COLUMN: My natural state: In awe, but clueless

Published: Thursday, May 2, 2013 at 06:03 PM.

So, let me get to the point. There are studies that have estimated that more than 1,600 plant species exist in the Southeast. One thousand six hundred! How many do you know? 

It’s pretty amazing to think that you can spend a lifetime out in the woods and still come upon something, pick it up, and not know what it is. I love the fact that you can constantly and continuously learn when outside in the forest. 

I am learning something new every day. I do have some favorites that you will enjoy: Toothache grass, rabbit tobacco, yucca, resurrection fern, turkey oak, sweet gum and Ilex vomitoria. Yes, vomit is in the scientific name. 

So, this Saturday when you are out in the woods with your friends and family and they ask you to identify something, clear your throat, hold your head up high and say with ignorant bliss, “I haven’t the foggiest idea.”


Paul Arthur is director of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center . The center is an environmental education facility serving students, teachers and visitors with engaging exhibits, instructors and animal encounters. Learn more at


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