the round cup-like case on a stem
from which the flower has fallen. This great number of seeds adds to the
difficulty of getting rid of poppies.
We, I am afraid, are hardly sorry that the poppies are among the corn
to-day. The glorious scarlet blossoms give a rich fiery tint to the
On a Poppy plant close to the gate there are several blossoms. Some
of them are fully open, some of them are still only buds. You see a
difference between the open flowers and the buds at once. The open
flowers stand upright on the stalk; the buds hang down.
Here is a bud just opening. The green case, called the calyx, which
contains the scarlet petals, is already partly open; it is splitting in
half, and the flower will soon be out. Then the calyx will fall off.
Here is a blossom from which the calyx has just dropped. The four large
scarlet petals, two of which are slightly larger than the other two,
have lain inside all crumpled up--not neatly folded as is the case with
most flowers. Yet in a very short time after the calyx has dropped off,
the sap will flow into the petals and will smooth them out. They will be
as glossy, smooth, and shining as the other blossoms fully open on the
The brilliant Poppy is more beautiful than useful--to the farmer and the
bees at any rate. Most flowers contain nectar, but the Poppy has none at
all. If the bees come to it, it is for the dusty yellow pollen to make
The seed pods of some flowers open when ripe, and the seeds fall out.
In others the pod or case does not open but rots away. The Poppy has a
different way of scattering its seed. There is a ring of tiny holes in
the seed case, and through these holes the seed is shaken out. The
leaves are long, but vary a good deal in size and shape. The stems are
covered with stiff and bristly hairs.
IN THE CORN-FIELD (_continued_)
Besides the poppies there is Charlock in the field; not much, Mr.
Hammond will be glad to know, for he has been trying for many years to
get rid of this plant altogether. Pretty as the yellow blossoms of the
Charlock are, it is one of the most troublesome weeds which the farmer
has to fight. It is only an annual certainly, and each seed-pod holds no
more than six or seven seeds. The seeds, however, are oily, and this
oiliness preserves them. If they are ploughed deep into the ground, they
may live there for several years, and will produce a plant when turned
up again by the plough or the scuffle.
Mr. Hammond tells me that some years ago this field was full of
Charlock, and in the early summer there would be more Charlock than
wheat to be seen. This is how he got rid of it. Every year he ploughed
the field and got it ready for the crop as early as possible. Then the
Charlock sprang up before the crop of corn or turnips was sown; thus it
could be rooted out. Still, as we see to-day, there is a little left,
though it is growing less each year.
Charlock is wild mustard. There is more seed than blossom here to-day,
for the flowering time for Charlock is in June. If we chew some seed
from a pod, we shall find it hot and biting to the tongue. In some parts
of England many farmers grow mustard as one of their crops.
Near Willow Farm some farmers grow mustard as a catch-crop. They sow it
in autumn, as soon as another crop has been taken off the field. In the
spring it is eaten by sheep, or else it is ploughed in. A catch-crop
ploughed in like this enriches the land. Moreover a number of weeds are
buried with the catch-crop before they have time to blossom and to shed
The yellow blossom of the Charlock is pretty, and the Poppy is the
finest scarlet wild flower we have. There is a third flower among the
wheat to-day, the beautiful blue Corn Flower or Corn Bluebottle. It is
no more welcome to the farmer than the Poppy and the Charlock are. It is
a perennial, and therefore difficult to get rid of. Moreover when we
pull up a stem we find it quite hard work, it is so tough. These tough
stems blunt the sickles of the reapers and the knives of the reaping
[Illustration left: CREEPING FIELD THISTLE.]
[Illustration right: FIELD SCABIOUS.]
[Illustration left: EVERGREEN ALKANET.]
[Illustration center: CORNFLOWER.]
[Illustration right: SMALLER BINDWEED.]
To us it is only a very beautiful flower. The florets in the centre of
each blossom are dark purple, but the outer ones are of a brighter blue.
The leaves are long and narrow; those near the bottom of the stem are
rather broader than those higher up. The stems themselves are not round,
but angular. We can feel corners or angles as we hold one in our hand.
