Aconitum uncinatum, wild monkshood, Ranunculaceae, growing at the Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA

Flat Stanley’s visit to Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA

One beautiful September Saturday, Flat Stanley, my daughter, and I went to a place called Garden in the Woods, a woodland botanic garden in Framingham, Massachusetts, 342 miles, or nearly six-hour-drive, from Stanley’s home in Charlestown, Maryland.

The garden is owned by the New England Wild Flower Society, which cultivates plants native to New England. The society  also offers instructional walks or hikes for children and families, as well as programs for adults  about horticulture and gardening, botany and conservation, and art in nature (photographing and drawing nature).

map of the Garden in the Woods
map of the Garden in the Woods

Some of the plants at the Garden in the Woods are common, but others are rare, because they might grow in only one, small, area of the world, or have been over harvested because of their beauty or medicinal value.

Some plants also are losing their habitat because of new developments that people are building, climate change, or because invasive species are taking over their area.

display about invasive and native plants in New England at the Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA
display about invasive and native plants in New England at the Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA

Invasive plants are plants that usually grow in another area, and were brought in to New England by humans. Some of those plants spread beyond the gardens in which they were planted, into natural areas, like forests and meadows, and the native plants might not be able to grow much anymore, because the invasive plants have taken over.

Garden in the Woods grows these rare native plants in their gardens and collects and stores their seeds so that they can be replanted in the wild.

Garden in the Woods has many beautiful plants, but among some of the most interesting are those in the pitcher plant collection.

Pitcher plants are plants that trap, and EAT, insects!

the one pitcher plant species native to New England, Purple Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea, sarraceniaceae
the one pitcher plant species native to New England, Purple Pitcher Plant, Sarracenia purpurea ssp. purpurea, sarraceniaceae

The leaves of pitcher plants are tube-shaped, and look like pitchers because the end of the leaf bends out and down, like a spout of a pitcher.

The leaves have downward facing wavy patterns on the inside part of the leaf that let insects in, but make it hard, or impossible, to get out. So the insects  attracted to the plants by the smell of their nectar, end up being eaten instead, after they drown in the liquid at the bottom of the “tubes” or “pitchers”!

Only one species of pitcher plants is native to New England – the purple pitcher plant, Sarracenia purpurea.

Here are a few other plants you can find in bloom or bearing fruit at the end of September at the Garden in the Woods:

The garden also has a play area, built with natural materials, that includes a labyrinth, discovery “habitat” boxes, and tree forts or teepees.

Flat Stanley and my daughter had quite a bit of fun playing in that area.

Flat Stanley

The post you see above was written for students in a fourth-grade class in Charlestown, Maryland, one of whom sent me his Flat Stanley to take around with me for a month.

For those of you who have never heard of Flat Stanley, Stanley is a character from children’s book series, who got flattened when a bulletin board fell on him. He was perfectly fine after that, just flat as a sheet of paper, and that flatness allowed him to travel by mail. Starting in the 1990s, thanks to the original Flat Stanley project, teachers all over America (and now the world) have been using Flat Stanley as an opportunity to teach their pupils about geography and the world, by asking students to create their own Flat Stanleys and sending them out to relatives and friends living in another state or another country.

Flat Stanley's template from the Flat Stanley Books site
Flat Stanley’s template from the Flat Stanley Books site

There are two other sites about Flat Stanley: Flat Stanley Books and Flat Stanley, which seems to be a newer Flat Stanley Project, connected with the publisher of the books, and which also allows a “Flat Stanley exchange” that matches schools that would like to run the project with volunteer Flat Stanley hosts.

You have to register and have an account to be able to join the exchange and communicate with other Flat Stanley hosts or senders.

Over the month of September and October 2014 I had the pleasure of hosting a Flat Stanley from Maryland, and showing him around Massachusetts.

As you can see in the pictures, my Flat Stanley looks different than the Flat Stanley Books template included in this post, so I’m not sure where my friend’s son’s teacher got his template. Nevertheless, I was more than happy to help with the project. If you’d like to participate in the project, register with the “Flat Stanley exchange” and specify whether you’d like to be a host or a sender.

I’m not the only one blogging about Flat Stanley, by the way – you can  read a wonderful blog post full of pictures “Mr. Stanley Goes on Vacation to Lake Monticello, VA” by Lake Monticello Living, about Flat Stanley’s visit to Michie Tavern, Carter’s Mountain Orchard, and Ashlawn-Highland (home of President James Monroe).

I’m sure there are many more people blogging about Flat Stanley. (If you’re one of them, feel free to mention your post in the comments below.)

I also found a very interesting post whose writer sent out little drawings of herself to her pen pals all over the world – read “It Comes with Love from Me to  You” by Sincerely Kate.

