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Learn about plants through song with Carmen Porter

Hemmingford native Carmen Porter recently launched a podcast called Song and Plants. Having grown up with a love for both music and nature, her podcast blends the two, taking listeners on a journey to learn the binomial nomenclature (scientific names) of the flora and fauna all around us.

“I grew up in Hemmingford; my playground was the forest and orchard behind my house, which were teeming with fascinating flora and fauna,” says Porter. “I was a ridiculously shy child, but singing was comfortable and allowed me to emote and connect.”

 

Carmen Porter playing her ukulele in her garden PHOTO Courtesy of Carmen Porter

 

Her interest in binomial nomenclature stems from its ability to cross language barriers. It is standardized and universally accepted, and no two plants have the same name. “When discussing plants, especially in multiple languages, knowing the binomial nomenclature facilitates understanding,” she says.

She began writing music to help her memorize information relating to plants, saying she “found that melody is a fantastic mnemonic device.” The binomial nomenclature is usually in Latin or Greek, so plugging them into songs to learn the words and retain information came naturally to Porter, who has been playing ukulele for eleven years.

The music came before the podcast. Porter began working on the project in January 2020, writing music to learn not only binomial nomenclature, but also taxonomic hierarchy and other insights for growing and identification of plants. In February of this year, she decided to make the podcast as a companion piece to the music. “[The podcast is] a way to provide additional information that expands beyond the lyrics. There is so much to learn in biology, and it is exciting to share knowledge,” she says.

Episodes of Song and Plants describe habitats, growing conditions, nutritional information, and explore the historical significance of certain plants. Porter also plans to do interviews with other passionate plant folks, as well as present anecdotal stories of her own experiences. With each musical release, she will create eight short weekly episodes to accompany the song. “I [want] to share what I’ve learned, encourage curiosity in others, and build a community of people that are passionate about the natural world and eager to grow within it,” she says.

Although only a few episodes and songs are out, the reception has been overwhelmingly positive, with many plant and insect enthusiasts in the region enjoying the educational and musical experience. The music and podcast are available on all digital streaming platforms, as well as on her website, carmenporter.com.

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