Botany in a Day Tutorial (46 mins) The Patterns Method of Plant Identification

Hello and welcome to my home in Pony, Montana. I am coming to you from winter here in Montana
land, but I keep a piece of summer alive all year
long here in the greenhouse. Today I would like to share some shortcuts
for learning how to identify plants and their uses anywhere in the world, which
I call the Patterns Method of Plant Identification, based
on my book Botany in a Day. For example, some of you may recognize that
this flower is a hibiscus. However, knowing the name doesn’t reveal anything
useful about the plant or its properties, so the name is of little
consequence. It is far more important to be able to recognize that this plant is
a member of the Mallow family. You see, related plants have similar characteristics
for identification and they often have similar uses. Take the Mallow family for example. There are about fifteen hundred different
species of true Mallows that all have some core characteristics in
common. Big or small, Mallows have five separate petals,
and the stamens are fused together in a column surrounding
the pistil in the middle of the flower. If you are new to botanical terms you can
remember that the stamens are the male part of the flower and that they
always “stay men.” The pistil is the female part of the flower, and you can remember that it is a “pistol-packing
mama”. If you can remember that Mallows have five
separate petals and the stamens are fused together in a column
around the pistil then you can recognize Mallow Family plants
anywhere in the world: Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia or here in
the Americas. And here is the cool thing, crush a leaf or
flower and feel the unique mucilaginous texture. It isn’t just damp like water, it is actually
slimy. This mucilaginous property comes from a slimy,
moist polysaccharide that is found throughout the Mallow family as well as a number of unrelated plants, such
as Aloe vera. This mucilaginous quality is especially useful
for treating burns and sunburns. The fluid between your body cells is a mucopolysaccharide
hydrogel. Polysaccharides help strengthen this hydrogel
after damage, so keep an eye out for Mallow family plants
if you get too much sun. That`s the beauty of the Pattern Method of
Plant Identification. By learning a few simple plant family patterns,
you can recognize and utilize plants you encounter, even if
you’ve never seen them before and you don`t know their individual names. I was introduced to wild edible and medicinal
plants through my grandmother when I was a child. We lived in California and then came up to
Montana to visit my grandmother, and every day we would go on walks out in the fields, and we were picking plants, things like peppermint, red clover, blue violets, yarrow, these different herbs and then bringing them
back to the house. My grandmother liked to dry those on racks and then put them in her tea pantry. She had an entire pantry dedicated to wild
teas, and she cooked on a wood cookstove, so every day, I mean literally every day, she had a pot of tea on the stove and so I grew up with that particular influence. And then, after she introduced me to some
of these plants, I wanted to know, well, what are all the other
interesting plants out there, and so we would bring back flowers on our
walks and then sit down with our picture books, and just page through those books to try and
key out a plant and identify it by looking at the pictures. And so once… once we had the name of the plant then we
could go through and read about it, study up on it’s uses and
try it, and so with that kind of approach I was able
to learn many of the key plants here in southwest Montana before I got out of high
school. And… I thought I knew a lot about plants, but as
I later figured out I just knew a lot about names of plants. It wasn’t until a few years later that I settled down and started a school and
then had a guest instructor by the name of Robyn Klein, a local herbalist
came and taught a class about… about the medicinal plants here. That was really my first introduction to plant families, cause before that I always
I’d seen plant family names in my books but I didn’t know how that… why a plant is in this family, or that family
or how that information could be useful. But Robyn’s walk was very interesting because
as we go along, we came across many members of the Rose family,
for example, and she would point out, “Well, here is such
a such in the Rose family. Notice how it has five petals and lot’s of
little stamens, and like other members of the Rose family,
it contains tannins, it is astringent and an astringent tightens
tissues, which could be useful, say to take down swelling,
or to help close a wound. Or internally, say if you have diarrhea, this
is something that can help dry out your system, and so this astringent
