|The Stories Mother Nature Told Her Children|
|by Jane Andrews|
|Mother Nature unfolds some of her most precious secrets. She tells about amber, about the dragon-fly and its wonderful history, about water-lilies, how the Indian corn grows, what odd doings the Frost Giants engage in, about coral, and starfish, and coal mines, and many other things in which children take delight. Ages 7-10 |
GOLDEN-ROD AND ASTERS
 DO you know that flowers, as well as people, live in
families? Come into the garden, and I will show you how.
Here is a red rose: the beautiful bright-colored petals are
the walls of the house,—built in a circle, you see. Next
come the yellow stamens, standing also in a circle: these
are the father of the household,—perhaps you would say the
fathers, there are so many. They stand round the mother, who
lives in the very middle, as if they were put there to
protect and take care of her. And she is the straight little
pistil, standing in the midst of all. The children are
seeds, put away for the present in a green cradle at their
mother's feet, where they will sleep and grow as babies
should, until by and by they will all have opportunities to
 come out and build for themselves fine rose-colored houses
like that of their parents.
It is in this way that most of the flowers live; some, it is
true, quite differently: for the beautiful scarlet maple
blossoms, that open so early in the spring, have the fathers
on one tree, and the mothers on another; and they can only
make flying visits to each other when a high wind chooses to
give them a ride.
The golden-rod and asters and some of their cousins have yet
another way of living, and it is of this I must tell you
You know the roadside asters, purple and white, that bloom
so plenteously all through the early autumn? Each flower is
a circle of little rays, spreading on every side: but, if
you should pull it to pieces to look for a family like that
of the rose, you would be sadly confused about it; for the
aster's plan of living is very different from the rose's.
Each purple or white ray is a little home in itself; and
these are all inhabited by maiden ladies, living each one
alone in the one delicately colored room of her house. But
in the middle of the aster you will find a dozen or more
 families, all packed away together. Each one has its
own small, yellow house, each has the father, mother, and
one child: they all live here together on the flat circle
which is called a disk; and round them are built the houses
belonging to the maiden aunts, who watch and protect the
whole. This is what we might call living in a community.
People do so sometimes. Different families who like to be
near each other will take a very large house and inhabit it
together; so that in one house there will be many fathers,
mothers, and children, and very likely maiden aunts and
bachelor uncles besides.
Do you understand now how the asters live in communities?
The golden-rod also lives in communities, but yet not
exactly after the aster's plan,—in smaller houses
generally, and these of course contain fewer families. Four
or five of the maiden aunts live in yellow-walled rooms
round the outside; and in the middle live fathers, mothers,
and children, as they do in the asters. But here is the
difference: if the golden-rod has smaller houses, it has
more of them together upon one stem. I have never counted
them, but you
 can, now that they are in bloom, and tell me
And have you ever noticed how gracefully these great
companies are arranged? For the golden-rods are like
elm-trees in their forms: some grow in one single, tall
plume, bending over a little at the top; some in a double or
triple plume, so that the nodding heads may bend on each
side; but the largest are like the great Etruscan elms, many
branches rising gracefully from the main stem and curving
over on every side, like those tall glass vases which, I
dare say, you have all seen.
Do not forget, when you are looking at these golden plumes,
that each one, as it tosses in the wind, is rocking its
hundreds of little dwellings, with the fathers, mothers,
babies, and all.
When you go out for golden-rod and asters, you will find
also the great purple thistle, one of those cousins who has
adopted the same plan of living. It is so prickly that I
advise you not to attempt breaking it off, but only with
your finger-tips push softly down into the purple tassel;
and if the thistle is ripe, as I think it will be in these
autumn days, you will feel a bed of softest down under the
 spreading purple top. A little gentle pushing will set the
down all astir, and I can show you how the children are
about to take leave of the home where they were born and
brought up. Each seed child has a downy wing with which it
can fly, and also cling, as you will see, if we set them
loose, and the wind blows them on to your woollen frock.
They are hardy children, and not afraid of any thing; they
venture out into the world fearlessly, and presume to plant
themselves and prepare to build wherever they choose,
without regard to the rights of the farmer's ploughed field
or your mother's nicely laid out garden.
More of the community flowers are the immortelles, and in
spring the dandelions. Examine them, and tell me how they
build their houses, and what sort of families they have; how
the children go away; when the house is broken up; and what
becomes of the fathers, mothers, and aunts.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics