What is ‘Flora and Fauna’?

The planet Earth is a beautiful place to live in. Life has flourished on the planet, thanks to the bountiful sun and vast oceans of water. No matter where we go on the planet, there are stunning plants, flowers and animals that catch are attention. They are two very important aspects of any eco-system. Of all the living organisms on the planet, the most commonly seen by us are the plant life and the animal life. Apart from these two, more forms of life abound in the earth, but are harder to see with the naked eye. This is why the flora and fauna i.e. plant and wildlife of the earth are fascinating to observe and study.

In this technological era, humans interact more with gadgets that it’s almost impossible to find time to interact with nature. When vacation period knocks, they make up for that by traveling to exotic locations to trek through untamed trails, or just drive to see an army of fearless animals. This is enabled by flora and fauna spread across different parts of the world.

Flora and fauna are words originating from Latin. Flora in Latin means goddess of the flower. Flora is also derived from the word floral, which means relating to flowers. Therefore flora is a group of indigenous plants in an ecosystem of a geographical region. The origin of the word fauna is a bit shrouded in mystery. According to Roman mythology, Fauna refers to the goddess of fertility. Fauna is sometimes referred to as Fauns, meaning forest spirits. By definition, fauna is a group of indigenous animals of any geographical region.

So, the term flora and fauna was coined by biologists to refer to a collection of plant and animal specifies in a given geographic location. This is why you hear phrases like flora and fauna of India, flora, and fauna of Indonesia and so on.

Venus_fly_plants

What is Flora?

Flora is the name given to the collective plant life that grows or once grew in a certain area or during a given time period. It usually refers to the native plant life present but does include new species that have been introduced as well. The flora and fauna of the earth have names derived from Latin.

In the language, ‘Flora’ was a goddess of flowers and plants. In the Roman mythology, she was the goddess of fertility. And so, the plant kingdom came to be known as Flora. The study of the plant life around the world is very interesting since is makes different classifications of the flora.

Plant life on the earth can be distinguished from each other in a number of ways. The simplest is to divide on the basis of region. Plants that grow specifically in the mountains will be very different from those that grow in the desert. Similarly, the plants that have adapted to living underwater are treated as a unique form of flora. Scientists can also study ‘Fossil Flora’, which comprises of plant life that was found in pre-historic times. The current flora and fauna of the earth is also divided on the basis of the environment in which it is grown or seen naturally.

When we talk about ‘Native Flora’, we are referring to the plant life that is indigenous to a particular region. Cacti are the native flora of deserts all over the world. They can grow in most weather conditions but are native to the sandy dunes of deserts. When we refer to ‘Agricultural Flora’, we are talking about plant life that has been grown by humans for a certain purpose.

They may or may not be native, but are used by humans for their own needs. Similarly there is ‘Garden Flora’ or ‘Horticultural Flora’, which are plants grown for decorative purposes. And then we have the ‘Weed Flora’, which are plants that are either undesirable in certain areas or invasive within the native plant life.

What is Fauna?

Fauna on the other hand, is theĀ  name given to collective animal life that lives or was once found in a certain area or time period. In Latin, Fauna is derived from three different sources. Fauna by itself was the name of a Roman goddess representing fertility and the earth and Faunus was another Roman god. And then there were Fauns, which were known to be forest spirits.

Both the flora and fauna of the earth have been given sub-divisions. Fauna is also distinguished in many different ways. However, these ways are much more complex than floral divisions because animal life has evolved into many different forms.

To begin with, the animal kingdom by itself is Fauna. However, within it we have the ‘Avifauna’ that refers to the birds and ‘Piscifauna’ referring to the fish. These are simpler classifications, since they do not cover small single celled organisms such as bacteria and virus. They also do not account for the microscopic organisms that abound in nature but cannot be seen by the human eye. Such animal life is known as ‘Microfauna’. Much of the flora and fauna of the earth can be seen, but there is a very large percentage that has yet to be named and even discovered.

This is why classifications such as ‘Cryptofauna’ arise, which refers to animals that are extremely rare and may even be mythological. There are also ‘Microfauna’, which refers to the extremely small animals and ‘Megafauna’, that talks about the large animals we usually see.

Planet earth has been blessed in more ways than one. We have complex ecological systems that not only provide us with resources, but make the world a more beautiful place to live in. Little of this would be possible without the varying flora and fauna of the earth.

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Importance of Flora and Fauna

  1. Maintains ecological balance

Without flora and fauna, humans cannot exist. The flora generates and releases oxygen, which is needed by the fauna for respiratory purposes. In return, the fauna produces and releases carbon dioxide, which is needed by the flora for photosynthesis. It’s a symbiotic kind of relationship. In the same line, humans cannot get by without both flora and fauna. The oxygen that we breathe in comes from the flora, and the carbon dioxide we exhale is vital for the flora.

Also, humans benefit a lot from flora and fauna in regards to sources of food, medicine, and water. Our main source of food emanates from plant and animal species. Over 90% of medicine we use to cure diseases comes from flora. If it were not for the flora, there would be no water, which means we would not exist right now.