More about the Garden in the Woods

The property encompassing  the Garden in the Woods was donated to the New England Wild Flower Society in 1965 by Will Curtis and his partner, Richard H. Stiles. Curtis bought the property in 1931, when it was used as mine gravel for rail beds, and turned it into a wild flower garden, focusing on North American native plants, and instead of designing formal flower beds, arranged plants in more natural way.

In addition to the Garden in the Woods, the New England Wild Flower Society also runs the Nasami Farm Nursery in Whately, MA and owns and manages eight sanctuaries in New England, of which seven are open to the public.

When you visit the New England Wild Flower Society web site, don’t overlook the Go Botany subsite, funded by the National Science Foundation – a wonderful, fully illustrated, database of plants that helps the user identify over 3,000 New England plants by narrowing down the choices from questions starting with: Which group best describes your plant? Woody? Aquatic? Grass-like? and so on.

If you are not sure how to start, you can view the Tutorial for Go Botany:

then view the “How To Look at a Plant” or any other video on the Go Botany YouTube playlist.

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By the way, if you like reading about travel, and especially if you write about travel, consider joining the #WeekendWanderlust bloggers on Facebook.

join the #WeekendWanderlust bloggers on Facebook and Twitter
join the #WeekendWanderlust bloggers on Facebook and Twitter

Thank you for reading, and, as always, comments are more than welcome!

13 thoughts on “Flat Stanley’s visit to Garden in the Woods in Framingham, MA”

  1. How interesting! I never thought that plants could be “pushed out of the habitat” and completely disappear. I believe that if they find conditions are similar to their native habitat, they can grow anywhere in the world. These botanical gardens do a great service to the flora of our planet.

    1. Thank you for stopping by and commenting galanda23 (travelnotesandbeyond)! From what I understand the invasive species do have a way of taking over the habitat and pushing out or “smothering” the native plants, though I haven’t found in any of the brochures I picked up at the Garden in the Woods information about plants becoming extinct. It’s not really that far fetched, if you think about it, since it’s harder for plants to travel than for animals.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting Love Traveling. Yes, the Garden in the Woods is full of trees, of course, so I suppose it could be called an arboretum. Come spring you should do a blog post about Ogród Botaniczny in Warsaw or Konstancin 😉 A piece on the Tężnia in Konstancin would be interesting too, though in the wintertime you’d probably rather be indoors. How about a post about Zamek Królweski? They allow photography as long as you don’t use a tripod or flash.

  2. I am so incredibly honored and flattered that you linked my blog post to this! If you’re interested, I have also sent flat squirrels before– search “SKuirrels” via my blog if you’d like to find them, hehe.

    Anyway! This was such a lovely post– the sort of thing I would have liked my pen pals to do with the flat me. You are doing a great job raising your daughter, and making both memories and lessons for her. All the best!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and for commenting, Sincerely Kate! I’m glad you liked the post and I will definitely keep an eye on your blog as well to see what adventures your Flat Kate’s been having. Let me know if you’d like to host a Flat Stanley 🙂 I’ve suggested this project to my daughter’s teacher and she seems receptive!

        1. Apologies for the delay in replying, Sincerely Kate.

          A Flat Stanley host basically takes Flat Stanley around with her to a few places she happens to visit the month she’s hosting him and snaps a few photos with him in the foreground, though a blog post, a letter, and brochures from places you visited with Flat Stanley are definitely welcome. My daughter’s teacher might do this project, so if she does, I’ll be in touch! 🙂

  3. So fun! We haven’t been to Garden in the Woods, but it looks like a fun afternoon destination. Have you been out to Tower Hill? So pretty!
    We don’t have kids, but we thought of doing something like Flat Stanley for everyplace we visit; we haven’t yet though. Such a fun idea!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Kelly (@KRod0519) and for commenting! I’m glad you liked the post. We haven’t been to the Tower Hill, but I’ve heard it’s very pretty, so we should plan a visit there some time. I’ve suggested the idea of the Flat Stanley project to my daughter’s teacher and she seems receptive, so if you’d like to host a Flat Stanley, let me know!

  4. I really like that Garden in the Woods has so many activities for people like art in nature and that conservation is one of their objectives. Where I lived in hot, humid, tropical Malaysia had a lot of pitcher plants, so I was quite surprised that there are species that can withstand the New England climate, too. Many, many years ago, my cousin’s daughter did a Flat Stanley project, and we had a chance to show Flat Morgan all around Austin, Texas. Here’s the link:

    1. Thank you for commenting, Malaysianmeanders! And thank you very much for adding a link to your trip around Austin, Texas with Flat Morgan! I’ve never been to Texas, but I hope some day we’ll go there and then I’ll have your post to guide me on my journey. 🙂

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