This section is from the "The New Student's Reference Work Volume 5: How And Why Stories" by Elinor Atkinson.
Lower down, hidden in wire grass, were yellow-flowered sorrel, with acid leaves that the children liked to nibble. There was many a sturdy bunch of butter and eggs, with their cream and gold, lipped and spurred blossoms set on spikes, the country cousin of the >snap-dragons of gardens. There were seed spikes and broad leaves of dock and plantain ; the peppery seed sprays of the tongue grass, that gave a feast to all the pet canaries in the neighborhood, and the catnip mint that made pet pussies go into spasms of delight. But these plants only added to the green of the leaves. The purple notes in the riot of yellow were given by the royal heads of the thistles, the reddish purple spikes of the iron weed, and the violet and lavender ray-flowered clusters of wild asters.
Boys At Work In A School Garden Under Direction Of A Teacher.
Photo, Brown Bros.
A Group Of Girls At Work In A School Flower-Garden.
Photo, Brown Bros.
For several days the children were puzzled by an odor as sweet as that of lilies of the valley. It could be smelled only at night, when the garden lay dim and dewy under the moonlight. The perfume was traced to weedy stalks with small green-sheathed buds. They were not noticed by day, but opened pale, yellow, five-petaled rose-shaped flowers, after night fall. It was the evening primrose that grew in the shelter of dense thickets of golden-rod and asters. Big moths visited the primrose by night. In the day time the shrivelled blooms held drops of honey so sweet that wasps with steel blue wings passed all the open flowers by, to drink that nectar.
Above the whole field insects were always on the wing. À little white butterfly was fond of the purple thistle. Bumble bees visited the thistles, the field clover and the butter and eggs. It was very funny to see a heavy, buzzing black and yellow bumble bee drop on the lower lip of a butter and eggs blossom, tip it down and force its greedy head into the long honey-filled spur. Little honey bees liked the white clover best. The golden-rod plumes, when in full blossom and gold-dusty with pollen, were always spotted with little black beetles that could scarcely be shaken off. This same little jetty beetle liked the dandelion pollen, too.
Gauze winged dragon flies darted here and there; grasshoppers by hundreds leaped and clicked their wings, and robins and jay birds from a nearby park made raids on the grasshoppers. A dozen varieties of butterflies were seen by day, and many a moth by night. On every dewy morning the webs of spiders were strung, with diamonds. The caterpillars had spun their cocoons on the stoutest of the weed-stalks, and flies grew sluggish in the cool nights. In dry places, and between the cracks of the walks, were little domes of sand, honey-combed with tiny holes. These were doors to underground houses of red and black ants.
Soon there were many seeds flying about—seeds of the dandelion, the thistle, the golden-rod, the milkweed. There were seeds with tails and wings and gauzy sails, and hooks and bursting pods. Every breeze loosened and scattered them. When frost came and killed the blossoms, the garden was a feeding ground for birds that ate the scarlet hips of the wild roses and the seeds of weeds.
One sunny day of Indian summer, late in October, some boys digging for pupas of beetles that had gone to sleep in the ground, found a nest of field mice, and caught a glimpse of a chipmunk on a rotting stump. It was sitting on its haunches eating an acorn from the park. Alarmed by some noise they made, it whisked its tail and vanished. The hole to its underground home was found between the roots of the stump, hidden by feathery ferns and mosses. The school was wild about the discovery. So the teachers got books and pictures, and a dozen rooms were busy for a month studying and writing stories about chipmunks and ground and tree squirrels.
The wild garden furnished this school living things to study all the year around, in plants and insects. Don't you want to know some of the things they found out? You can find most of these plants and insects by many waysides in the country, and on vacant lots in cities. And you can get help in understanding them by looking up their names in this book.