August 20, 1851

in Thoreau’s Journal:

How copious and precise the botanical language to describe the leaves, as well as the other parts of a plant! Botany is worth studying if only for the precision of its terms, —to learn the value of words and of system.  It is wonderful how much pains has been taken to describe a flower’s leaf, compared for instance with the care that is taken in describing a psychological fact. Suppose as much ingenuity (perhaps it would be needless) in making a language to express the sentiments ! We are armed with language adequate to describe each leaf in the field, or at least to distinguish it from each other, but not to describe a human character. With equally wonderful indistinctness and confusion we describe men. The precision and copiousness of botanical language applied to the description of moral qualities!

The neottia or ladies tresses behind Garfield’s house.