It is very common for people to want to identify mysterious plants but who do not know how to proceed. Yet, there are specific parts that need to be considered in order to identify them.
For example, if a person come across a leaf, an expert can clearly identify if it comes from an oak, a maple, or from any other tree with a specific foliage. However, more than a single leaf is usually needed to determine the exact nature of the plant as many of them can have similar leaves but are indeed very different. So how to exactly identify them? Below, we bring you a list of things to for when identifying a plant. Keep reading to learn more.
Is is a bush? A tree? A vine? A perennial or annual? Does it lose its leaves in fall or does the whole plant die to the ground during a specific season? Does it return to the exact same spot every year or does it sprout in different places? All of those things, along with other information, help define a plant’s identity.
For this factor, saying that “the plant grows in my garden in X city” is not enough information. You need to ask yourself questions like: in what part of the city does it grow? Because there is a big difference in the climate in the north and south of each area. Is your garden in full sun for instance? Does the plant grow in shade? Does it grow better in a wet, sandy or even rocky area? Even the environment around the plant can give you clues for your identification.
Does your plant bloom? Are its flowers highly noticeable or barely? What is the shape or structure of the flower? What is the color? When do the flowers bloom? Where do the flowers grow on the plant?
4.Structure and Texture of the Bark or Stem
Sometimes the best way to identify trees is by the texture of their bark. For example, the leaves of a London Plane tree look like Maple leaves. Its bark, however, is grey to creamy white and smooth, whereas a maple’s bark is dark grey to brown and is cracked. Some shrubs, such as the Velvetleaf or Burning Bush have very distinct bark.
The stem structure and texture are also important, especially in herbaceous plants. For example, if the stems are square shaped like lemon balm, this tells us that it belongs to the mint family.
This one is pretty easy. Does it have small needles? Does it have leaves like grass? Is the foliage fluffy or smooth? All those questions will help you to identify your mysterious plant.
How do the leaves grow on the plant? Are they like a rosette of leaves at the base of the plant? Do they grow alternately from the stem, opposite or in a spiral? Alternate leaves are when a single leaf grows from a leaf node and usually in an alternating pattern on the stem. Opposite leaves are when two leaves grow symmetrically from a leaf node. Coiled leaves are three or more leaves growing from a leaf node in a circular way around the stem.
7.Leaf Shape, Margins and Veins
It may seem a bit tricky when you hear words like lanceolate, elliptical, obovate, or cordate when it comes to a leaf’s shape. And then, there’s lobed, mock, and wavy when referring to the margins of the leaf and longitudinal, palm, and reticulate when referring to its veining. Luckily, the Internet is full of charts that can help you identify these very important leaf characteristics. Field guides also often contain detailed tables of leaf, shape, margin and vein.
When a leaf, flower or branch is cut, does the plant excrete a sap? If so, what color is the sap? What is its consistency? Is it thick or sticky? Is it watery or milky? From where it comes in a plant can also be very helpful in identifying it.
9.Berries, Fruits or Seeds
Any berries, fruits or seeds that the plant produces can be helpful in identifying it. Some plants produce very specific seeds or berries. You should consider the shape, color and texture of the fruits. Again, there are many charts available online to help you identify specific seed structures and berry types.
Does the foliage have exceptional fall color? Are there any birds, insects or animals that like the plant? For example, if you see monarch caterpillars chewing the leaves, you might assume the plant is a milkweed since monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed. Special interest is actually any other notable feature that can help you identify the plant.