tightens tissues like that.” And she just sort of repeated that as we went
from plant to plant in the Rose family, similar patterns for identification, and some
similar uses. Now I found that really interesting and it
made me want to know, well what are the patterns for identification,
what are the pattern for uses for all these other plants out here as well. And so that is what really lead to writing of my book “Botany
in a Day.” It was a research project to answer some questions
for me. However, it turned out that other people had
these questions as well, and Botany in a Day has become… a bestselling
botany book, and its used now as a text book at herbal
schools, wilderness survival schools, colleges, even
some high schools across our country and around the world. So, Botany in a Day covers more than 100 families of plants. That is pretty much everything in the Northern latitudes, what I call the
frost belt of the country. In any places that has hard freezes in the
winter time and then when you go south beyond that line
you have those same families plus additional families from farther south. Now the tutorial in Botany in the Day introduces
eight key plant families. Eight of the biggest plant families in the
world that are widespread, easy to identify, and useful wherever you
go. And in addition in to putting those in Botany
in a Day, I also included them in my children’s book
called Shanleya’s Quest: A Botany Adventure for Kids
Ages 9 to 99. And after that I also produced a card game
based on the book so that instead of merely reading about or
hearing this information and sort of having it go in one ear and out
another, you can actually play the game and learn these
skills at more of a body level instead of a head level. And so what we’re going to do now is, we are going to go in reverse, we’ll start
with the card game and then we work our way back to Botany in
a Day. Ok, let’s do a quick run through of the eight
families included in Shanleya`s Quest and then we’ll play some
card games. So the first family I like to introduce is
the Mint family, and the key pattern for the Mint family is
that the plants have square stalks, opposite leaves, and are
usually aromatic or minty smelling, so they have square stalks, and opposite leaves, leaves that come out across from each other
like this instead of alternating like that, and then
as I said, often minty smelling. So square stalks, opposite leaves… square
stalks, opposite leaves in each one of these photos. Ok, and the next family we are going to do
is the Parsley family. Now the key pattern for the Parsley family
is what we what call compound umbels, that an umbel is kind of like an umbrella. And so, what we have is all of these spokes for the flowers coming out from a central
point and then we call it a compound umbel because at the end of each one of these spokes is
another little umbrella, or umbel, hey kitty, that, so we have the
big umbel and all the little umbels with it that makes a compound umbel as you`ll see at each of
these pictures here. Now with some families, like say the Mint
family, most of your Mints are aromatic, some are very mild, some don’t
really have flavor to them and others are very strong, but the Mints
are pretty harmless, pretty hard to hurt yourself if you go out
and picking and trying mints. Now the Parsley family is another case, we
have some wonderful edible and medicinal plants in the Parsley
family, but also some of our deadliest plants in North
America, including water hemlock and poison hemlock,
so in this case knowing the pattern for the Parsley family
and being able to recognize the compound umbel tells you that you can`t
be messing around with the Parsleys. This is the case where you need to know the
individual plants to safely use these, and so that is super
helpful to be able to recognize that pattern, recognize the pattern for the
Parsley family and go, “Okay, I’ve got to be careful with these guys.” Now the next pattern we’ll do is the Mustard
family, and the Mustard family, these are four-petaled flowers, these are four-petaled flowers in the deck
here, and the key pattern for the Mustards is that
we have four petals with six stamens, four tall, two
short. The stamens being, of course, the male part
of the flower, the stamens “always stay men.” So four petals, with six stamens, four tall, two short, gives us our Mustard
flowers, and so in the deck here these are the four-petaled
flowers. Now there are more than 3,000 species of Mustard around the world and they are all edible, so with that much information you could be
walking across the middle of Africa, you see some
plant you’ve never seen before in your life, and
you go, “Oh, look at that, four petals, six stamens,
four tall, two short. That’s a mustard, I can eat it.” And like the Mints, you’re going to find that some are really
mild, some are really potent, and… you can try
