Take a look at the leaves and flowers.
Once you have observed the size and shape of the leaves, take a look at the leaves and flowers. Do they have a similar appearance? Do they grow from the same area of the plant? Are they the same color? A rose bush has large thorny stems with long, thin leaves. Flowers come in an array of colors or shades from white to yellow. The flower is usually single or semi-double with 5 petals.
Focusing on one group of plants at a time will make it easier to observe what you need to look for and keep track of what you’ve already looked for.
Count how many petals the flower has.
Most flowers are symmetrical, meaning they have a property called radial symmetry. The most common type of radial symmetry is bilateral symmetry, meaning that if you were to fold the flower in half along its vertical axis, both sides would be near-identical mirror images of each other.
This is important because it means that when you look at a flower, it will often have petals arranged in a spiral pattern—this is how we get five-pointed stars and six-pointed snowflakes. If you can count the number of petals on the flower in question, this may help narrow down your search considerably.
A few examples:
- Buttercups—a family of flowers called Ranunculaceae—often have four petals (though there are exceptions).
- Roses (family Rosaceae) typically have five petals.
Look at the shape of the flowers.
Flowers are the reproductive parts of a plant, and as such, they come in many different shapes, colors and sizes.
The most common flower types are single or double (with a double flower being one that has more than four sets of petals). Other types include daisy-like flowers with multiple rows of petals surrounding the center; bell-shaped flowers; star-shaped flowers; tubular flowers on long stems; flattened flowers with a spur at the back for collecting nectar from pollinators, and many more!
Observe the flower’s structure.
If you’re not sure what type of plant you’re looking at, the first step is to look at the flower itself. Looking at the structure of the flower can give you major hints about what it might be. You can tell a lot just by looking at how many petals it has, how many stamens are in each flower, and whether the flower is double or single. Also look at whether or not your flower is symmetrical—or if parts of it grow on one side only. You can also see if your plant has a fragrant aroma that helps define its identity.
Some plants have flowers that are very similar in shape and structure but have different colors and/or textures; when this happens, those plants are known as being “color variants” of one another (think about carnations). The most important thing to remember about color variants is that only their blooms change—the rest of the plant will look exactly alike!
Look for fruit and seeds.
If you know what part of the world your plant comes from, it can be helpful to research native flora in that region by searching for local botanical gardens or park websites. The more specific you are in your search, the better—it’s best to try a Google search like this: “Annual plants native to southwest desert gardens.”
For each plant, you’ll want to make notes on its key characteristics and then find matches online by scrolling through photos and lists. When looking at photos, pay close attention to how big the leaves are and how many there are per stem; if there is any bark on the stems; if there are branches, buds or flowers and what color they are; thorns (not all prickly plants have them); and roots. Also look out for fruit or seeds, which can be a key identifier for certain species of plants. Fruits come in a variety of shapes—they can be fleshy or dry, single-seeded or multi-seeded—but they all contain seeds developed from ovules (the structure inside an ovary that contains an embryo sac). Fruit types include berries (vascular tissue enclosed by one layer of skin), nuts (a hard outer shell with one seed inside), capsules (dry fruit with two halves containing seeds), drupes (with skins containing pits around a single seed), follicles (developing from one carpel rather than two) and samaras (winged fruits or seeds).
Determine if there are any berries on the plants.
- Determine if there are any berries on the stems. If you can see any berries, it is a sign that the plant is either a shrub, a vine or a small tree. The leaves are less important in this case because different varieties of berries have different types of leaves. Most berries are small, but they can also be large like grapes or blueberries. Some fruits appear as clusters and some appear only one at a time on the stem.
Observe the leaf arrangement.
To narrow down your search, you’ll start by taking a look at the leaf arrangement. You’ll notice that plants are divided into two main groups: monocots and eudicots. Plants in the monocot group have parallel venation; these are plants like corn and grasses. Eudicots have netlike venation (also called reticulate). The rest of this article will focus on identifying eudicots.
