Unless you are familiar with the subtle traits of common plants, identifying plants can be difficult unless you understand the characteristics that gardeners and botanists use to classify plants. Common plants are usually identified using one of four major classification systems, focusing on a plant's phylum, seed structure, tissue structure and stature to figure out its place in the plant kingdom.
Identifying common plants can help you learn how to give them proper care and avoid dangerous accidents. Every plant has special needs and preferences with regard to soil types, water needs and fertilization. By identifying a plant, indoor gardeners can protect family and household pets by learning whether the plant is poisonous or edible before introducing it into the household environment.
Common plants can be identified by organizing them into plant groups called phyla, the main division of the plant kingdom. The phylum tells you the type of plant group in which a plant belongs. Phylum plant groups are many, but common plant phyla include Magnoliophyta, which are flowering plants, the Pinophyta class of conifers including pine trees, horsetail-like Equisetophyta, the Cycadophyta cycads, Psilotophyta wisk ferns and Ginkgophyta, which includes Ginkgo-type plants.
In common plants, the tissue structure is either vascular or non-vascular. Vascular plants are larger plants with a complex system for moving water through the plant tissue. Vascular plants are often called tracheophytes and include most flowers, trees and shrubs. Non-vascular plants are commonly called bryophytes. Non-vascular plants are generally under two inches tall and include plants like algae or moss. Non-vascular plants never flower.
Plants can also be identified by how they produce seeds. Common plants that produce seeds through flowers are called angiosperms. Another type of seed-producing plant is called a gymnosperm, which produces seeds without a flower or ovary. Conifers like pine trees are common gymnosperm plants. Plants like ferns that produce spores instead of seeds to reproduce are called spore-producing plants.
Knowing a plant's growth pattern, called its stature, can be helpful in identifying common plants. Statures include trees, ferns, shrubs, vines and herbs. A tree is a plant that grows straight up in one stalk. Herbs are plants that contain no woody material. Shrubs are plants that are less than 25 feet tall with several stalks growing from the ground. A fern is a common plant stature type that produces its leaves in fronds. A vine is a climbing plant that often roots vertically into walls and other structures.