So, you’ve popped to the shop and rescued a poor, sad specimen of a plant without a label. How to tell what houseplant you have is the first thing on your mind!
There are lots of ways to tell what sort of plant you have picked up or been gifted – it can be tricky to narrow it down to exact species, but let’s get you headed in the right direction.
What You'll Learn Today
How To Tell What Houseplant You Have
If you have come across, or been given a plant that you don’t know what it is, there are ways that you can find out.
You don’t have to spend your life introducing it as “That random plant” or worrying in case it is violently poisonous – just narrow down your ideas.
Get a book, or go online, and start learning about what different families of plant have in common, then you will be one step closer.
Can Google Identify A Plant From A Picture?
Google is incredibly useful for a lot of things, and plant identification is one of these… Up to a point.
Google can help you to work out what your plant is, by matching a picture you take with one of the millions of images it has stored.
This definitely seems like an incredibly easy and convenient way to identify a plant – but do take care as Google is notorious for getting it wrong!
If it is a simple little plant, like a daisy, yellow rattle or a geranium, you can be pretty sure that Google will get it right.
However, you do need to watch out for poisonous lookalikes, that no one but a plant expert would be able to spot.
Make sure that any picture you take is clean, non-blurry and focusing on a the whole plant. Next, photograph any unusual features of the plant.
Always cross-check Google’s answers with a plant encyclopedia, or a useful botanical friend, before you decide what the plant is.
How Do I Identify A Plant?
If you’re out and about on a walk in the beautiful countryside and you spot a plant you don’t know, it’s always fun to discover what it is.
The first thing you will need to do is work out what plants are actually in your area – it’s no good to confidently identify it as something, only to discover that that something doesn’t grow in this country!
Next, find yourself a good book and learn about the local area and what sort of plants grow there.
You can compare your plant to pictures that you find in your plant book, using leaves, stems, flowers and fruits to narrow down the search.
Or you can just take a picture and get Google Lens to identify it for you – but where’s the fun in that?
This is a very long video, but it will help you with the basics of plant identification:
What Are 5 Ways To Identify A Plant?
Identifying a plant that you don’t know is interesting, good brain activity, and you will feel inordinately proud when you discover what the plant is!
- Start by checking the area you are in, and making a note of what the climate is like. Does the plant grow alone? In clumps? Under trees? By a stream?
- Next, check the stems and the branches. Are they straight, droopy or climbing? Do the bracts join together? Are there “false” leaves?
- Have a look at the leaves. What shape are they? Are they bright or dark green? Do they have variegation? How many to a stem?
- Check for flowers and fruits. Does this plant flower? Can you see evidence of any berries growing where the flowers were?
- Look for thorns, hairs or barbs on the stem. Are these small and bristly or long and pointed? Do they extend onto the leaves or are they just on the stem?
- Sniff it. I’m being serious! Many plants have a distinctive smell – is it sweet? Does it smell like the inside of an old loft? Is it fruity?
- Check the roots. Have a little scratch into the soil around the plant – are the roots close to the surface or deeper? What color are they? Are they string shaped or bulb shaped?
As you can see, there is a lot to consider when you are looking into plant identification!
You can either invest in a great plant book to help you figure out what you are looking at (these should be available in any good bookshop, and it’s a fun way to do it).
Or you can get more technical and ask Google to identify it. The trouble is, Google is not always completely accurate, and it takes some of the fun out of it – it’s just too easy!
What Are The Three Main Methods To Identify An Unknown Plant?
There are a lot of plants in this world. I mean, a LOT. There could be as many as 5 million different species, with more being discovered all the time.
Because of this, identification has to be broken down in a systematic approach in order to be able to work out which plant is which.
Plants are generally compared to an already-existing taxon, to work out where they fit in in the grand scheme of things.
Using molecular techniques and DNA barcoding, plants can be identified more quickly and easily than ever before.
A slightly less technical way of identifying is expert’s determination. Plant experts are geniuses, and can generally be relied upon to make a good decision.
There are, obviously more than 3 ways to identify an unknown plant. Matching plants to existing literature; using keys, or simply recognizing the plant are just some.
This incredibly detailed article will show you many of the different ways you can identify plants.
So, the next time a friend brings you a plant and neither of you know what it is, hopefully you now have some tools to impress them and whip the right name out of nowhere!
Always remember to take especial care when identifying new and unknown plants; some plants can be truly deadly, so ensure that you have your identity confirmed by an expert.