Now that spring has (barely) arrived, I've decided to go treasure hunting with my kids, ages 6, 4 & 2. What for? Good question. Flowers, via The Burgess Flower Book for Children (BFBC). My oldest son *loves* anything written by Thornton W. Burgess. It seems to be the only avenue into nature study down which he will voluntarily venture with me. I feel like otherwise I'm dragging him away from his soccer ball or other game. He's not often interested in looking closely at nature on his own. (With his Dad he will - and I'm grateful for that! But Dad's not always available.)
But today was a different story. Today we started by reading the first chapter in BFBC. It was about Peter Rabbit discovering the first flower of spring (the skunk cabbage flower!). As usual, my son really enjoyed the chapter. We even looked up more pictures of the skunk cabbage online, and he drew the outline of one for part of his beginning to draw lessons.
Then, I took my two sons (ages 6 & 4) outside for a creek tramp to see if we could find the flower Peter Rabbit found. According to the book, they like wet, swampy areas such as low-lying edges of creeks or spring sites. Fortunately, there is a creek in our back yard that extends north into a wilderness area of an adjoining park. So, after 45 minutes of searching (and playing), we (I) found it! I was completely elated. I felt like an explorer discovering a treasure chest full of gold!
Previously I had had no idea if we even had skunk cabbage near us, and it was probably no more than 300 yards away from our house (though it takes awhile to get there with boys that age - and when you're scouring the ground for something quite small). What we found was no more than 6 inches wide and 4 inches across, and probably no more than 3-4 inches high. It blended in nicely with the decaying leaves around it, and honestly, we almost stepped on it. Here it is:
|Skunk Cabbage spathe containing yellow flowers|
Beautiful, isn't it? We took the book's word that if you get really close it smells like a skunk! It's interesting that this is the first flower of spring, and that it is so very protected by the hood (spathe) that the flowers can survive the frosts of February. A more in-depth description is here: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/plant-of-the-week/symplocarpus_foetidus.shtml
|Skunk Cabbage flowers on yellow spadix|
Later, I asked my elder son as I was kissing him goodnight: "Do you think you would like to keep reading The Burgess Flower Book and go treasure hunting to find the flowers?" He looked at me with a very contented, loving smile, and nodded his head. That's when I knew he had really enjoyed the afternoon (even though I sort of made them do it).
I'm looking forward to more treasure hunts.
(PS: Too bad The Burgess Flower Book for Children doesn't seem to be available free online anywhere! It may not be public domain yet. Used copies aren't cheap, but are available. There is also a reprint available.)