Get yourself some appropriate apps and use them. Snakes of North Carolina (for snakes) and FloraQuest (for plants) are North Carolina specific and should be applicable to nearby areas. SoilWeb (soils) and the suite of Audubon (everything) apps are useful for North America. iNaturalist (everything) is appropriate for everywhere. You could probably get info on Antarctica species if you tried.
Get over a fear of scientific names. They are useful and after a bit they just start to make sense. Half of them are decent descriptions of the thing anyway. Epifagus virginiana, Beechdrops, is a small sap sucking plant attached to beech trees that can be found in Eastern North America. The name means “attached to beach trees in Eastern North America.” Also it makes you sound damn smart.
Get yourself some woodsy friends. If you do not know woodsy friends, volunteering with groups is a good way to REALLY learn stuff. Natural history museums, zoos, parks, botanical gardens, environmental restoration and environmental groups, trail maintenance groups, all appreciate grunt labor and will repay it with information.