4

When I ask for plant identifications, I often get a comment that I should add where the plant can be found. I don’t want to tell everyone on the Internet where I live.

Can’t I just give the hardiness zone?

9

Knowing localities helps people to know more about the pests, diseases, growing conditions, local plants, temperatures, rainfall, humidity, elevation, hardiness zone, pollution, etc. If you provide a lot of neat information instead of saying where you are, that would probably be at least as good, as long as it includes what the people asking are looking for. There's not necessarily a way to tell what they're wanting to learn from it unless they say.

Of course, I don't think you're obligated to provide an exact location. Saying a more general region is often enough to suffice questioners: e.g. western Kansas.

If you live in Australia, New Zealand or somewhere like that, you should realize that there a lot of kinds of plants and animals there that aren't common elsewhere. So, if you're looking for a plant ID, people might be stumped if they don't know at least your country.

It might be helpful to give your Köppen Climate Classification in addition to your hardiness zone, sunset horizon zone, etc. Maybe people aren't always familiar with the Köppen Climate Classification system, but if they look it up, it's quite helpful, climate-wise. People should use it, IMO. I personally prefer it to the newer system that was supposed to supplant it, since it's less general by the look of it.

6

The hardiness zone is an indicator of exactly one thing: the average lowest temperature at a certain point. And that’s it. The conclusions we can draw from that information are minimal and at worst, misleading. Let’s compare two locations that are both in zone 9:

  1. Athens, Greece.
    A place with a measly 400mm of rain per year, 2800 hours of sunshine and an average daily height of 34.4 degrees Celsius in July.
  2. The Outer Hebrides, Scotland.
    A group of windswept islands where the wind (average speed 20km/h) brings a generous 1100mm of rain per year and summer max temperatures of 14 degrees Celsius make you keep your raincoat at hand. 1100 hours of sunshine isn’t much either.

But the average lowest winter temperature is in the same range, putting both places in the same hardiness zone!

Plants don’t care about street addresses, city names and countries. But plants are adapted to a certain range of

  • temperature
  • precipitation
  • sunshine
  • soil composition
  • change of seasons or lack thereof
  • ...

Humans on the other hand tend to not think in absolute numbers (I have no idea how many mm of rain I get where I live) but classify more, so giving a geographical area will help readers to get an idea how the conditions at a certain location are. If that means readers who are familiar with the conditions can add their knowledge, everyone benefits.

There is no need to give details and by all means don’t publish personally identifiable information here. This includes street signs or car license plates on photos.

Hint:
It’s often easier to write “from the plant’s perspective”, e.g.

This plant is growing in a cottage garden in the Lake District.

Vs.

I have this plant in my cottage garden in Kendal, Cumbria, UK.

5

Although zone hardiness is very helpful not all users know their zones. Also by giving a general geographic location you can get the most valuable answers: from gardeners in your area.

I cannot begin to tell you the number of times I grew plants from seed or bought stock that was theoretically hardy in my zone only to find that they did not grow successfully over multiple winters.

1

If you're worried about people knowing where you live, don't use the internet! And of course, don't be like me and use a pseudonym instead.

Giving a rough location ( no one really needs to know your street address ) is more useful than hardiness zone data which in New Zealand we don't use at all. Our country is divided into three general zones instead but despite this, things that are supposed to grow in one of the general zones don't necessarily do so. And there are also things like new diseases of which Myrtle Rust is just one thing spreading across the country ignoring zone data.

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