How to Identify Flowers by Characteristics


By carefully observing the various traits and characteristics of a flower, you can come to a decision on the identity of the plant species. Your sense of sight and smell is an important part of this process, as you will get an idea what type of flower you have found by cataloging its color, shape, size and smell, among other things. Once you have meticulously noted these facets of the flower, you can refer to a field guide of the flowers in your region to ascertain what kind it is.

Step 1

Consider the time of year that you find the flower species. One characteristic of flowers is that certain species bloom at certain times of the year. Filarees, for example, emerge in the early spring, while asters do not bloom until autumn.

Step 2

Establish the height of the flower, as well as the width of the bloom. This is a vital aspect of flower identification, especially the size of the flower itself because the height of many flowers can range from a few inches to a few feet. However, the size of the petals remains consistent within most species of flowers.

Step 3

Determine the overall shape of the flower, as well as the shape of its petals. Some flowers have a bell shape, like brodiaeas, while others have a tubular appearance and grow in erect stalks, such as penstemons. Always count the number of petals on a flower if possible, because many types have a set amount.

Step 4

Notice whether the flower is growing by itself, which indicates that it most likely developed from some type of seed. Note flowers that grow in clusters, forming dense growth of one species in an area, which is indicative of flowers that grow from an elaborate spreading root system. These characteristics are something that a good field guide will include, helping make identifying the flower easier.

Step 5

Count the leaves on the flower and pay close attention to their arrangement on the stalk or stem, as well as their shape. Leaves on flowers grow opposite each other on the stem, at alternate points on the stem, or with more than two leaves at each node on the stalk. Observe such things as the shape, size and structure of the leaf and the stem.

Step 6

Use the color of the flower to pinpoint its identity. This is perhaps the most important part of the identification process, as it narrows your search to specific flowers. Many flowers growing in the wild are only one or two colors, such as bluecurls. Others, like the orchids, may be shades of several hues.

Step 7

Smell the flowers and note whether a particular aroma is associated with it. While most flowers have a pleasant odor to them, some have a distinct smell that immediately gives away their identity, like bugbanes.

Things You'll Need

  • Flower
  • Field guide to wildflowers


  • SW Colorado Wildflowers: How to Identify Plants
  • "Flowers"; Herbert Zim and Alexander Martin; 1987

Who Can Help

  • Field Guides to Flowers
Keywords: identify flower characteristics, identify flower colors, identify flower shapes

About this Author

John has written thousands of articles for Demand Studios, Associated Content and The Greyhound Review. A Connecticut native, John has written extensively about sports, fishing, and nature.