Henry D. Thoreau's Life in the Woods


How many plants can you identify in your front yard? As you can see from the text above, Thoreau knew both the local, common names as well as the genus species names for the plants, trees, and bushes in his front yard. For your nature journal this week, either write about, collect, or draw a sketch of some of the plants you encounter during your time outside, and see if you can identify them. Can you identify the native plants such as the beautyberry bush or wild coffee as opposed to non-native or invasive species such as the Brazilian Pepper Tree??

Literary Connection

My house was on the side of a hill, immediately on the edge of the larger wood, in the midst of a young forest of pitch pines and hickories, and half a dozen rods from the pond, to which a narrow footpath led down the hill. In my front yard grew the strawberry, blackberry, and life- everlasting, johnswort and golden-rod, shrub-oaks and sand-cherry, blueberry and ground nut. Near the end of May, the sand-cherry (cerasus pumila) adorned the sides of the path with its delicate flowers arranged in umbels cylindrically about its short stems, which last, in the fall, weighed down with good sized and handsome cherries, fell over in wreaths like rays on every side. I tasted them out of compliment to Nature, though they were scarcely palatable.

The sumach (rhus glaba) grew luxuriantly about the house, pushing up against the embankment which I had made, and growing five or six feet the first season. Its broad pinnate tropical leaf was pleasant though strange to look on. The large buds, suddenly pushing out late in the spring from dry sticks which had seemed to be dead, developed themselves as by magic into graceful green and tender boughs, an inch in diameter; and sometimes, as I sat at my window, so heedlessly did they grow and tax their weak joints, I heard a fresh and tender bough suddenly fall like a fan to the ground, when there was not a breath of air stirring, broken off by its own weight.

(from Walden, Or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau)

An allusion is brief, usually indirect reference to a person, place, or event–real or fictional. Here, Thoreau refers to the Myrimidians, who were very skilled Greek soldiers led by Achilles, to emphasizethe ferocity of the battle.

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