them to see if you like them, and if you like them, throw them in your salad. That is the way it works. Okay, our next family is the Pea family, and
the Pea family has what we call an irregular flower, so you’ll
notice going back to our Mustard for a moment, that
the flower is very symmetrical, this is what we
call a “regular flower,” as opposed to the Pea family that’s asymmetrical
or “irregular.” And now there’s a lot of different irregular
flowers in the world, but what makes the Pea family pattern… what makes the Peas stand out from the others, they kind of have their own lingo, because
they are unique, they have a banner petal, two winged petals, and then a keel, like the keel of a boat. Now in the story, Shanleya’s Quest, Shanleya
is paddling around to each of what are called the tree
islands to learn about the different flowering plants, and each island
is home to a different guardian that she is able to
learn some lessons about the plants from. So in the case of the Pea guardian, he has put up basically a port there where
she parks her canoe, and so there is a big banner and wings and
then when she paddles her canoe in there that makes
up the keel of the flower. So banner, wings, and keel is the pattern
for the Pea family. Now you may not be able to make out the individual
flower parts in here to see… the banner, wings, and keel
in each of these flowers, but that’s okay, you don’t need to because
there are sort of, you develop an intuitive sense of the Peas
that you can, you get to the point that you just look at
it and, “Oh that’s a Pea flower,” so you don’t always have to see the individual
parts. But if you do look closely at something like
let’s say this alfalfa flower here, then you’ll see
the individual petals here, they have banner wings and keel. And if you look real close at a head of clover, you’ll see that the clover
is made up of many Pea flowers, and if you look real close
at that, you’ll see that each individual Pea flower has its own
banner, wings, and keel. So just to do a quick review here, we have
the Mint family, square stems, and opposite leaves, usually
aromatic or minty smelling. The Parsley family, compound umbels. We have the Mustard family, four petals with six stamens,
four tall, two short, and we have the Pea family, banner wings and
keel. So let’s clean this up and well make some
room and we’ll cover four more families. Okay, continuing on, we have the Lily family, and the Lily family has what at first appears to be six petals, but it is in actuality three
sepals, and three petals that are identical in size and color. So if we step back to our Mustard family for just a moment, we
had the four petals, and if we look behind those petals there are
four green sepals, four little sepals there, and when we are
looking at flower parts, we always go in the same order, we go sepals,
petals, stamens, pistil. So we start on the outside and work in, sepals, petals, stamens, pistil. Now when we do that with a Lily, we find that
the first row, there are two rows here, two overlapping rows. We have the sepals on the outside, three sepals, and then three petals on the inside. So three sepals and three petals that are identical in size and color. Historically, the Lily family was very large and included some very diverse
plants, that were not actually that closely related
to each other, such as the glacier lily, on the one hand,
and then the death camas on the other, and with the
help of genetics work they’ve been able to clarify
the relationships and split these out into some new and different
families. Nevertheless, whether you are working through
an old book or working through a new book you still need
to be able to recognize this pattern for the traditional
Lily family and then go from there in keying something out, so
a good pattern to know. And again there was three sepals, and three
petals that are identical in size and color. So the next family we are going to cover here
is the Grass family, and the Grasses may not look like flowers,
we don’t normally think of them as being flowers, but in a botanical
sense grasses are flowers. They have stamens, they have pistils, they
have seeds enclosed in an ovary like other flowers do. The difference is that Grass is wind pollinated, so the Grasses are not investing energy into
producing showy petals to attract insects for pollination. In all other aspects these are considered true flowers. So it is important to understand when you
are keying out plants what is and isn’t a flower, and we go into a lot more depth in that in
Botany in a Day. Now for our purposes, for the card game here,
we have the Grasses, and the key pattern here is that the Grass
family has knees or nodes in the flower stem, these little growth points
that make a bump in the middle of the flower stem, is the pattern
there. Now the next family I like to introduce is
the Rose family and these are the five-petaled cards in the
