...is a promise of the resurrection.

Month: November 2015

Out & About: Maple

DSC01084Emily Dickinson said, “November always seemed to me the Norway of the year,” but she didn’t live in the mountain South!  Our nature study class was blessed by warm breezes and sunny skies this week when we met at Warrior’s Path State Park to consider “winged” seeds.  One seed with a tight case is called an akene, while a seed case with a wing attached is known as a samara.

As part of our seed dispersal study, we’ve observed seeds that fly with fluff or feathers, seeds that are forcibly projected from the parent plant, seeds that hitchhike on animals and people, and those that are eaten by animals and “scattered” (ahem) as the animal travels about.  But winged seeds are different because they are produced primarily by trees which need to send their “little wanderers” far away lest the parent plant overshadow them with shade, deprive them of water, or deplete the soil’s nutrients.

DSC01114Several trees disperse winged seeds: Elm, Ash, Pine, and Tulip Poplar (our State Tree) to name a few.  But the focus of our brief object lesson was Maples (Red, Sugar and Silver) because it’s the perfect time of year for them to be abundantly visible.  Their seeds ripen in September and usually fall in mid-October around these parts.  The seeds of the Maple are paired to form “keys” which are very familiar to even the smallest child as “helicopters.”  Usually only one seed develops in the pair and you must dissect the fruit to determine which holds the seed, but having two wings instead of one boosts the likelihood of more distant dispersal.  On our walk we found the samaras of (left to right) Tulip Poplar, Maple and Ash.


DSC01088We also discovered that right now the Tulip Poplars are ripening and sending their “little wanderers” out into the world.  Here’s a photo of a Tulip Poplar seed pod (also known as a fairy broom).  When we spied the pods high in the tree, a few of our guys took that opportunity to help disperse the seeds by flinging sticks at the seed pods (and were rewarded with showers of winged seeds!)DSC01087






DSC01095A  little farther on we found an interesting vine climbing a dogwood tree.




DSC01096At first glance the children thought it looked like Pokeweed (which we studied earlier this Autumn), but on closer inspection they discovered several differences.  (Pokeweed on the left)  Instead, we identified this as the fruit of a Virginia Creeper.  We were all very familiar with the flower, but not the fruit!



DSC01093And of course we couldn’t end our walk without everyone rolling simultaneously down a steep hill!  (Unfortunately I didn’t have a wide-angle lens to capture all 20 kids!)





DSC01105 DSC01103 DSC01091When we returned to the shelter for journaling and observation sharing, we were treated to some “hitchhikers” with whom we’d become acquainted a few weeks ago (Devil’s Beggar-tick or Bidens frondosa), a beautifully scented flowering vine (Virgin’s Bower or Clematis virginiana), and a very cool fungus we have yet to identify!  We conducted a little experiment of our own to see which samara flew the longest distance.  The winner:  Maple, hands down!

It’s interesting that once you learn about something in nature you notice it wherever you go.  And that’s part of the beauty of Nature Study: Developing a relationship with or connection to our natural surroundings.  Knowing about things is not the same thing as knowing them personally.  When you really know something, you care about it — it matters to you.  And each new discovery can enrich our lives exponentially!  Charlotte Mason alludes to this when she says, “The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care?  In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” (Volume 3: School Education, p. 170)DSC01110




Come, Little Leaves

DSC01054It’s a glorious Autumn day here where the Appalachians meet the Smokies.  My mom is a lover and writer of poetry, and each year on a particularly gorgeous Autumn day she calls (by request) to recite one of her favorites:  Come, Little Leaves by George Cooper.  It is a beloved family tradition that she started in my childhood, and it just wouldn’t be Autumn without it!

“Come, little leaves,”
Said the wind one day,
“Come over the meadows
With me, and play;
Put on your dresses
Of red and gold;
Summer is gone,
And the days grow cold.”

Soon as the leaves
Heard the wind’s loud call,
Down they came fluttering,
One and all;
Over the meadows
They danced and flew,
Singing the soft
Little songs they knew.

Dancing and flying
The little leaves went;
Winter had called them
And they were content-
Soon fast asleep
In their earthy beds,
The snow laid a soft mantle
Over their heads.

DSC01049Don’t miss the glories of this season!  Take every opportunity to be outside smelling the fallen leaves (no other smell like it) and basking in the colors.   If you live in an area where the leaves change, take a tip from Charlotte Mason who encouraged us to “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.”  (Volume I, page 42.)  Take a walk, sit on the porch, dine alfresco, or pitch a tent in the yard for the last outdoor slumber of the year.  You will be refreshed!



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