Simple Plant Identification


Differentiating plants from one another takes practice, especially when the specimens look very much alike. With the help of a few simple plant identification tips and tricks, though, it is possible to discern some of the species that are likely to grow in your locale simply by recognizing common patterns. In addition to appropriately naming a plant, identifying flora also helps to recognize the health of the organism and thereby make accurate determinations about pest damage or soil conditions.


Plant identification is a process that relies on the sum of its parts for accuracy. While some plants look very similar above ground, it is possible to differentiate them by their root system growth. Other methods that hobby gardeners and seasoned landscapers rely on include an examination of the stems, visible leaves, flower petals and also fruits or seeds, when available.


Classify plants into two main categories: monocots and dicots. Examples of monocots are grasses, palm trees and also lilies. Dicots include flowers, shrubs and trees. Within the group of flowering plants, hobbyists categorize woody and herbaceous stems to further narrow down the likely qualities and thus identity of a plant. Other areas of observation include the stem shape and the presence or absence of pubescence. Herbaceous stems point to annual plants while woody stems may indicate more than one growth season.


Leaves provide the easiest means of identifying plants. The differences in shape, size, venation and also arrangement help separate plants that may not feature flower petals. Another common difference is the presence or absence of a petiole or sheath that connects the leaf to the plant. Geraniums feature petioles whereas tulip leaves connect to the stem via a sheath. It is interesting to note that a sheath denotes monocot plants, whereas a petiole points to a dicot plant.


Relying on stems, leaves and also roots when identifying plants makes it easier to deal with specimens outside their blooming times or when flower petals have been removed through mechanical damage or by grazing. If blooms are intact, they are an important tool for simple plant identification. Consider the color and smell of the petals as well as the number of petals and even their arrangements. The arrangement of the blooms also indicates the kinds of plants the hobbyist might be encountering. For example, a sunflower has a single head whereas gladiolus features flowers along a spike.


It is possible to identify plants simply by comparing them to available photos of likely candidates. This may be especially useful when dealing with weeds or native plants that naturally occur within a hobbyist’s garden. In this manner the beginner may associate the combination of a leaf shape, petal color or root system with the plant’s appropriate name and also classification within the plant kingdom.

Keywords: plant identification, leaves, flower petals, monocots, dicots

About this Author

Based in the Los Angeles area, Sylvia Cochran is a seasoned freelance writer focusing on home and garden, travel and parenting articles. Her work has appeared in "Families Online Magazine" and assorted print and Internet publications.