11

This site will have a lot of plant identification questions.

Please post your entries for common terms and phrases used to identify and describe plants below.

Then, edit this post to provide links to your answers below where you think a new user who asked a very vague plant identification question might be directed.

For Example:

Q: What is this plant?

It has a long stem, some leaves, and a flower that turns to a bunch of seeds after a day or two.

A:

To aid in the process of answering your question, it would be useful to know the following.

Location

Appearance

  • What do the leaves look like?
  • What does the root look like?
  • What do the seeds look like?
  • How tall does the plant grow?
  • Any chance of getting a photo?

If the question is very vague and you need more information link to this question, otherwise, link to the answer(s) which provide the most information.

  • @bstpierre: I took a crack at editing the question. Feel free to edit or roll back if I lost any of the meaning. – Robert Cartaino Jun 26 '11 at 21:43
  • @bstpierre, I blame my iPod (and big fingers) for my shoddy penmanship. I think there should probably be two meta posts, one for 'how to ask' and one as a definition of terms. If this one is the 'how to ask' question that's OK. – Peter Turner Jun 27 '11 at 12:51
9

I'd suggest keeping the use of highly technical terms to a minimum. If we must use it, it should either be followed by a good explanation of what it means, or be the secondary term (i.e., as an alternate word provided in parentheses).

Ultimately, we have to remember who our target audience is. Are we catering to botanists and professional horticulturists? No. So we should keep the questions and wordings such that an average person can type a description in the search box and be able to find what they want within the first three hits.

Compare

What is this plant with large bunches of pink flowers that look like pom-poms?

to

What is this plant with a large pink corymb infloresence?

A reasonable person, who did not know what a Hydrangea was would probably enter something similar to the first and it serves us to have it that way, so that it can be easily found by a simple search.

However, I do not mean to say that the answers should be over diluted. We just need to find a right balance, and I do not know what that is yet.

5

What region of the globe did you find your plant

It is very relevant to plant identification where the plant came from. It might happen that a very similar plant exists in a different place where the plant in question is growing.

This is especially important in weed identification or any identification of native species.

It is just one clue that can help cut out a lot of options, and narrow the scope of the experts who can actually answer the question.

5

What part of your yard did you find the plant?

Some species of plants (mainly weeds) crop up in different areas of your yard.

  • By the road
  • Beneath a fence
  • In fertile soil
  • Along the edge of a garden
  • In an unused garden
  • In the compost heap
  • Stuck in a bush
  • In a crack in a tree
  • Growing out of a raccoon skull, etc...

Knowing where the plant is growing can help the identification of the plant.

4

What are its origins (how did you get it)?

It is important to know whether your bought the plant from a store or got it from a friend or just found it growing in your attic.

If you got a seed or cutting from a group who trades seeds and cuttings, then it may be possible to cut out a whole bunch of hybridized plants.

If you found it growing in your yard, thought it was pretty and put it in a pot, that is very relevant information as well.

4

I think adding the photograph of the whole plant, as well as a separate closeup of its leaf (if any, with whole leaf visible) and a separate closeup of its flower (if any, with whole flower visible), will help others to recognize the plant .

Try to keep your pets, and other distractions (including yourself ;)) out of these photographs.

  • 2
    Close up is often useful, but it's also important to get a photo that has the entire plant so we can see what the whole thing looks like. (I.e. multiple photos of different parts may be the most helpful.) – bstpierre Jun 29 '11 at 12:10
  • @bstpierre I meant the same, I mentioned close up so that people do not include their house, dog or themselves in the photo :) And also, a close up photo of the leaf or flower of the plant in question will also be helpful. – Aquarius_Girl Jun 30 '11 at 10:35
  • 1
    Since this question is intended to serve as a howto for asking identification questions, you should edit your answer to include all of that information. A few sentences on how to take a good photo (or photos) would be helpful. – bstpierre Jun 30 '11 at 11:30

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