Cycles in Nature – Vocabulary for Children


active  Keeping a daily pattern of sleeping, eating, and moving about.

adult  The full-grown life stage of an animal, when it is able to reproduce.

alarm call  A sound made by an animal that tells other animals that a predator is nearby.

alternate  When twigs and buds are single along the branch, not directly across from each other.

annual  A plant that completes its life cycle in one year, living long enough to produce seeds and then dying.

anther  The pollen-making part of the flower, at the tip of the filament, where the pollen grains are found.

antifreeze  A substance that keeps water from freezing.

bark  The tough outer covering of a tree’s trunk, stems, and branches.

bee guide  Spots, dashes or lines on flower petals that guide pollinators to the center of the flower for pollen and nectar.

biennial  A plant that takes two years to complete its life cycle, growing roots, stems, and leaves in the first year, and then flowers and seeds in the second year before it dies.

bird call  Short, simple sounds made by birds, both young and old, male and female, at any time of the year, to communicate about danger, food, or to stay in touch with flock members.

bird song  A special pattern of notes sung by male songbirds in the spring and summer, to attract a female and defend a territory. Each species has a unique song that can be used for identifying the bird.

bud  Small bumps at the ends and along the sides of twigs that contain the beginnings of leaves, flowers and shoots for the coming growing season.

bud scale   A thin, tough covering on a bud that gives it protection.

bud scale scar  A series of rings on the twig, like threads on a screw, that show where the bud scales of a previous year’s buds grew. The distance between bud scale scars on a twig shows how much the tree grew in a year.

bundle scar  Dots within the leaf scars that are the remains of the tubes that carried water and nutrients in and out of the leaves.

cache  Stored food; or, to store away a supply of food.

cambium  A very thin layer of tissue between the inner bark and the sapwood, that builds new wood and new bark.

chrysalis  The papery-shelled pupa of a butterfly, inside which the caterpillar turns into an adult.

circumference  A measure of the distance around something.

cocoon  A protective case of silk, spun by a moth larva, in which it pupates and turns into an adult.

complete metamorphosis  In insects, changing from egg to adult in a four-stage process including egg, larva, pupa and adult, with a complete change during the pupa stage so the adult is very different from the larva in appearance, behavior, diet and habitat.

cotyledon  The starchy, food-storing part of a seed. Also called “seed leaf.”

dispersal  Moving to a new location, such as plant seeds with parachutes floating away from the parent plant.

dormancy  Sleeping for long periods of time in winter, though waking up occasionally to eat.

egg  The first stage in the life cycle of an insect; a capsule containing the tiny beginnings of an insect or other animal.

embryo  The tiny beginnings of a new plant or animal.

emerge  To come out of the egg or pupa case.

evaporation  Changing from a liquid to a gas, such as when water that is heated becomes water vapor.

fertilization  In plants, the combining of pollen with an ovule inside a flower. The fertilized ovule develops into a seed.

filament  A thin stalk that is part of the flower stamen, the pollen-bearing part of a flower, and that holds up the anthers and pollen.

flight calls  Sounds made by birds while flying, to communicate with others of their kind; often heard in flocks while migrating at night.

floret  One of the very small flowers in a flower head, such as those clustered into a single blossom in dandelions and daisies.

flower  The part of flowering plants where the seeds are formed, often with colorful petals and sweet nectar to attract pollinators.

flower head  A cluster of small flowers at the top of a stem, sometimes grouped into a single blossom as in dandelions, or more spread out as in goldenrods.

frass  The droppings of insect larvae.

gall  An abnormal growth on a plant caused by another organism, often an insect or mite.

gall-maker  An organism that causes a plant to form a swelling which it lives in or on during part of its life cycle.

generation  All the offspring born or hatched at about the same time.

habitat  The place where an animal lives, and where it finds food, water, shelter and a place to raise its young.

heartwood  Wood at the center of the tree trunk that is very hard and gives strength to the tree.

hibernaculum  A den, often underground, where an animal or group of animals spends the winter while hibernating.

hibernate  To spend the winter in a special body state with greatly-lowered temperature, breathing, and heart rate, not eating or leaving the den for many months.

hilum  The indentation on a bean or pea seed where it attaches to the pod.

hypocotyl  The tiny beginnings of a stem found inside a seed.

insect  A small animal with a hard outer skin, three body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), six jointed legs, two antennae, compound eyes and usually four wings as an adult.

instar  In insects, the stages between molts in the larva or nymph. The first instar hatches from the egg, the second instar is between the first and second molt, etc.

