How to Identify Missouri's Native Plants


For many pioneers headed west by wagon train, Missouri offered the first glimpse of the prairie lying ahead. Plants and trees included some familiar from homes farther east, and some were new. It may be in part the awareness of history that means Missouri offers excellent resources for identifying native plants, at government, academic and amateur levels.

Step 1

Contact Grow Native for classes and workshops in native plant education. The Powell Garden Native Plant School conducts monthly sessions for interested gardeners. Some classes reflect Missouri's agricultural basis (workshops for elderberry growers, for example). Grow Native is a joint project of the Missouri State Departments of Conservation and Agriculture. Projects include prairie and savanna reconstruction and the native plantings of highway edges and median strips.

Step 2

Join the MIssouri Native Plant Society. This group publishes two different kinds of newsletters, holds events, and keeps the calendars of active chapter meetings. The Native Plant Society is associated with the Flora of Missouri database, which remains under constant expansion and encourages contriibutions from members and with the Herbarium of the University of Missouri at Columbia.

Step 3

Visit a technically slightly fragile but easily used database called The database makes identification of native plants easy by using an old sorting system based on flower color and leaf position, among other characteristics (the sample page cited is for white flowers with stems where leaves alternate). Four out of five visits yielded quick, accurate information; on the fifth visit, the site administrator provided clear directions for accessing the site later.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not pick or dig up possible native plants in the wild or even in seemingly neglected areas. As noted above, Missouri is actively involved in native plant restoration projects. Further, some rare natives grow in only tiny habitats. Even a bad sketch is better than a dead plant.

Things You'll Need

  • Photos, sketches or the plant to be identified
  • Notes on plant details: height, leaf shape, colors, where observed
  • Contact information for native plant information organizations in MIssouri


  • Grow Native: Native Plant Information
  • Missouri Native Plant Society: Publications
  • Missouri Plants: White Flowers, Alternate Leaves
Keywords: identify native plants, missouri, information resources

About this Author

Janet Beal holds a Harvard B.A. in English and a College of New Rochelle M.S in early childhood education. She has worked as a college textbook editor, HUD employee, caterer, and teacher. She is pleased to be part of Demand Studios' exciting community of writers and readers.