June 15, 1852


in Thoreau’s Journal:

By half past fives robins more than before–crows of course & jays. Dogsbane is just ready to open. Swallows. It is pleasant walking through the June grass (in Pleasant meadow) so thin & offering but little obstruction. The night hawk squeaks & booms. The veratrum viride top is now a handsome green cluster 2 feet by 10/12. Here also at well meadow head I see the fringed purple orchis–unexpectedly beautiful–though a pale lilac purple–a large spike of purple flowers. I find two–one answers to the O. fimbriata of Big & Psycodes of Gray–the other the grandiflora of Big– & fimbriata of Gray. Big. thinks it the most beautiful of all the orchises. I am not prepared to say it is the most beautiful wild flower I have found this year– Why does it grow there only–far in a swamp remote from public view? It is somewhat fragrant reminding me of the ladies slipper. Is it not significant that some rare & delicate beautiful flowers should be found only in unfrequented wild swamps.– There is the mould in which the orchis grows. Yet I am not sure but this is a fault in the flower– It is not quite perfect in all its parts– a beautiful flower must be simple–not spiked.– It must have a fair stem & leaves– This stem is rather naked & the leaves are for shade & moisture. It is fairest seen rising from amid brakes & hellebore, its lower part or rather naked stem concealed. Where the most beautiful wild flowers grow–there Man’s spirit is fed–& poets grow– It cannot be high-colored growing in the shade. Nature has taken no pains to exhibit–and few that bloom are ever seen by mortal eyes. The most striking & handsome large wild flower of the year thus far the I have seen.