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Introducing…a Natural History Lexicon!

Recently, it came to my attention that in the popularization of nature, many of us have been left in the dust on proper vocabulary and terms for the  things we encounter. Our effectiveness wavers when this happens, and despite a personal appreciation of the dismissal of formalities, a greater vocabulary for all is undeniably means for a better world. I am no different than many, because while I know birds well, I can’t name every structure on a plant nor many those of most invertebrates; I too will be a learning much.

So, while things can seem semantic to the non-professional, I think that we could all do with a livelier vocabulary. As of today, I embark on a quest to enliven your idiolect, so we can be a little more fluent in the dialect of natural history (knowing more about the natural world is another undeniable good in my book). Some of the words introduced may make some of us say “Duh,” but please keep those thoughts to yourself. I’m operating from this vantage: most of us don’t know as much as we think and hubris can bar us from real learning.

“The doorstep to the temple of wisdom is a knowledge of our own ignorance.”

Benjamin Franklin

And with that, here’s your first word:



Stamen are the male portion of a flower. Many flowers are hermaphroditic, bearing both male and female parts, but some only carry one or the other. This Common Camas (Camassia quamash) flower has both and is considered a “complete flower.”  Stamens consist of a filament, the stalk, on the end of which dangles the anther (prominent in this image). Pollen production happens on the anther, intended to drift off, on a pollinating animal or simply in the wind, to fertilize another flower nearby. Collectively the stamens of a flower are called the androecium, which is a big word I don’t expect anyone to be using in everyday discussions of plants. But from now on, you have to say stamen instead of “those pollen thingies.” We’ve still got plenty of summer to enjoy some flowers, you might as well learn a bit about them.

And don’t you worry, we’ll talk about other flower thingies at a later date.


  1. Jean Mills

    Hi Brendan, Wonderful! I eagerly await your tutorials. Jean

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