Plant identification

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Plant identification is the process of matching a specimen plant to a known taxon. It uses various methods, most commonly dichotomous keys or multi-access keys. The natural key systems use morphological characteristics that can be compared with known databases to achieve typically the plants' genus. Characteristics observed include general character,structures of stems, roots and leaves, embryology and flowers.

George Bentham English systematician and botanist


Plant identification has evolved over hundreds of years and depends to a large extent on what criteria and whose system is used. Plant identification implies comparisons of certain characteristics and then assigning a particular plant to a known taxonomic group, ultimately arriving at a species.

One of the most significant and useful systems known as Genera Plantarium [1] was devised by George Bentham (1800–1884) and Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker (1817–1911) who were British botanists working for Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in the latter part of the nineteenth century. They devised the system in a 3 volume work. In this they presented a formal system for describing plants, which considered species with similar characteristics. A total of 202 groups were described, which they called "orders" - now known as families. The system was renowned for being very practical and quite accurate at plant identification, but has been proven to have little relationship to plant evolutionary history or phylogeny. Plant taxonomy and its study by computer programme was first introduced by Morse (1974)[2] and successful botanical dichotomous keys now use numerical computer systems.


This is the branch of botany which deals with plant identification, nomenclature and classification. The term, first coined by French botanist A. P. de Candolle (1813). Carolus Linnaeus,a Swedish botanist uses the term 'Systematics' which now includes identification, nomenclature and evolutionary relationships.

  • Alpha Taxonomy. Is the identification and classification of only morphological characters (Turill 1938)
  • Beta Taxonomy involves not only gross morphological features but also genetic, anatomical, cytological, palynological (study of pollens and spores), physiological and other characters, grouped into the study of Biosystematics (Turill 1938)
  • New systematics (Julian Huxley 1940) takes into consideration plant identification and grouping collected through multiple branches of science


Reference collections of plant specimens are collected into herbarium. The identified plant parts are dried, pressed, mounted on herbarium sheets and stored. The sheets are standard size of 1612 × 1112 inches or 41.25 × 28.75 cm. The identified plant includes all parts including root systems, flowers and young fruits. One of the greatest herbarium in the world is kept at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew England which has collected an estimated 7 Million specimens. Succulents are normally kept in 4% formalin and 96% acetic acid (FAA)

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External links[edit]


  • Tim Jones' (2013) - "A visual identification key utilizing both gestalt and analytic approaches to identification of Carices present in North America (Plantae, Cyperaceae)" in the Biodiversity Data Journal [1]
  • John Shaffner's key (1911) in the Ohio Naturalist [2]
  1. ^ Isely, Duane. 1994 One hundred and one botanists Iowa State University Press.
  2. ^