How to Identify Flowers by Appearance

Overview

There are several excellent field guides to flower identification, but these books are only useful if you know what to look for when trying to decide what type of flower you have. There are certain things about a flower you need to take into consideration when trying to identify it. These traits of the flower and the plant it grows on will help you to narrow down your options significantly. This can allow you to, at the very least, get an idea what family of plants a certain flower belongs to, if not make a more precise identification.

Step 1

Note the color of the flower petals and the flower's center. Ascertain if the flower is all one shade or a combination of colors, and if it is a combination, then which color is the most dominant. See if there is a difference in the color of the center of the flower as opposed to its petals. The majority of flower field guides have sections based on color, so this is the most important aspect of flower identification.

Step 2

Distinguish flowers by their shapes. While some flowers, such as morning glories, have a shape like a bell, others such as coneflowers have a large center surrounded by many petals. The shape of the bloom is an essential characteristic and together with the color will often get you to the point of knowing the family to which the plant belongs.

Step 3

Use the scent of a flower in establishing its identity. Some flowers may have little or no aroma, while others, such as bouncing bet and mayflowers, have distinctive fragrances.

Step 4

Ascertain the diameter of a flower. Measure the flower's diameter and use this information to match it up to the descriptions provided in your field guides, which are typically very specific about the size of flowers.

Step 5

Study the characteristics of the plant on which the flower blossoms. Take careful notice of the plant's height, the arrangement of its leaves, the color of the leaves and the stem, the posture of the plant, and whether the plant grows by itself or in groups.

Step 6

Count the number of petals on the flower. Some flowers always have a certain number of petals, which will help you eliminate possible flowers from contention. Bluets, for example, have four individual petals, while a similar flower, the violet, has five.

Step 7

Determine how the flower grows on the plant. Some flowers grow up and down on erect stalks, like loosestrife; other on the top of a stalk, such as hepaticas; and still other in clusters, like bluebells. Your guide will indicate how and where on a plant its flowers grow, which will greatly aid in your recognizing the flower.

Things You'll Need

  • Field guide to flower identification

References

  • SWcoloradowildflowers: How to Identify Plants
  • "Flowers;" Herbert Zim and Alexander Martin; 1987
Keywords: identify flower appearance, flower blossom identification, identifying flowers

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.