Identifying plants in Texas requires careful observation of the plant’s features and growing conditions, such as soil, light, leaves and flowers. Plants are divided into large groupings or categories including trees, grasses, ferns, vines, shrubs and flowers. The visual characteristics of plants vary by season, so you will need multiple pictures or descriptive data to make an accurate identification of many plants. Texas has hundreds of native plants and many more that are adapted and living in one or more of Texas’s six growing regions.
Find the Texas growing region where the plant lives. Texas has six growing regions, ten climatic regions, 11 ecological and 14 soil regions. The characteristics of each region will suggest or eliminate plants from consideration.
Make notes of the plant's characteristics either on notepaper, index cards or with an electronic device. Take several pictures of the plant for later comparison with a reference guide.
Determine the broad plant category. Is it a tree, shrub, vine or grass? Is it flowering?
Describe the color and characteristics of the plant’s flowers. How many petals are there, and how are the petals distributed—are they symmetrical, asymmetrical, lopsided, clustered, or tubular in formation? Are there multiple or single flowers on a stem? Measure the diameter of the flower and the stigma.
Look at the shape of the leaves. The leaves of trees and shrubs may be round, oval or heart shaped. Pine trees have needles, and grasses have spear-shaped leaves. Measure the length and width of the leaf and note if the edges are smooth, lobed or serrated.
Note how the leaves are arranged on the stem or branch—symmetrically with matching leaves on either side, alternating, or whorled with three to five leaves at the same height distributed around the stem or branch.
Describe the soil around the plant. Texas soils may be heavy clay, black, brown or red in color, sandy, or rocky such as the caliche soil in west Texas. Many types of plants can grow in one kind of soil, but not in others.
Compare your pictures and notes with reference books or keys on Texas plants.