deck. So we talked about these briefly earlier,
that the Roses have five petals or five-petaled flowers with a lots of little
stamens in them, and that the vegetation tends to be astringent
to varying degrees, that it has tannins that tighten up tissues,
so for the purposes of the game, these are the five-petaled flowers. And the last family I like to introduce is
the Aster family, and if you look at these it looks like they
have a great many petals, but botanically speaking these are actually
five-petaled flowers. And so if you look real close you’ll see that
an Aster flower is a composite, that’s the key word here, a composite flower, that is a composite of many small flowers
working together to make what looks like a big flower. And each of those is basically a little five-petaled
flower, so if you think about, like a sunflower head
growing in the garden, you have this big disc surrounded by petals,
and in the middle where the all the seeds are produced, you
can think of it like as a garden. It’s kind of a garden where all the little
flowers are planted cause each seed in that head is produced by
an individual flower. So that’s really a key characteristic of the
Aster family Is that you have this pitted disc, big or
small, where all the little flowers are planted. So you have disc flowers in the middle, and then the big
petal-like things on the outside are what we call ray flowers,
that each one of those a long petal-like things is actually
a flower in itself with all the petals fused together and flopped
over to one side. So you have disc flowers in the middle, ray
flowers on the outside, and each of these, disc flowers in the middle,
ray flowers on the outside, and you can almost see the
details, a little bit in the disc flower here, disc
flowers and ray flowers again all way through, and here you can see we have
sort of a cone-shape, but otherwise the same principal, disc flowers
and ray flowers. Now we move on to our dandelion and you’ll
see that we have all ray flowers and no disc flowers, whereas
in our thistle has all disc flowers but no ray flowers. And these are all what we call composite flowers. Okay, so let’s do a quick review of these
four families. We have the Lily family, three sepals and three petals
that are identical in size and color. We have the Grass family, they have the knee-like
nodes in the flower stems. We have the Rose family, these have the five
petals with lots of little stamens in the middle. And then we have the Aster family with the composite flowers. Now let’s shuffle all these together and we’ll
do a quick review. Okay, so what we’ll do is flip the card up
and then we just need to name the family and see if you can keep up. Lily family, Pea family, Grass family, Mustard, Parsley, Grass, Parsley, Rose, Mint, Pea, Pea, Mint. So what we are trying to do is to get these family patterns down
to a gut level instinct so you don’t have to think about it. You could just be walking down the sidewalk, and you see some flowers and
you go, “Oh, Aster family, Mint family, Parsley family,
Rose family.” Now it doesn’t matter where you are, whether
you are in the city looking at flower beds or gardens, or you’re
out in the wilderness or you are just looking at pictures in a calendar, you want to be able to get these core families
down to the point where it is just instinct and you look at
it and you know what family it is. Pea, Aster, Parsley, Grass, Pea, Aster, Lily, Mustard, Aster, Mint, Mint, Rose, Aster, Mustard, Aster, Lily, Mint, Lily,
Mustard. Okay, so I am joined by my friend Lydia who
is a student in our Green University program and we`ll
play some card games so you can see how this works. The first one we are going to do is called
Memory or Concentration, and so the object here is to find cards, matching
cards, from within one family. So what we’ll do is lift up the cards, the Pea family and the
Mustard family, no match. Go ahead. A Pea and a Pea. Very nice, okay, so you get to go again. Parsley… and Rose. Parsley and Rose. Lily, Mustard. Lily and Lily. Nice. Still your turn. My turn, Rose… and Mustard. Mint… and Mint, Mint. Aster. Rose and Rose. Good. Aster. Aster. You’re cleaning up! Aster. Mustard. Okay, Mint… Mint. Mustard… Mustard Mustard… Mustard (again) No, no, no, no. I’m sorry! Parsley and Parsley, that was lucky. Pea… Parsley Rose and Rose. Very good. Okay, so once you got the basics down to identify
the plant families then you can pick up the pace a little bit
and play what we call Slap Flower. Alrighty, so let’s start out with, let’s go
for Rose family. Uff… nice. I am going to break this table. (laughter) Okay, what family? Lily. Okay, Parsley. Nice. Aster. Okay… Grass. Nice. Rose. Oh man! (laughter) Studying plant family patterns as we have
done so far is an excellent way to get started in plant
identification. And the more plant family patterns that you
know, the more likely you are to recognize a new
