Whether a flower is part of your yard or a wildflower growing along the highway or walking trail, it is natural to wonder what it is and sometimes frustratingly hard to find out. The best way to identify a flower is by systematically describing its parts and comparing your observations with reference guides. When viewed as an opportunity to be a flower detective, the collecting and analysis of plant information is fun and rewarding.
Take several pictures of the flower you want to identify including a close-up picture of the plant–sometimes information on the number and placement of flowers, and the surrounding vegetation, helps in identification.
Use a notebook or index cards to collect descriptive information on the plant’s parts, including the flower, stem and leaves. Cross-reference the notes to the pictures.
Describe the color of the flower. It is important to be specific because color involves not only the basic color, but also the shade or intensity of the color. Flower color classification uses a combination of basic color combined with a description of the tint, shade and tone. A pink flower for example can be light pink, dusty pink, fuchsia or dark pink. Note if the color is solid or varies across the petals in shading or markings.
Look at the distribution of the petals on the flower. Are the petals evenly distributed in a radial form around a center? Is there a cluster of small flowers? Is the distribution irregular with some petals longer than other petals? For example, a daisy has a regular distribution, a snapdragon is irregular and Queen Anne ’s Lace is a cluster flower. Note the number of petals.
Measure the size of the flower and the flower’s center if it is a significant feature because of size, shape or color.
Note the number of flowers per plant stem and if the flowers alternate or are at the same level on the stem.
Describe the leaves of the plant. Is the shape round, elongated, linear or Hastate (wider at the base with lobes)? Describe the edges of the leaves. Are they smooth, lobed or serrated? Include information on the distribution of the leaves along the stem–alternating, opposite, whorled or rosulate.
Use your pictures and description to compare with references books to identify the flower by its parts.