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Plant Identification- It’s all about the pictures

Plant Identification

Plant identification, especially grasses, is one of my FAVORITE things to do as an extension agent and plant nerd.  I love coming to work and seeing specimens or visiting producers fields and pastures because live samples are the best way to get an accurate identification.  However, live samples aren’t always available, or as easy, as sending us pictures!  But not just any picture, there is a certain art that I want to share with you so you can send great photos of all of your plants to be identified.

The steps to successfully photographing plants for identification

Get out your cell phone and lets get started:

  1. The pictures need to be CLEAR, crystal clear, non-bury, blur free, however you chose to say it.  But to be clear, they need to be clear.
  2. If there is a flower or seed head, take a photo!  Take one zoomed in to a spike or petal, and one of the entire inflorescence.
  3. Especially for grasses, snap that collar region!  Get the ligule, the sheath, membrane. Are there hairs?  That’s important!
  4. Stems are great, we need them (not only to support the plant).
  5. Leaf blades are very helpful, both the top and bottom.  Are they smooth, rough, hairy, crinkled on the edge?
  6. Roots, rhizomes, tubers, stolons, oh my!  Dig or pull up the plant and snap some shots.
  7. Take a few of the entire plant and the plant in the landscape (what else is in there with it, is the area wet, shaded, dry, sandy, etc?

 

I have the picture, so now what?

Locate your local extension office and send your agent an email.  Describe where the plant is in your area, how tall it is, and anything that you might think is special or unique.

2 Comments on “Plant Identification- It’s all about the pictures

  1. Like the thought of helping with plant ID, but would discourage from advising the plant be dug up to ID. Sometimes necessary I’m sure, but shouldn’t be a standard, what if plant is rare or endangered?

    • That is an excellent point. In that case, the plant will likely be dried and pressed as a sample in a botany collection and used for research, so it is likely that the entire plant will be needed.

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