Wild Words

A listing of words of note encountered in wild gardening.  Added to occasionally, as inspiration strikes.

Aedeagus.  Pertaining to the sex lives of butterflies.  The aedeagus is a penis-like organ of the male butterfly.  It’s kind of sci-fi: the sperm package (called spermatophore) is built within the body of the female butterfly; the male butterfly uses his aedeagus to first transfer into the female’s bursa copulatrix the tough outer envelope, after which he inflates it with the nutritious inner core, and caps the whole lot with sperm.

Antennae. Antennaes are the easiest way to tell crickets and grasshoppers apart. Crickets have long, whip-like antennae that are longer than the cricket’s body.  Grasshoppers have stouter and shorter antennae.

Apical dominance.  Relates to principles of plant biology.  Apical dominance is the primacy of the top growth of a tree, resulting in the transmission from above of growth suppressing hormones to lower branches, which keeps the top of the tree dominant in terms of growth and development. This can be manipulated using the techniques of nicking and notching.

Biophilia: This word was coined by Harvard evolutionary biologist Edward Wilson, and refers to our “innate tendency to focus on life and lifelike processes.”  It implies the human deep and instinctive love of nature.

“Wilson and other biophilia experts argue that the reason why a touch of the wild can be so healing has its roots in the depths of human psychohistory.  For millions of years our primordial brains evolved on the semi-wooded grasslands of the African savannah.  We feel most psychologically at ease when inhabiting similar landscapes, or when by the water’s edge, which for so long was a sign of abundant food.  Conversely, we can have a negative biophilic response to inhospitable landscapes, such as dense forests or parched deserts, which our ancient inner brains register as places to avoid.  An environment devoid of nature altogether – such as our tarmacked megacities – can be seriously bad for our health.” (Roman Krznaric, The Wonderbox; Curious Histories of How to Live, p.216)

Bursa Copulatrix: The sex organ of the female butterfly, which is a pouch within the female reproductive tract which receives the male butterfly’s spermatophore, which consists of a hard outer shell, soft nutritious innards, and a ball of sperm at the base.

Camouflage. Pertaining to a defence mechanism to melt into the natural environment so as to be virtually invisible.  Butterflies use camouflage in all of their states during tehir full life cycle.

Cannibalistic.  Pertaining to the eating of one’s own kind.  For example, Orange Tipped Butterfly larvae are cannibalistic, and as a result females only lay a single egg on each host plant.  We also noticed in spring 2020 that tadpoles were cannibalising tiny froglets.

Cruciforme.  Cross shaped.  The flowers of honesty (aka moonwort or moneywort) are cruciforme.

Nocturnal.  Pertaining to being active during the night, like bats and also – interestingly – butterfly pupa, of which some types, during some stages of their lifecycle, feed at night and during the day remain hidden at the base of their host plant.  Some plants – like flowering nicotine – are also nocturnal, or night blooming.

Phenology.  Pertaining to the study of life cycles.  Word encountered when researching the sex lives of butterflies.

Spermatophore.  The package of proteins and sperm delivered in the mating process from male butterflies to female butterflies.

Turgid.  The state of being full, swollen with water.  Inflated.  Stem cuttings should be taken in the morning when the plant is turgid.  (Turgid can also refer to inflated language, eg ‘bombastic.’)

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