They are also covered with a kind of down.
There is another flower which we shall see better if we come to the
stubble field after the wheat is cut; but some of it is near the gate
to-day. This is the Smaller Bindweed. We see that it is a relation of
the Large Bindweed in the garden hedge. It has leaves and flowers of the
same shape, but the flowers are smaller, and are pink and white. Those
of the Large Bindweed are rarely anything but pure white.
This is another troublesome weed here. It does not climb, as the Large
Bindweed does, but creeps along the ground, twining round everything it
meets. In the potato field it is often even more troublesome than here.
Corn is _cut_, but potatoes are _dug_ out of the ground. The Small
Bindweed forms such a thick carpet over the field, and twines round the
potato stems so closely, that it is often very difficult to dig up the
Here is another little flower which I am glad to show you now, the
Scarlet Pimpernel. This and the Poppy are the only _scarlet_ wild
flowers we have. There are many _pink_, and also many _purple_ flowers,
but only these two are really _scarlet_.
The Pimpernel differs from the Poppy in almost everything except its
colour. The Poppy has a tall stout stem and its blossoms are very
large. The Pimpernel trails on the ground and has tiny flowers. The
blossoms of the Poppy have four petals, those of the Pimpernel have
five. These are a beautiful scarlet, but not _quite_ so bright a scarlet
as those of the Poppy.
The leaves grow in pairs, and the small bare stalks which carry a flower
at their ends spring from the stem beside the leaves. The leaves are
sessile on the stem. Turning a leaf over we find that on its under side
are black or dark purple spots.
The blossoms of the Pimpernel close up when rain is near, and it is
often called the Poor Man's Weatherglass. Sometimes, but very rarely, a
plant is found which has pink, or even pure white blossoms. There is
also a blue Pimpernel. Another Pimpernel is the Bog Pimpernel; but we
shall not find it in this dry field of corn, as you may guess by the
One more flower we will look at, and then it will be time to leave our
corn-field and to search elsewhere. Growing on the hedgebank at the side
of the field is a pretty lilac-blue flower on a long bare stalk. It is
the Field Scabious.
The blossoms are in shape like a round ball very much flattened--like a
round pincushion. There are no large petals here, as with the Poppy, but
a great number of small florets. Those on the outer edge of the blossom
are larger than those inside. Each floret is a tiny tube or pipe.
The leaves are on separate stalks from those which bear the flowers, and
they grow in pairs. They are divided into several pairs of lobes, with a
single lobe at the end of each leaf. Some leaves grow from that part of
the stem which is underground, and these are larger than the others, and
are sometimes of a different shape. Both the leaves and the stem are
ON THE CHASE
We have now seen a good many Flowers of the Farm; we have found them in
the coppice, on the garden wall, and in the fields. To-day we will go a
little further off, three miles away.
You say, "Surely that is a long way off for the farmer to have a field."
It is not exactly a field. The Chase is a great open common or moor,
which belongs to the village or parish where Willow Farm is. Nearly all
the people of the village have certain rights of pasturage on it; they
may let their horses and cattle and sheep graze there. Every now and
then Mr. Hammond sends some of his sheep to the Chase to feed there for
a few weeks. It is very high dry ground, and that is good for sheep.
The road runs through the middle of the great common without any hedge
or fence on either side. There are horses and sheep and cattle here on
this May morning; donkeys too. All the sheep are marked, and we soon see
some which belong to Willow Farm; they are stamped on the back in large
letters "W.H." for William Hammond. A farmer easily knows his own horses
and cows; sheep are less easy to recognise, and are usually marked.
One of the flowers of the Chase we see at once. In whatever direction we
look across the common there is a perfect blaze of gold--the blossoms of
the prickly Gorse or Furze. Spring is the time to see its mass of golden
yellow blossoms best; but I do not think there is a week, or even a day,
in the whole year when some of the flowers are not out. Did you ever
hear the saying, "Kissing is out of season when the Gorse is out of
bloom." That is never!
