Plant Identification

Back by popular demand!

Alexander Greentree was the star of our Library Event. He was our expert horticulturalist who answered questions from members and visitors alike. A large proportion of those questions involved plant identification. He was such a hit that we asked him to come back and speak to the club and he obliged. Plant identification is something that we all struggle with and so getting tips from an expert was much appreciated by everyone.


Alexander will be providing a cheat sheet for members but I think it’s worth putting some of his key points here.

Basically the number one thing any gardener can do to identify and learn more about plants is get on the internet. As Alexander pointed out, it’s like the biggest plant book ever written – and then some. Once you’re on the internet, use your favourite search engine to enter the key words or phrases that describe your plant – look at the images, not the websites. From there a bit of quick scrolling might be all it takes to find your plant. If not, make a few changes to your key words and try again.

Of course the critical thing is using the right key words. Alexander suggests that starting small is best – generally providing “habit” and “flower description” is enough. The following forms of categorisation gives you an idea of what you might want to use in your search engine:

  1. Habit: Tree, shrub, vine, grass, orchid or lily, fern, flowering herbaceous or water plant
  2. Leaf type: simple or compound
  3. Leaf shape: for example, lobed, spatulated, ovate…
  4. Flower shape & colour: eg pea, mint, tubular, spurred… plus colour
  5. Flower type: eg solitary, umbel, disk, spike…
  6. Leaf arrangement: opposite, alternate, whirled, basal
  7. Leaf margin: eg entire, serrulate, serate, dentate…

And if all that fails, Alexander has offered club members that if you want to send him a photo of your plant with a close up of leaf and flower, he’ll help you identify it. If you want to take Alexander up on this offer, use the contact page and I’ll send you his email address.

Warning! Plant identification can become an addiction. You can spend hours online researching and hunting – solving the mystery and learning a lot on the way. But please don’t forget that if you love a plant, you don’t have to know what it’s called to enjoy it 🙂

Our next meeting is June 2nd when Wayne Tapping of Wildwood Garden will be talking to the club.

Don’t forget to check out the gardening column in the Hills to Hawkesbury Living Magazine. It appears in every issue and features information about the goings on in this club.


About Laura Rittenhouse

I'm an American-Australian author, gardener and traveller. Go to my writing website: for more. If you're trying to find my gardening blog, it's here.
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