7 Sep 2015

Seeing what's there

I need to buy a Wattle Field Guide.


I'm pretty sure that this is Golden Wattle, Australia's national floral emblem...

...but I'm fairly sure that this one is not. The phylodes are too large, and look at their wavy, lobed shape.



Then there are these...

and these...


and this glorious beauty...

and these just beginning to bloom...

and these scrubby ones, which should be exquisite next week.

Every year I blog about the glory of the wattle in spring, and yet this is the first season I've realised quite how many different varieties there are around our peaceful home. All of these photos were taken in one half hour journey between Jemimah's dance studio and our town last Monday. And there were more, only I was never going to get home the way I was going, and I was in a rush.

So what is it that's made me really look at the wattles that grow by the roadside, more than eight years after we started CM style nature study? What made me realise how many different varieties there are?

It was starting my Book of Firsts.

In past years it was enough to just post on FB that the wattle was in bloom, or was looking glorious, or was making me happy, but this year I want to document that the Cootamundra wattle, Acacia baileyana, is in full, glorious bloom and the Golden Wattle, Acacia pycnantha is just putting up its first flowers. Which is all very well, but what do I say next? That the spiky wattle is flowering, or the one with full heads of yellow? Or the one with wavy phylodes? If I can't identify between them, I can't write them in my book, and it is frustrating me no end to have to resort to saying, "The varied wattle species are looking magnificent right now."

I suppose it shouldn't really surprise me that the Book of Firsts is so much more than a list of plants. I shouldn't be surprised that it's teaching me to see, to be Eyes, not No-Eyes, because this skill of observation is so entwined in all of the Charlotte Mason method, isn't it?

We train the powers of discriminating observation from an early age using what Miss Mason calls Sight-Seeing (Home Education p 45) and mental Picture-Painting (p 48). Later we encourage our kids to mentally see whole words, not just individual letters, when doing copywork. We train them using picture study to tell what they observe. We instruct them to accurately paint what they see outside in their nature note books. We ask them to make lists of birds and animals they've caught sight of. Why should it surprise me, then, how powerful the Book of Firsts has been in improving my power of observation?

My Book of Firsts has been a constant delight to me this year. It gives me such satisfaction to document the first bloom, the firsts sprout, the first snow pea. And, pleasingly, it is just going to get more and more interesting as we get to compare this year's entries with those of the next and the year after that.

Perhaps by then I may even be able to identify a few more wattles. Which brings me back to the beginning.

I need the buy a Wattle Field Guide. Can anyone recommend a good one?



  1. This is the first time a "Book of Firsts" makes sense! Thanks!

  2. The Australian Native Plants Society (Australia) recommends Rogers, F, Field Guide to the Wattles of Victoria for your part of the world!

  3. Lovely! :) Your observations about the Book of Firsts is so interesting to me. Thank you.

  4. Having never heard of wattles, I can't recommend a field guide. But I admire your thirst to know more. I recall seeing a hawk in our backyard a few years ago and thinking it looked smaller than a red-tailed hawk. I spent a bit of time researching and learned that it was a red-shouldered hawk. We have quite a few hawk species out and about around here, and I enjoy being able to name them correctly when I see them.


I'd love you to leave me a message. Tell me what you like - and what you don't. Just remember that this is what we do in our family - it doesn't have to be what you do in yours...