As we start our green journey, we will discover a whole world of plants around us. If you are anything like me, you will dive in head first and want to know everything. Part of this will be wanting to know what plants grow around you – where you live, work, and play. While a plant guide and perhaps some ability to use phone apps and search engines might help you, we all come to a point of having to ask for help with a Plant ID.
Thankfully, there are lots of places you can ask for help to identify a plant. Social media groups, hashtaging images, or texting a friend are all possibilities in our internet-connected world. However, there is an etiquette to asking for this help that no only gets your answer easier and faster but also makes things easier on those you are asking.
1. Do All You Can First
As I mentioned before, you will likely one day exhaust your own resources hunting for a plant name, however, you can only do that if you make an attempt in the first place. Before asking for help, help yourself as much as possible.
- Check a good plant guide for your region. If you are in the South East United States, I like Peterson Field Guide for Edible Wild Plants (Eastern/Central North America), as well as the Peterson Field Guide for Medicinal Wild Plants. If you are in Alaska, I like The Boreal Herbal by Beverly Gray. If you aren’t in ether area, make sure your field guide has good photos of plants and details on location of the plants usual habitat, what the plant looks like in different seasons, and how it grows.
- Try out plant identifying apps on your phone like PlantSnap.
- Use a search engine – type in key identifiers of the plant such as the type of leaves, stem, where it is growing. Sometimes a simple weeds in (your state) will bring up a picture list on a site for your to browse for suggestions.
By doing all this, you save yourself and other people time looking for a plant that might be otherwise easy to identify. You also have the added benefit of being self-reliant regarding your research.
2. Details, Details, Details
Whether you are identifying a plant yourself or asking for help, the key to putting a name to a plant is in the details. In order to find out what the plant is there are a few pieces of information you will want to collect and make note of.
- What kind of plant is it?
Is it a tree? A vine? Growing out of the ground? Might sound obvious but I’ve seen people ask for plant ID’s sharing only a picture of a picked leaf sitting on a counter with no idea what sort of body that leaf came off of. This opened up an array of types of plants it could be that was quickly narrowed down to an easy to identify herb once I knew it was growing out of the ground without a vine or tree trunk.
- Where is the plant?
Not only is it helpful to make note of the country and state/province/region a plant is in (this also helps in noting if a plant is native or invasive), but also note the environment it is growing in.
Is the plant growing in or near water? Is it hanging off another larger plant or rock or building? Is it disturbed land like a vacant lot? This can all pinpoint the type of plant it is as some plants like certain areas most of all.
- Any other details of note.
Did it have a smell? Were there animals eating it or bugs living on it? Was it prevalent or the only one in the area? Don’t worry about having too much detail in your notes.
3. Take Many Clear Photos
When you are seeking help identifying a plant from someone not standing right there with you, you are going to have to show them a picture of the plant. Take a camera or your phone with you when you are on a plant walk or hike.
Make sure you get the plant in decent light. If there is a plant in shadow, shine a light on it if you can or take a picture of its sister plant if you see some in light and shadow. Its hard to ID a plant we cant see.
Snap lots of photos at various angles. Make sure to get different parts of the plant – leaves, stems, flowers, where the flower or leaf meets the stem, roots if they are visible, any fruit, and location of the plant.
Make sure the pictures you share are of decent quality – not blurry, not huge, and not weirdly cropped or filtered.
Build Those Plant Relationships!
I’m very excited that you are about to go out there and learn about the plants in your area! Enjoy building those plant ally relationships. Please comment below the most recent plant you identified!
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