Floriculture, or flowering plants, add color, fragrance and beauty to the landscape, whether that landscape is an open meadow, a woodland trail or your own backyard. However, many beautiful flowers are poisonous. Knowing how to identify floriculture quickly can mean the difference between a fond memory of walking through a field of wildflowers and the nightmare of battling an itchy rash, illness or worse. Most field guides used for flower identification organize the information according to specific characteristics of the plants.
Since thousands of species of flowering plants grow around the world, identifying a particular plant begins with narrowing your choices. Each species of floriculture flourishes in its own particular climate and habitat. Plants that grow well on the side of a mountain may not grow at all in a coastal plain. Meadows, wetlands and deserts all have different characteristics that appeal to different floriculture. Make note of the flower’s preferred habitat.
Where the plant’s habitat is located in the country is also important. The mountains in California support a different floriculture than the Great Rocky Mountains or the Appalachian Mountains. The Atlantic Coast and the Pacific Coast are both coastal areas, but the climate isn't exactly the same on both. Taking into account the region where the plant naturally occurs further narrows your choices for identification.
The flower separates floriculture from non-flowering plants. However, within the family of flowering plants, differences in the flowers help lead to identification. Look at the shape of the flower. The flower can have petals that radiate around a button-like center, such as a daisy. It may have many petals that come together in a ball, such as a chrysanthemum. The flower may grow singly, shooting upward, tall and straight, or the flowers may grow in clusters, looking like a ready-made bouquet. The shape of the flower is another important identifying characteristic.
Other Flower Information
Flower color, size and bloom season are almost as important as flower shape for identification. Flowers that are shaped similarly and grow in the same habitats and regions may differ in the colors of their flowers or the size of the flower. Also, take note of the month when the flower is in bloom. Not all flowers bloom at the same time. Some prefer the cool weather of spring or fall, while others open up during the hot summer.
Look at the overall size and shape of the plant and the leaves. Take note of the leaves are arranged on the plant. Inspect the leaf margin or edge of the individual leaves and note whether the edges are smooth, toothed, wavy or lobed. Also, look at how the plant grows. Flowering plants can grow as vines, bushes, trees, ground cover, herbs and succulents.
Putting it all Together
Once you’ve listed all of the identifying characteristics of your mysterious floriculture, turn to a reliable field guide such as the guides published by the National Audubon Society or the Peterson Guides. Each bit of information will narrow down the choices of your floriculture until only one possibility remains.