To Leopold, the Silphium represents the wild prairie. An unassuming wildflower that goes unnoticed by most, to Leopold it represents the last remnants of wilderness. It only grows in patches of unmoved grass—by the highway, by the cemetery—and is noticed by few passersby. Just as few people stopped to notice the decimation of the natural world, or the death of the last bison or the last passenger pigeon, Leopold suspects few people will notice the mowing of the last Silphium, and with it, the end of the age of the wild prairie.
Silphium Quotes in A Sand County Almanac
The Highway Department says that 100,000 cars pass yearly over this route during the three summer months when the Silphium is in bloom. In them must ride at least 100,000 people who has ‘taken what is called history, and perhaps 25,000 who has ‘taken’ what is called botany. Yet I doubt whether a dozen have seen the Silphium, and of these hardly one will notice its demise. If I were to tell a preacher of the adjoining church that the road crew has been burning history books in his cemetery, under the guise of moving weeds, he would be amazed and uncomprehending. How could a weed be a book?
This is one little episode in the funeral of the native flora, which in turn is one episode in the funeral of the floras of the world. Mechanized man, oblivious of floras, is proud of his progress in cleaning up the landscapes on which, willy-nilly, he must live out his days. It might be wise to prohibit at once all teaching of real botany and real history, lest some future citizen suffer qualms about the floristic price of his good life.