The Gorse flowers are beautiful and their scent is sweet. As to
gathering them, however, there is a terrible difficulty. The flowers
grow among long sharp spikes which cover the stems closely; you would
almost as soon gather nettles! There are very few real leaves, and they
are small and not easily seen; but the thorns are beautiful to look at,
if not to touch--they are such a rich dark green.
Nor is Gorse a useless plant. If the prickly stems are bruised or mashed
a little they form a fodder which animals like. Indeed, a pony near us
seems to enjoy them as they are; he is tearing off and eating piece
after piece from a Gorse bush. His mouth must be less tender than ours!
Later in the summer we visit the Chase again to find some flowers that
were not out in May. On our way we pass a potato field in blossom--a
very pretty sight. These blossoms are a palish purple, but sometimes the
potato flowers are white.
The Hairbell is a flower which we shall now find on the Chase--a great
contrast to the stout and thorny bush of Gorse. The Hairbell's stem is
almost as slender as a thread, although it stands upright. Each blossom
is a dainty little blue bell of five petals. White blossoms are
sometimes found, but not often.
There are leaves as well as flowers on the stem. Growing from the lower
part of the stem, close to the ground, we may perhaps find some broader,
rounder leaves; perhaps not, however, for these lower leaves soon wither
and die away.
The Hairbell loves to grow where there is fresh pure air. Here on the
Chase we are high up; it has been a long steep climb from Willow Farm,
and we are more than five hundred feet above sea level. Far below us, a
few miles away, we see a broad river on which steamers and sailing-ships
are passing up and down. Away to the west is the sea, from which a
breeze is nearly always blowing across the Chase. No wonder that the
little Hairbell loves the spot.
We have found a yellow flower and a blue one on the Chase, and now we
have not far to look for something red. Here is a clump of Heath or
Ling, and not far off a patch of Heather too. We must be careful to
distinguish Heath from Heather; let us look at the Heath first.
On the Heath, as on the Hairbell, we find bell-shaped flowers; but the
blossoms of the Heath are very small, and grow from a tough woody stem.
They are a reddish-purple. On little side branches growing from the
stems are the very tiny leaves. The whole plant is low, bushy, and
[Illustration: HEATH AND HEATHER.]
The flowers of the Heather are rather larger, deep crimson in colour,
and grow in clusters. On the flower stems grow very small narrow leaves;
there are generally three of them together and they do not grow so
thickly as the leaves of Heath. Among these leaves are some that are
made up of several leaflets.
Gorse, Heather, and Heath are spreading plants, and, if they were
allowed to grow unchecked, they would soon smother and destroy the
turf. Every few years therefore the Chase is burnt. In winter or spring
both Gorse and Heath burn easily, the fire spreading fast from one patch
to another. The smoke of the burning Chase may then be seen from many
When the fire has burnt out, the Chase looks very black and dismal. But
the roots and underground stems of both the Heather and the Gorse are
still alive. Fresh shoots will grow, and soon the Gorse will be golden
in the spring, the Heather purple in the summer, as they were before.
IN THE LANES
This is the last day that we can spend in looking for wild flowers at
Willow Farm. Perhaps some of you already knew something about flowers
before this visit. If so, you may have been disappointed that we have
not seen some favourite flower of your own. You may think we have
passed over many flowers which deserved to be noticed.
For that matter I think _every_ wild flower deserves to be noticed; but
we certainly should not have time for all. I showed you several plants
growing on the walls and roof, because it was interesting to see that
quite beautiful flowers, such as the Wallflower and the Houseleek, could
grow with very little soil. We looked rather closely at the Clovers and
at the Grasses in the hay-field, because these plants are important to
the farmer; they are part of his crops. Then, too, we noticed several
weeds which do him harm.
To-day I am going to take a kind of holiday. I shall show you three
flowers, not because they have much to do with the farmer, but because
they are great favourites of my own.
None of these are very common at Willow Farm, although I know where to
find each one. We will go first down the little stony lane which leads
from near the foldyard gate to the cottages where the shepherd and the
bailiff live. Here we shall find the Alkanet. It is a perennial, and it
blossoms here year after year. I only know one other place in the
village where it grows. Like some other flowers we have seen, it is not
really a native of England.
