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How to Identify Seeds from Various Plants

Seeds of various plants can be tricky to identify. A dichotomous key guide allows scientists to evaluate the attributes of a seed and answer particular questions about each attribute. The questions, known as dichotomous questions, take the scientist down a path that eventually leads to the seed's identification. Identification requires the ability to carefully review and analyze all parts of the various seed. In addition, those seeking to identify certain seeds should have an extensive knowledge of plant biology terminology. For those less accustomed to plant biology, there also are books of seed pictures available at most bookstores. These books provide detailed photographs of the internal and external characteristics of various seeds. While identification is not always as precise when using a picture method, it can help narrow down the options. Remember, when all else fails, simply plant the seeds and see what grows.

Dichotomous Key Guide

Evaluate the seed's outward shape. Make note of any distinctions in the shape. For instance, whether the seed is completely round or square, and whether it has any points or sharp portions. For example, a corn seed has a square shape, whereas a lavender seed has a cylindrical shape.

Evaluate the seed's interior shapes, paying close attention to the size and amount of chambers. A corn seed has two different chambers.

Evaluate the seed's overall texture and make note of any distinguishing traits. Is the outside of the seed smooth or rough? Does the seed have spines, hairs or pores? For our example seed, a corn seed is smooth on the outside and comes to a point at the bottom.

Evaluate the seed's overall color and make note of any distinctions. Is the seed brown, green, yellow or orange? Does it have multiple color tones or simply one? Our example, corn seed, is yellow.

Consult the dichotomous key guide and determine the particular seed.

Pictorial Guide

Obtain at least five of the seeds in question and carefully evaluate the above listed traits on each one.

Eliminate any seeds from the sampling that vary too greatly from the others. For example, if all the seeds except one are brown, and a single seed is green, eliminate the green seed from consideration for the picture guide.

Begin looking through the picture guide until you find a seed that most closely resembles the seeds in question.

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