Now that you’ve narrowed down your search to a eudicot, it’s time to check out the leaves themselves. Take a good look at your plant and note the following about its leaves:
- Leaf type: there are many different types of leaves, but in general most fall under three categories: flat, fleshy, or scale-like. The distinction is important because each type of leaf is adapted to a particular climate or habitat. Flat leaves are commonly found in humid climates where they help reduce moisture loss through evaporation. Fleshy leaves store water and can be found growing in dry environments like deserts or rocky slopes where water is hard to come by; this category includes succulents like aloe vera and cacti (which technically has modified flat leaves). Scale-like leaves may be mistaken for one another since they’re small and overlap one another on a stem, but their purpose is also related to conserving water—they form when parts of bigger flat leaves shrivel up so that less surface area is exposed for water loss
Notice if there are any compound leaves.
So you’re out in the garden and you come across a plant that you’ve never seen before. How can you figure out what it is?
The first thing to do is look at the shape of the leaf. Is it long and narrow, or round? You should also consider how the leaves are arranged on the stem. Are they opposite each other, or alternately spaced? To get even more precise, look closely at the leaf margins—are they smooth or serrated? Does the leaf have an indentation at its base? What about its tip? When it comes to color, are they dark green or light green with reddish tips? Look closely at how veins run through them: parallel, net-shaped, or simple venation? Finally, consider texture: do they feel soft and fuzzy like a peach skin, or hard and brittle like a dead twig in wintertime?
Asking yourself these questions will give you some clues as to what type of plant this might be. Next up: looking for buds!
Consider if there are any thorns on the plant.
Looking for thorns is a great first step to take in identifying the plant. Thorns are outgrowths of plant stems or leaves that can be used as defense mechanisms, food storage, or in many cases, both. A thorny rose bush may have particularly sharp thorns to protect from attacks by predators who eat leaves and stems; meanwhile plants like cacti may use spines for both defense against herbivores and for storing water during periods of drought. Although some flowering plants can have thorns (like roses), this characteristic is more commonly found on woody plants.
To identify a plant, start by observing its physical characteristics, like its leaves and stems, then note things like the size and shape of its flowers and fruit, which can be helpful for narrowing down your search to a specific species.
Before you get started, it’s important to know that there is no exact science for identifying plants. Instead of looking for a specific plant, you should try to narrow down your search to a group of related plants that look similar. This process can take some time and require extensive research on your end, but you’ll learn a lot about root systems, flower coloration, leaf shape and size along the way.
To identify a plant, start by observing its physical characteristics, like its leaves and stems, then note things like the size and shape of its flowers and fruit, which can be helpful for narrowing down your search to a specific species. If possible, take pictures and make sketches as you go to help with identification later on!It looks like your plant is a [plant name]. The most important thing to know about this plant is that it thrives in direct sunlight. Make sure to keep it in a spot where it can soak up all the sun it needs!
It’s hard to tell from the picture, but it looks like you’ve got yourself a lovely [plant]!
If you’re just starting out as a plant parent, this is a great choice. [Plant s] are super easy to take care of and are extremely forgiving if you forget to water them occasionally. The only thing they really hate is being cold, so make sure you keep them in a nice warm room where they can get lots of natural sunlight (or use artificial lighting if that’s not an option).
If all goes well, you should be able to enjoy your new [plant] friend for years to come!
This looks like a [plant name] to me!
[Plant name] plants are really low maintenance, so taking care of this little guy is going to be a breeze.
You only need to water him once per month, and you can give him just about any soil you want. He does like bright light, but partial shade is fine too.
This is a Knee-high marigold, or Tagetes patula. Marigolds are easy-care plants that don’t require too much water. They come in a variety of colors and are great for filling out the middle of a flower bed.
We’re glad you asked! This is a Venus flytrap.
Flytraps are pretty easy to care for, but they have a few specific needs. They should be kept at 65-80 degrees F, and planted in rich, slightly acidic soil. They need access to both sun and shade. The most important thing to remember is that flytraps are carnivorous: unlike other plants, they need meat in their diet. They can subsist on bugs you catch for them, or you can supplement their diet with small pieces of meat or fruit. You should fertilize them once every two weeks or so with fish emulsion fertilizer.
It’s a ZZ plant!
You probably saw it and thought, “Wow, that thing really looks like it’s thriving,” but you’re still not sure how to keep it going.
Well, good news—ZZ plants are super easy to care for. They thrive in indirect sunlight and don’t need much water. If you’re worried about overwatering, just give them a little splash once every week or two!
They can also grow pretty big, so if you have the space, that’s great. If not, you can always trim them back a bit.
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