Flora and fauna

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Because the nouns flora and fauna usually appear together—the phrase flora and fauna refers to the plants and animals of a given area—it’s easy to forget which denotes plants and which denotes animals. Both are usually treated as mass nouns applied to large groups of things, although they do have plural forms—floras and faunas (which most dictionaries recommend over florae and faunae)—should you ever need them.


Fauna, which comes from the name of a Roman fertility goddess, refers to animals. Although the word is often treated as plural, it’s traditionally a singular noun encompassing a collection of things (sort of like other mass nouns such as wildlife or sushi). Here are a few examples of the word in action:

Analyse the lie of your garden, its compass orientation and the fauna that is around it to get the best out of your plants. [Telegraph]
The underground passage now provides a safe link for local fauna between the Mary Cairncross Reserve and nearby state forest. [View News Sunshine Coast]
But, other times the local fauna takes the initiative to get its own food. [Craig Daily Press]


Flora, which derives from the name of the Roman goddess of flowers, refers to plants. It’s easy to remember because flora sounds a little like flower. Like fauna, flora is a singular noun that encompasses a collection of things. These writers use the word well:
We all know what that means —woods will be fenced off, access denied, and the wildlife and flora that depends on the forests for its habitat will suffer. [Bromsgrove Standard]
To start this process it is important to first make sure you have good bowel flora. [NewZealand Herald]
Casa Labia in Bloom is a festival of multimedia art inspired by South Africa’s indigenous flora. [Independent Online]