Identifying the plants that commonly grow in Florida can be quite a challenge. Florida has a number of ecosystems that range from pine forests in the northern part of the state to mangroves, Everglade swampland and coral reefs along the southern tip of Florida and the Florida Keys. To identify a plant, you need to be familiar with the characteristics of the plant and match them to plants that are known to grow in Florida.
Consult the USDA hardiness zone map to match the area the plant grows in to its temperate zone. Find a link in Resources. You can now rule out any Florida plants that do not grow within the same temperate zone.
Examine your plant's characteristics and write them down for evaluation against known plants. Sketch a drawing of the plant, and write down the date and time you saw the plant, as well as the location.
Take photos of your plant both from a distance and close up using a macro setting on your camera. This will help you if you need to consult an expert on Florida plants.
Take cuttings of your plant using pruning shears. Place this cutting in between two sections of newspaper and press with heavy books to dry and preserve it.
Based on your observations, narrow your plant into a classification. Common Florida plant classifications include trees, palms, shrubs, grasses, flowers, ground covers, vines and grasses.
Contact the University of Florida IFAS Extension Service for help in identifying your plant. The IFAS is the community and continuing education arm of the University of Florida and Florida A&M University. They maintain offices throughout Florida, and provide consultation on agricultural and wildlife matters. An agent may wish to have you e-mail your photos to them, bring in your cutting or may be able to identify your plant based on the description.
Consult organizations such as the Florida Native Plant Society. Members of the society are amateurs and professionals who are knowledgeable about plants native to Florida, and may be able to identify your plant species.
Consult garden and wild plant books that specialize in Florida plants such as "Florida Wild Flowers and Roadside Plants" or "Florida Plants for Wildlife: A Selection Guide to Native Trees and Shrubs" for quick visual and descriptive references of plants that grow in Florida. Find a link to the Florida Plants Online Bookstore in Resources. You may also find books such as these at your local library, or request them through interlibrary loan.