specimen when you encounter it in the field. However, there will always be new plants from new families that
you haven’t yet learned. So it is also important to learn how to key
out a plant to identify it. And the first step in keying out any flowering
plant is to be able to determine whether it is monocotyledon
or a dicotyledon. So we’ll introduce monocots and dicots now,
and then we’ll include the monocot and dicot cards
in the deck and we’ll play some more card games. Let’s start with some definitions. First, we have monocotyledons. “Mono” means one, “cotyle” means seed, and
“don” means leaf. So we have one-seed-leaf versus “dicotyledons”
that have two-seeds-leaves. Perhaps you remember back in grade school,
soaking bean seeds between layers of wet paper towels to make
them sprout. The beans would soak up water and the beans themselves would
unfold to make a plant with each half of the bean becoming a seed
leaf. So beans are dicots, they have two seed leaves, as opposed to something
like corn or wheat that unfurls a single seed leaf from the seed. Now fortunately, when you try to identify
a plant you don’t need to take the seeds, bring them home and put
them in a pot and water them to see whether they have one seed leaf
or two seed leaves. I think of it as being kind of like a genetic
algorithm that leaves a story to the plant the rest of its life so you can
look at the adult plant to see whether or not it is a monocot or a
dicot. So let’s look around the greenhouse and compare the differences
between monocots and dicots. So the first big clue to distinguish between monocots and dicots is that monocots
tends to have parallel veins in the leaves, such as this
amaryllis here, where all the veins are running in straight
lines down the leaf like that. As opposed to dicots, like this avocado, that
tend to have net-veined leaves, that the veins branch out within the leaf. Now that’s a pretty good pattern, although it is probably only about seventy
percent accurate, because there are some monocots that appear
to have net-veined leaves and there are also some dicots that appear
to have parallel veins. So, what we need to do is to start with that
and to look for some additional clues to be sure whether
a plant is a monocot or a dicot. Another key difference between monocots and
dicots is that monocots tend to have flower parts in multiples
of three, while dicots tend to have flower parts in
multiples of four and five. Take this wandering Jew from the Spiderwort
family, it is an obvious monocot with parallel veins
in the leaves and flower parts in threes. In this case we have three sepals, three petals,
and six stamens. Compare that to a Geranium that has net-veined leaves and flower parts typically in fives. So in this case we have five sepals, five
petals, and five, ten, or fifteen stamens. Now there are exceptions to that, as the result of plant breeding. The stamens and petals are closely related genetic material, and so plant breeders often
breed stamens into petals to make flowers that have additional petals. And so in cultivated flowers you”ll often see exceptions that have, in
this case, five sepals and quite a few extra petals. There is one more key difference between monocots
and dicots. Monocots tend to be more simple plants with
a simple branching structure, while dicots can have a more complicated branching
structure. For example, these chives are an obvious monocot
with parallel veins in the leaves, and they are
pretty, they are pretty simple plants. As opposed to this tomato that has net-veined
leaves and a pretty complicated branching structure. And back here we have a little banana plant
that is a monocot, and we have over here the avocado, which has
a more complicated branching structure of a dicot. So let’s take a look around and see what else we have for monocots and dicots. So here we have an Aloe vera with parallel
veins in the leaves, that’s an monocot. And climbing up the wall we have our hibiscus, with its net-veined leaves and flower parts
in fives, that is a dicot. And up over here we have a grape vine that
also has net-veined leaves, this it is another dicot. And right behind me we have a guava and a bougainvillea. These also have net-veined leaves and these
are additional dicots. So let’s do this, let’s put our monocot and
dicot cards into the deck and then we’ll play some more card games. Now in the card game, the Lilies and Grasses
are monocots and all of the other families are dicots. And the game that we’re going to play now
is called Crazy Flowers which is kind of like Crazy Eights or Uno. So the object of the game is to play out all
of these cards. And our opening suit is the Aster family. Do you have any Asters? I do. I do not have any Asters, I’ll change it to
the Pea family. I don’t have a Pea, so your turn. Pea there. I’ll do monocots. Any monocot family, so it will be Lilies or
