COLLECTIVE NOUNS

 

A collective noun (aka company term) is a word used to describe a collection or group of things, like pack or kennel of dogs. This practice goes back many centuries. The earliest known reference is the Book of St Albans (1486) which lists “a compilation of matters relating to the interests of the time of a gentleman.” More recently James Lipton produced An Exaltation of Larks (1st ed, 1968) in which he brings to light the term venery – an ancient practice denoting specific groups of individual animals primarily as it relates to “the hunt.” The Game of Venery, started in the 15th century by English gentry, consists of creating poetic, collective nouns and the challenge of knowing and using them appropriately. I introduced students to wordsmithery and collective nouns in my biology classes often using selections as extra credit on tests. The students liked the practice; many would immediately turn to the bonus section. But one thing that always troubled me as a botanist and gardener was how animal centric the terms were. Accordingly, over the years I have accumulated a list of collective nouns relating to gardening and plants. These company terms are lifted from various sources, but some are original – my contrivance. As you will discover, many are whimsical and humorous as well as instructive, with a distinctively midwestern flavor. Some collective nouns are technical and longstanding, with the quantified thing omitted or implied (e.g., corolla). However, most are generally an informal part of language; i.e., there is no standard, but you may be surprised at just how many have become part of accepted everyday lingo. I offer this contemporary and evolving compilation (see below) for you to use and enjoy. Contact THE MAD BOTANIST with corrections and/or additions. Attribution appreciated.

 

TERMS MOSTLY NOT EMPLOYED (in my list), too generic (i.e., broadly applicable): bag, bale, basket, bed, bouquet, bunch, bundle, cache, clump, cluster, collection, colony, crate, field, forest, grove, handful, harvest, line, load, orchard, patch, pile, plantation, row, sack, stack and stand. Also excluded are most specific measures (e.g., bushel, cord). The bulk of things being collectivized are listed as plural (e.g., drift of dandelions), but this seems awkward and redundant. I await a ruling from professional linguists.

MAD BOTANIST'S LIST OF COLLECTIVE NOUNS FOR GARDENING & PLANTS

[for all]  a (an) _______

 

sledge or slip of acorns

cling of adhering plant parts

joy of almonds

androecium (all the stamens of a flower)

sea of anemones

barrel or crisp of apples (picked)

orchard of apple trees

ascent of arborists

bundle or stink of asparagus

pando or trembling of aspens

bunch, comb or hand of bananas

hill or flatulence of beans

holiday of beeches

punnet of berries

tangle of bindweed

advance of birches

regret of gout weed (or other difficult to eradicate introduced ornamentals)

shiner of black-eyed Susans

flourish of blossoms

oleo of blue bonnets

pile or mountain of boulders

foray or gathering of botanists (in field)

bounty of blueberries or huckleberries

chamber of boxwoods

band of brassicas

aggregate, barrier, tangle or thicket of brambles/briars

bavin of brushwood or kindling

luck of buckeyes

eruption or surprise of bulbs

hedge or shrubbery of bushes

annoyance or matting of burrs (plant hitchhikers)

pain of cacti (see also fungus)

calyx (all the sepals of a flower)

army of caterpillars

rise of cattails (or other emergent plants)

cliché or minefield of chestnuts (fruits, since forests [plural collective noun] were annihilated by blight)

ember of chili peppers

buzz, drone, plague or swarm of cicadas

dropping, kick or scattering of cones

excurrency of conifers (see also pine)

shock, sheath or tassel of corn

ear of corn (conglomerate of individual fruits, caryopses)

corolla (all the petals of a flower)

galaxy of cosmos

bale of cotton

depletion or field of crop scientists

eddy of currants

drift or host of dandelions

calendar of dates

diurnum of dayllies

avoidance of devil's walking stick

outbreak of disease (epiphytotic)

pack of dogwoods

herbarium of dried plants

niche of ecologists

nodding of elders

occasion of ephemerals

chain of events

field or plain of farmers

fiddle of ferns

bundle or faggot of firewood

stole of firs

roberta of flax

flora (plants of a particular region or habitat)

bouquet or patch of florists

caste of flowerpots

bouquet, bunch, nosegay or vase of flowers (picked)

display of flowers (in situ, single plant)

garden or patch of flowers (in situ, multiple plants)

  inflorescence (arrangement of flowers on a plant) specific types (ament/catkin, capitulum/head, corymb, cyme, glomerule, panicle, raceme, spike, thyrse, umbel, verticil, etc.)

