How to identify plants
Have you ever tried to get an interesting plant identified?
This seems simple enough, right?
pieces of the plant
…Tear off a leaf, stick it in the middle of a book, and when we remember where we put the leaf (for safe-keeping), take the leaf over to our local plant expert, and ask them what it came from.
Or… pull a flower off the plant, and place the flower on a neutral background, take a picture, and get an answer from the plant expert.
I wish I was kidding about the above methods that people have used to get a plant identified…
Plant identification isn’t that simple. There are many plants with similar leaves, similar flowers.
To get a good id, we need a close up pic of the flower, and a pic of the whole plant which shows leaf detail. If the plant is fairly common, that might be enough.
Sometimes the pictures aren’t enough to jar the memory of our local plant expert, and google is required.
I can often get a list of likely plants from google by using flower colour, bloom time, and area found.
Sometimes we need a good botany glossary, and use leaf shapes as our search term. Most plant encyclopedias come with a leaf shape glossary included…
here’s a leaf glossary from yorkccd.org (8 page pdf).
The thing about google searching our plants, is that it can take up days of looking, and as long as we’re enjoying the discovery of other interesting plants on the way, learning is a good thing.
I have some fave wildflower sites for plant identification, which include the following:
providing enough information
Eventually, we reach the point of posting our intriguing discovery online and asking informed people for an id. This is where having good photos, and knowing something about the plant comes in handy. For instance, was the plant in shade, full sun? In dry sand, heavy clay, in a low wetland, on a highland bluff? Was the plant a shrub, tree, vine, or forb? These are all important considerations in plant identification.
A couple of good places for asking for help include:
Sometimes, when we have found something that is unusual, it takes posting at a few different sites, with different people making guesses, and nobody comes close… Don’t give up hope, there are a lot of sites with plant id threads, and a lot of friendly people happy to venture a guess, or spend some time trying to track down that elusive plant.
Or just ask me…
I know a lot of plants…