It has a very beautiful blue blossom, a little like the blossom of the
Forget-me-not which perhaps you know, but the flower of the Alkanet is
of a deeper, richer blue. Here again, as with so many other flowers we
have seen, the blossom is formed of the five lobes of a corolla. In the
centre of each blue blossom is a small white spot.
The blossoms grow in little clusters on a short stalk, and on this stalk
there is always one pair of small leaves. The leaves on the main stems
of the plant are larger; the lower leaves have stalks, but those on the
upper part of the stem are sessile. The leaves are hairy, and so are the
stems, which often grow two or three feet high.
We saw that the Poppy and the Pimpernel were the only two true _scarlet_
wild flowers of our fields. In the same way there is only one other
English wild flower which has such a _deep blue_ blossom as the Alkanet.
That is the Borage; and the Borage, like the Alkanet, is not really a
native of England. For a fine golden yellow flower I do not know
anything which can beat the Dandelion. If we have not seen _every_ wild
flower which grows at Willow Farm, we have at any rate seen three which
have the deepest and richest colours.
Now for my next favourite. This time we go to the shady lane leading
from Willow Farm to the church; that is the only place near here where
I have found the Lesser Periwinkle. There is also a Larger Periwinkle,
very similar to my favourite here, except in size.
[Illustration: LESSER PERIWINKLE.]
To find the Periwinkle in full flower we should have to come in spring,
but, though it is July now, we shall still find a blossom here and
there, I hope. Even in winter we might do so too.
The Lesser Periwinkle has a blue flower, but the blue is a pale lilac
blue. Here again the petals are really the five spreading lobes of the
corolla. There is something curious about these lobes. They are of a
peculiar irregular shape that is not easy to describe; they are not
exactly pointed, and they are not regular in shape. You could cut the
petal of a Buttercup into two equal parts; it would be almost impossible
to do this with the lobes of the Periwinkle blossom.
The leaves are dark green, glossy and pointed, and they grow in pairs.
Often, however, we find two pairs of leaves growing so closely together
that they seem to grow in fours. The leaves are evergreen; they do not
fade and die in autumn.
Some of the Periwinkle stems are erect and are about six inches high;
others are creeping. It is only the erect stems which bear flowers; the
creeping ones are barren. They do useful work, however, for they form
fresh roots, as we have seen the stalks of some other plants do. In this
way the whole bank beside the lane has become covered with the pretty
The Periwinkle is a comparatively small plant. The last flower--the
Foxglove--that we shall see at Willow Farm is quite different. It is a
very tall plant. It is generally described as growing from three to five
feet high, but I have seen a stem of eight or nine feet. We shall find
it growing on the hedgebank in Little Orchard, and it also often grows
Some plants, as we know, are annuals, others are perennials. The
Foxglove is neither; it is a biennial--that is a two years' plant. If
you sow Foxglove seed you will have no flowers the first year, only a
root and a great bunch of leaves. In the second year tall stems which
bear the flowers will appear. In the autumn after it has flowered the
Foxglove generally dies, though sometimes it may live for another year,
or even two. Foxgloves, of course, will reproduce themselves by seed, as
annuals and perennials do.
The Foxglove is something different from anything that we have seen as
yet. The flowers grow on short flower stalks and hang down from the
tall stems, a great many on each stem. Here there are no petals, but
what we see and admire so much is the bell-shaped corolla, purple-red in
colour. This purple bell is spotted with white inside. Bell-shaped is
perhaps not a very good description; the flower is more like a large
thimble or the finger of a glove.
"A glove for a fox--that is the meaning of the name," you perhaps say.
No, it has nothing to do with a fox. Many years ago nearly everyone
believed in Fairies, and the Fairies were often called the Good Folk or
Good People. It is they, and not the fox, who were supposed to use the
purple blossoms as a glove. If you say "Folk's Glove" quickly, you will
see how easily it comes to sound Foxglove. So our last thought among the
flowers is of the Fairies, in whose existence hardly anyone believes
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