ldentification Tips

Whether you are setting out to identify a pretty spring wildflower or to pin down an obnoxious garden invader, plant identification is not a mysterious process. Certain features can give away the identity quickly, and certainly, a cluster solves the puzzle best. Be observant of the following features as you study the profiles in this book and/or seek confirmation from other sources.


  • Is the plant a sprawler or a climber? Herbaceous or woody?
  • Does the plant grow from a single stem or does it have multiple stems?
  • Does the plant produce suckers? Does it form a colony?
  • Are there aboveground runners, perhaps rooting at the nodes?
  • What can you tell about the root system?
  • This basic piece of information sometimes makes or breaks plant identification. If you find a plant growing in a dry spot but in researching it you Iearn that it grows in wetlands, you might have to start over.
  • Ditto if you find a plant prospering in the shade when your research says that it is a sun-lover.
  • Likewise, if a plant grows in chalky (alkaline) soil, but the literature shows that it prefers acidic soil, you might have to go back to the drawing board to identify the plant correctly.
  • That said, realize that many weeds and invasives are resilient and can show up in unexpected places or tolerate a broad range of growing conditions.


  • Are the leaves arranged opposite each other along the stem or do they alternate? What is their shape: heart-shaped, lance-shaped, lobed, dissected, or something else? Note the colour.
  • Is it variegated? Does it change with the seasons? Are the leaves smooth or hairy, glossy or not? Are the margins serrated, scalloped or otherwise marked?

Flowers and Seedheads

  • When plants are closely related, oftentimes the blossoms or seedheads will immediately narrow things down, not just to the genus, but also to the very species.
  • Observe colour.
  • Count petals, pistils, stamens.
  • Note the size and/or width of flowers and seeds. Try to work with a plant that is fully mature or open, rather than one that is just unfurling or starting to flag or fade away.
  • Note bloom time and duration.
  • Fruits and berries give away a plant's identity quickly, too, particularly when they are fresh and ripe.
    • Note whether they are carried individually or in clusters.
    • Do they hang along stems or are they only at the ends of the stem? What size and colour are they?
    • Cut open a fruit or berry to see the density and colour of the flesh and to look at the seeds.
    • By observing the fruits on the plant, you might even be able to determine which animals or birds like to eat them.


  • Does the unidentified plant resemble a plant you already know?
  • Does it look vaguely familiar or related? For instance, while it is no beauty in terms of blossoms or bush, it is easy to see that the multiflora rose is a rose. Ox-eye daisy is obviously a daisy. And so on.

Bibliographical Informatiom

Eradicate Invasive Plants

By Teri Dunn Chace.

Publisher: Portland, Or. : Timber Press, 2013.

ISBN: 9781604693065

These are notes I made while reading gardening books. See more gardening book notes