Animals also maintain the equilibrium across the board by predating on plants and other animals that could have otherwise exploded in regards to population. They also enable other rare species of plants to mushroom by pollinating other plants. Animal droppings is a source of fertilizer for plants. When animals die, they act as supplemental mineral for plants. Also, microorganisms on the Earth’ surface benefit from abundance of food as a result of animal droppings.

  1. Aesthetic value

It’s a no-brainer that humans love and appreciate nature. Many like spending time in outdoor settings such as forests, natural areas, parks and other green spaces because of their aesthetic value. This aesthetic value is mainly contributed by spread of flora and fauna. Statistics tell the story, each year, up to half a billion people visit beautiful protected sceneries like national parks, recreation areas, indigenous forests, historic sites, wildlife refuges and wild and scenic rivers to experience the beauty of the landmarks. This further underlines the significance of flora and fauna to our day to day lives.

  1. Expands local economies

Flora and fauna contribute mightily to most world economies regarding tourism. For example, flora and fauna of Amazon attract numerous scientists and explorers. It’s estimated that the Amazon rainforest contributes about $50 million dollars to the Brazil economy. Exotic vacation locations like the Caribbean, Bahamas, Panama, Indonesia and so on attract more tourists than any country due to the widespread flora and fauna.

Examples of Flora

Manchineel tree

It’s a flora that falls under the species of flowering plants in the spurge family. It originates in northern South America and southern North America. It bears grapes that can result in rashes if you’re wet. It’s not advisable to shelter under it when it rains since it produces milk that causes burns and blisters. Also, desist from eating its fruits as they cause the same effects to your mouth and throat.

Giant redwood trees

We are used to the typical trees growing in our city parks or neighborhoods. Some species of fauna exist that grow to astronomical heights. The Giant redwood tree is a classic example. This kind of tree is considered the largest and tallest on earth. In fact, one specimen registered well above 350 feet tall.

Giant redwood trees are native to the north coast of California. The conditions here that include humid and rainy weather encourage such astronomical growths. The nature of these tree species growth allows roads near the Sequoia National Park to snake through them. The canopy of these trees provides home for a wide range of bird species. The forest below harbors most animal species.

Nepenthes

Giant redwood trees and Machineel tree are photosynthetic; which means they manufacture their own food from the sun rays. However, other kinds of flora take a lot more proactive approach to developing their own food. Nepenthe is a typical example. It’s classified under the family of pitcher plants and originates from the jungles of Borneo. These floras have adapted leaves, which form a huge pitcher structure. The pitcher contains sweet smelling liquid meant to attract insects and even some minute frog species. The insects and frogs drop inside the pitcher, but coming out becomes impossible due to the smooth, slippery sides of the pitcher. The pitcher also contains digestive juices that immediately begin to act and digest the insects and frogs, enabling the plant to benefit from nutrients not present in the soil.

Welwitschia Mirabilis

Welwitschia Mirabilis is one plant species that doesn’t like rain. It’s native to the Namib Desert and thrives in the driest conditions on the planet. Oddly enough, it only features 2 large leaves that wrap around it depicting a wilted or dry plant. Despite its less attractive nature, this plant species is capable of living for more than 1500 years. This is possible due to its characteristic deep root system that can tap underground water even in the driest conditions.

Examples of Fauna

Coral

You might be surprised to see coral in this list. Apart from typical furry mammals such as bears and wolves, aquatic animals like corals, most insects on land and jellyfish make up the fauna. Coral reefs are the eye-catching colored landscapes beneath the ocean surface. On sight, you might think they are plants, but they are animal species constituting the fauna of the ocean. Corals are immobile animals, and so they feed by picking out prey that swims by, for example, the zooplankton. An example of a coral is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, which is the largest natural coral on the globe. It harbors thousand of flora and fauna in warm shallow water in proximity to the equator.

Southern Toadlet

This animal species features an olive to dark brown body and wrapped with many small warts over its body. It also has a black and white marbled look around its belly. The Southern Toadlet thrives in damp habitats such as drainage lines, woodlands, scrubland, dry forests, and grassland. This animal species is native to the south-east of South Australia, south Victoria, and eastern Tasmania.

Eltham copper butterfly

It is an endangered species of butterfly. Eltham area in Victoria supports a greater population of this kind of butterfly. This butterfly species was initially discovered near Eltham in 1938. It was later thought to be extinct in the 1950s. The Eltham Copper butterfly is small yet glittering species of butterfly coupled with bright copper coloring above its wings. The copper coloring makes it clearly visible in the course of summer flight season.

There are hundreds of thousands of flora and fauna species across the globe. Flora and fauna bring out the true beauty of planet earth and enables humans to experience two separate worlds in one. The fact flora and fauna contribute to a well-balanced ecosystem; it’s only natural that we take steps to preserve them to enjoy their benefits to the end of time.

Image credit: donsutherland1 , Ollie_57

Rinkesh

Rinkesh is passionate about clean and green energy. He is running this site since 2009 and writes on various environmental and renewable energy related topics. He lives a green lifestyle and is often looking for ways to improve the environment around him.