extinction or layer of fossils

board foot, coop or stalk of foresters

enchantment, intoxication or memory of fragrant plants

cornucopia of fruit(s) (see also infructescence)

bounty of fruit (all produced by a single plant)

colony or troop of fungi (see also mushrooms)

fungi (collection of at least two species)

fungus (collection of two or more of the same species)

also applicable to cacti, moss, etc.

funguses is clumsy and grating, as is cactuses

shedload of garden tools

allotment, compost or sprinkling of gardeners

genet (colony of genetically identical individuals produced asexually, each individual plant being a ramet)

stink-o of ginkgos

gobsmack of gomphrena

advance of goldenrods (or other aggressive natives)

bunch, cluster or wrath of grapes

vineyard of grapes (whole plants)

lawn or turf of grass

patch or tuft of grass (small area or individual)

fistful of grasses

mess of greens

groundcover (low-growing, spreading plants, one or more species)

gynoecium (all the pistils of a flower)

bale, bundle or truss of hay

dickory of hickories

invasion or skeleton of bush honeysuckle

mug or pocket of hops

horde or luego of hostas

brothel of hydrangeas

hast of impatiens

infructescence (an ensemble {single mass} of fruits derived from the ovaries of an inflorescence - aka collective fruits, e.g., aggregate, multiple) some falsely so, if not fused (e.g., multicarpellate capsules) like hibiscus

army of insects (crawling)

swarm of insects (flying)

colony of insects (nesting)

infection, nightmare or troublesome of invasive plants

involucre (all the bracts of a flower)

optic or wave of irises

jamboree of junipers

eyesore of ugly landscapes

hell, stand or wreath of laurels

hustle of lawn maintenance workers

foliage (leaves collectively, attached)

phyllotaxy (arrangement of leaves on a stem) alternate, opposite, sessile, whorled

autumn, pile or rake of leaves (fallen)

shield or symbiont of lichens

gild of lilies

thicket of mangrove

canvas or grove of (sugar) maples

marsh of mallows

sprig of mint

bank of money plants

dawn of morning glories

carpet or covering of moss(es) or liverwort(s)

   specifically: cushion, mat, turf, weft

what-the-fuck or OMG of mulberry weed (or other unwanted weeds - overwhelming sudden appearance)

mess of mushrooms (picked, to be eaten)

cluster or troop of mushrooms (in situ)

tribe of natives

fatality of nightshade

majesty of oaks

rope or weeping of onions

pocket of oranges

coterie or rarity of orchids

greasing of palms

crime of passionflowers

patch of pawpaw (trees)

blush of peaches

pod of peas

shake of pecans

droop of peonies

perianth (surrounding non-reproductive parts of a flower)

perigonium (all the tepals of a flower)

pucker of persimmons

infestation of pests (invertebrates)

shepherd of phlox

longing or whisper of pines

garden, greenhouse or nursery of plants (being grown) also, arboretum, estate, garth, grounds, hedge, park, parterre, plot, shrubbery or yard (see also general terms); may also imply a specific arrangement (allée, block, drift, mass)

   community of plants (wild & sharing a common environment, e.g., bog, fen, forest, meadow, oldfield, prairie, savanna, etc.)

   family of plants (wild and related, genetically and via root interconnectivity)

   flora (plants of a particular region or habitat)

   (see also genet and individual specific names)

rash of poison ivy

mass of pollen (in situ)

cloud or sneeze of pollen (aerosolized)

mommy of poppies

bed or stand of reeds

paddy of rice

prickle or war of roses

hurry of rushes

heap of sand

curiosity or force of scientists

edge of sedges

pinch, handful, packet, bag or sack of seeds

touch of sensitive plants

butchery of sheared or pollarded plants

arboretum, hedge or shrubbery of shrubs

flex of spinach

bundle of sticks

annoyance or matting of sticktights (plant hitchhikers)

henge of stone fruit

graveyard of stumps

reservoir or thickness of succulents

vincent of sunflowers

key, clade or classification of taxonomists

stand of timber (uncut)

fall or flat of timber (cut)

arboretum, clump, copse (small trees), coupe, forest, grove, monoculture, orchard (deciduous or fruit), spinney (small copse), stand, stillness, stock, thicket or wood of trees

something of a conundrum when using a collective noun with trees unless referring to a specific species (e.g., a wood of hickories); moreover, wood refers to a smaller delineated area

shed of tools

tub of tubers

pursing, tepal or tiptoe of tulips

tangle of vines

shrink of violets

headache, stain or tumble of walnuts

drift or littering of waterlilies (or other floating plants)

overwhelm or wicket of weeds

shaft, sheaf or shock of wheat

bend of willows

blizzard of winterberries

wood (cut) dependent on the measure

can, clew or mouthful of worms

gloom or quiver of yews