A Sand County Almanac

Silphium Symbol Analysis

Silphium Symbol Icon

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 A Sand County Almanac quotes below all refer to the symbol of Silphium. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Time and History  Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ballantine Books edition of A Sand County Almanac published in 1966.
Part I: July Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Aldo Leopold (speaker)
Related Symbols: Silphium
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
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Silphium Symbol Timeline in A Sand County Almanac

The timeline below shows where the symbol Silphium appears in A Sand County Almanac. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part I: July
Time and History  Theme Icon
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
In July, Leopold is especially happy to celebrate the “prairie birthday” of the Silphium plant, which blooms in a stretch of unmoved prairie protected by the fence of a... (full context)
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
Each year, Leopold calculates, 100,000 people drive past the patch of Silphium. But of those people he bets only twelve or so would even notice if it... (full context)
Time and History  Theme Icon
Types of Knowledge Theme Icon
The Value of the Land Theme Icon
Ethics and Ecology Theme Icon
...or even people from other cultures who we did not know well or personally. The Silphium, for example, will not be missed by those who know it “only as a name... (full context)