Multiple plant identification books are available for use at local libraries, for purchase at bookstores, or for use in the BRIT library. Try to find a book that uses an illustrated glossary to assist in defining terms you might encounter when using the dichotomous key to identify your collection. It is always helpful to use a book that includes line illustrations, if not images of plants. Make sure the text you are using is both relevant and current to your geographic area.
Depending on the part of the world in which you are collecting, there may be fewer texts to assist you in identification. If you can narrow down the identification of the plant, this may assist you in locating a botanist that can help you identify it. For example, if you have identified your plant as a fern from the Peruvian Amazon, this will indicate you ought to find a botanist who has some knowledge of the ferns of South America. A survey of the literature may assist you in locating such an expert. Botanical experts often receive emailed photographs, and while they can sometimes identify the plant from images alone, the physical specimen is usually required for definitive identification. Common practice is to send the plant specimen as a gift to the herbarium with which the expert is associated, only after contact has been established with the expert. Local herbaria can be particularly useful in providing connections to local botanists who can also assist with identification.
Note that plant identification requires that you have as much of the plant as possible, and in some occasions this cannot be accomplished if you are dealing with a sterile specimen (that is, a specimen lacking either fruits or flowers).
Some suggestions for plant identification texts for the north central Texas area are:
- Ajilvsgi, Geyata (2002). Wildflowers of Texas. ISBN:0940672731 (a color field guide to common wildflowers of the area).
- Diggs, G., B. Lipscomb, R. O’Kennon (1999). Shinners & Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of North Central Texas. (A comprehensive plant identification text for the stated area, including dichotomous keys and line illustrations for all native and naturalized plants).
- Diggs, G., B. Lipscomb, M. Reed, R. O’Kennon (2006). Shinners & Mahler’s Illustrated Flora of East Texas, Volume 1. (The book covers all the native and naturalized ferns and similar plants, gymnosperms, and monocotyledons known to occur in East Texas, including dichotomous keys, line illustrations, and Texas distribution maps for all species).
Identify my Plant!
The BRIT herbarium will identify plant specimens as a public service, with no individual to receive more than 30 identifications in a single calendar year, nor more than 10 at any single visit. If you require plant identification for commercial purposes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
- This identification service is offered free of charge for non-commercial requests. In exchange for identification services, in some cases we may request that specimens submitted be donated as voucher specimens for the BRIT Herbarium.
- Please limit the total number of identification requests to 10 per visit & 30 per year.
- A good specimen, for accurate identification, should include several leaves attached to a section of stem, have flowers or fruits, and if possible, attached roots. Plants may be submitted fresh, or pressed and dried.
In order to facilitate the quickest and most accurate identification of your plant, the actual plant, in fruit or flower, is needed. It is not necessary that the plant be alive, and you are welcome to squash your plant between pieces of cardboard to mail to us. Please contact the herbarium before mailing any material to ensure that we are prepared to receive it.
Plants can sometimes be identified from digital photographs, however please be sure to include multiple pictures, including but not limited to those of:
- Close-up of flower or fruit
- Close-up of leafs
- Close-up of an other interesting characteristics
- An overall shot of the plant and the manner in which it is growing.
Along with the photograph, or plant, it is necessary to include the following Plant Identification From in an email (you can copy and paste this text into the body of your email message):
Plant Identification Form
Phone or Fax:
Locality or address where plant was collected:
Number of plants submitted (please see notes 1 & 2 above):
Please answer the following questions to help our staff make an accurate identification.
1. Habit: tree____, shrub____, herb____, vine____, epiphyte____, aquatic____
2. Habitat: city yard___ , cultivated field ___, roadside___, woods ___, wetlands___, prairie___ , other______________________________.
3. Soil (if known): loam____, clay____, rocky or gravelly ____, sandy______.
4. Environment: typically wet _____, typically dry______; sunny_____, shady________.
5. This plant was wild_____, cultivated________, unknown_________.
6. If a section of the plant is being submitted, please estimate the size of the whole plant_______.
7. Abundance of plant at the site was: single______, few______, abundant_______.
8. Additional comments or information requests: _______________________________________