larva  The worm-like stage of insects that hatches from the egg and that is the main feeding stage, found in those with complete metamorphosis.

lateral bud  The buds on the sides of twigs.

leaf scar  In deciduous trees, the lighter-colored area on a twig that remains after a leaf falls off.

lenticels  Tiny, corky lines or dots on the bark of a twig that allow it to breathe.

life cycle  The stages an animal or plant goes through in its lifetime, from its beginnings until it grows up and can have offspring.

migrant  A bird that migrates and so is only here during a certain season of the year.

migrate  To make a regular trip, often of very long distance, between separate summer and winter habitats.

migration  A journey, often of very long distance, between separate summer and winter habitats.

mite  A tiny animal related to ticks and spiders.

nymph  An immature form of an insect that looks somewhat like a miniature adult but without wings, found in insects with simple metamorphosis.

offspring  The young of plants or animals.

opposite  When twigs and buds grow directly across from each other on the branch.

ovary  The bulb-shaped part of a flower pistil, in which the ovules form and develop into seeds.

ovule  A tiny structure inside the ovary of a flower that, when fertilized by pollen, becomes a seed.

pappus  The white downy fluff on a dandelion floret. It becomes the parachute when the seed is ripe and helps the seed to be carried by wind.

perennial  A plant that lives for more than two years, flowering and producing seeds each year and then dying back to the ground, with the roots living for many years and putting up new shoots in the spring.

petal  The flower parts that surround the pistil and stamens, often colorful to attract insect pollinators.

pistil  The seed-bearing parts of a flower, made up of the stigma, style and ovary.

pith  The inner core of a twig, which can have a different color, shape or texture from the rest of the twig.

plumule  The tiny beginnings of a leaf, found inside a seed.

pollen  Tiny grains produced in the anthers, that are needed for fertilization of the ovules, in order to produce seeds.

pollination  The carrying of pollen from one flower to another by wind or by insects, birds, or other animals, so that the seeds can develop.

pupa  The non-feeding stage in insects between larva and adult, during which the tissues and organs of the larva change into those needed by the adult, usually inside a hardened case or cocoon.

pupate  To turn into a pupa and change into an adult.

radicle  The tiny beginnings of a root, found inside a seed.

range  All the places where a particular kind of animal can be found over the year.

reproduce  To mate and have offspring, or in plants, to produce spores or seeds that grow a new generation of plants.

resident  An animal that remains in a place all year long.

rival  An animal competing for the same partner or territory.

sap  The fluid that moves through a tree’s trunk carrying food to the branches and leaves.

sapwood  Wood in the trunk of the tree that transports water and nutrients from the roots to the branches.

seasonal cycle  Particular stages in the lives of animals or plants that are timed to coincide with different seasons.

seed  In a flowering plant’s life cycle, a structure that contains the tiny beginnings of a new plant and a food supply, enclosed in a protective covering, and that can grow into a new plant.

seed coat  The protective outer covering of a seed.

seed head  The dried flower, or cluster of flowers, at the tip of a stem, that contain the seeds.

sepal  The outermost ring of flower parts, usually green but sometimes colored like petals, that protect the developing bud.

simple metamorphosis  In insects, changing from egg to adult in a three-stage process including egg, nymph and adult, with the nymph changing gradually into the adult form.

songbird  A group of small-sized birds that are especially good at singing, including thrushes, warblers, sparrows, wrens, finches and others – more than half of all the birds in the world.

stamen  The pollen-bearing parts of a flower, made up of filament and anther.

stigma  A sticky structure at the top of the pistil, for trapping pollen grains.

strap  A long, flat, narrow petal like those on a dandelion floret.

stridulate  In insects, to make noise by rubbing one body part against another, such as crickets rubbing wings together to chirp or grasshoppers rubbing a wing against a leg.

style  The neck-like part of the pistil, the seed-bearing structure in flowers, between the ovary and the stigma, through which the pollen must grow to reach the ovules.

sugaring  Collecting sap from maple trees and boiling it down into syrup.

syrinx  The sound-producing organ in birds, located inside the windpipe.

tap  To drill a hole in a maple tree so the sap will run out into collecting buckets or tubes. Also, the spout that is hammered into a maple tree to collect the sap.

terminal bud  The bud at the tip of a twig.

territory  An area that an animal, or a pair of animals, defends from others of its kind.

twig  A thin woody shoot on a tree or shrub.

whorled  When three or more buds or twigs are arranged in a circle around one place on branch.