A Nature Study
Children really can learn flower identification.
It’s only that they are not often shown.
Have a look at the illustrations of these wildflowers of late summer and see if you can spot any in your area.
Point out simple characteristics to children. Older children may like to start a nature notebook with simple observations exercises. It all helps practice writing and reading a sort of homeschool but through nature study.
Younger children might prefer more imaginative stories about the plants, or a discussion on the colours and the scent of a plant, or a tactile experience.
So, as well as a few characteristics by which to identify and any garden conservation notes, below are also a few more sensory and imaginative pointers to get youngsters into actually looking at what nature is in their neighbourhood or garden.
Erect branched stems with flower heads at the tips. Individual flowers are small but clustered in a tubular shape and pink in colour. Green, narrow, lance shape leaves often with a dark blotch in the centre. Flowers mid to late summer. Popular with insects and seeds for the birds.
See how the flowers seeds of the Redshank fall off easily on an older flower stalk. A younger stalk won’t release the flowers so easily, touch different ones to see which will release their flowers and seeds. Leave the seeds for the birds to collect.
Sometimes also called Yellow Trefoil or Hop Clover.
Count the leaves and compare with other clover or shamrock to see how they look similar? What are the differences?
Black Medick has a creeping habit. What does creeping mean? Follow the stems of the plant back to the roots to see how far it has ‘crept’ while growing.
Black Medick is a funny name isn’t it? as its yellow, maybe this poem helps:“Why are we called ‘Black’, sister, When we’ve yellow flowers!” “I will show you why, brother: See these seeds of ours? Very soon each tiny seed Will be turning black indeed!”
“Black Medick Fairy” from the “Fairies of the Wayside” 1948 by Cecily Mary Barker.
Mary Cecily Barker illustration of the Black Medick Fairy
Cecily Mary Barker’s The Flower Fairy series have many beautiful illustrations of the flowers and trees and their fairies. The illustrations are true to the plant’s characteristics and are a simple way to introduce children to the common names of different flowers.
At Flowerfairies.com – which is a bit of a frilly looking website for me – there are useful downloadable activity sheets for searching out the flowers.
This is a member of the dead nettle family, but no sting here! Found in woodlands and hedges, and there is also a garden variety. Hedge Woundwort comes with tall flower spikes with clusters of six flowers arranged around the stalk in levels. Flowers are pinky purple and each has upper and lower lips as petals.
Can you feel the prickly leaves or are they more soft and furry?
The stalk itself is quite stiff and if sliced up is square in cross-section. That’s the numbers four and six just in one flower, you know I like looking for shapes. That’s quite intricate shape hunting as it involves slicing the plant but it could be an investigation for older children.
Hedge Woundwort’s name would have derived from its use in traditional herbal remedies.
Nature Studies awaken the senses.
With all these studies and investigations it’s not so much the correct identification but the actual awakening of the senses. With the younger children touch them , feel them , smell them. Become aware of the role they play for other insects and animals in the garden. Draw simple pictures. See the beauty in each flower that is nearby, we don’t always need trips to museums or lots of books to discover awe-inspiring things.
For older children encourage them to see what is around them. Maybe they can identify and research the correct name . Nature inspires that sense of awe and care, in nurturing that we stand a greater chance of our children growing into adults who care about the world around them, how can they care for something if they don’t even know that its there?
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