Grasses – I have Lilies. And you are poisoning the pile, so if you
use a poison card you can play any card from any family to reset. Parsley. Parsley. I don’t have a Parsley, so I will play my
Dicot card, which means that you get to play any Dicot
family. Mint. Mint family. Monocots. Any Monocot… Lily. I’ll poison the pile and switch over to the
Pea family. Any monocot. Very nice. Okay, the next game that we are going to play
is called Shanleya’s Harvest, based on the story in the book. Shanleya paddles around to each of the tree
islands to learn about the different families and
plants and their properties, and so we’ll start out with eight cards for
each of the eight families. And Shanleya needs to come back to win with
one nonpoisonous card from each family, that is one of the photo
cards, not one of the black-and-white family cards. So on your turn, you draw and discard every time, so you can
draw from this pile or you can draw the top card off the discard
pile, or you could reach blindly over and take a
card and then discard back or you could use a black-and-white card, like, say I have the Aster family card. I could say, “Do you have any member of the Aster family?” In which case you will give one to me and I will discard something back to you. Okay, so I see a Mint in the discard pile. It helps my hand, I’ll take that one. And… I will discard an Aster. I’d like to draw a card from your hand. I will take that one. And now I have one less card than you do. Yeah, so now I discard back to you. Now these poison cards, if I had drawn a poison
card from you, that would poison my whole hand, and I would
have to re-deal, but it won’t hurt you on a discard. You just have to get rid of that before you
can turn in your cards. Gotcha. Like right now. I think I’ve got them all, do I put them down
right now? Okay, go ahead. Lily, Mint, Grass, Mustard, Aster, Rose, Parsley
and Pea. Awesome. Okay, we’ve been goofing off and playing card
games, and working out of my children’s book. And in the process we’ve covered the key patterns for identification
for eight core plant families that applies to more than 45,000 different
species of plants that you encounter anywhere in the world. We’ve also looked at the differences between monocots and dicots. And really we’ve covered most of the essential material from the tutorial of Botany
in a Day that you need to be able to key out and identify new plants. So that’s what we will do now is we’ll start
with a flower that doesn’t match any of the patterns we
already know and we’ll key it out to find out what it is. Now given it that is winter here in Montana, we don’t have much for flowers outside. We’re going to work with a flower from my
photo library and run it through the keys to identify it down
to its proper family. The first step in the process is to determine,
is this monocot or a dicot? You may recall that monocot plants tend to
have parallel veins in the leaves and typically flower parts in threes. Whereas dicot tends to have net-veined leaves and flower parts in fours and fives. So, do you think this is a monocot or a dicot? That’s not too tough… that’s a dicot. If you look real close at this flower you
can see that there are four reddish sepals, four pink petals, there is eight stamens and recall that’s the
male part of the flower. And then the pistil, the female part of the
flower is at the center and it has a distinctive four-lobed stigma,
the stigma being the tip of the pistil. So four sepals, four petals, eight stamens,
and a pistil with a four-lobed stigma. Let’s remember those characteristics and we’ll
take a look at the key. Now there are a great many different dicot
flowers in the world and in Botany in a Day they are divided into
several different keys based on whether or not if they are regular
or irregular flowers and also by the number of petals. So let’s page through the keys and find the right key for our flower. First, we have a key to regular dicot flowers
with numerous petals, numerous means eleven or more. So does that fit our flower? No. And then we have a key to irregular dicot
flowers. Now you may recall that… that flowers that
are symmetrical, like say a Mustard flower, those are regular
flowers whereas those that are asymmetrical like a
Pea flower, those are irregular flowers. So is our sample regular or irregular? It is a regular flower. So it won’t be in this key. We also have a key to regular dicot flowers
with zero, three, or six petals, does that fit? No. Here we have a key to regular dicot flowers
with four petals. That sounds about right. And we also have a key to regular dicot flowers
with five petals. So let’s stick with the key to the dicots
with four petals and we’ll go through and see if we can find
a match. So, looking at our key, the first section
is for shrubs or threes, and is our flower a shrub or tree? No, here we have an herb. So we go down to the next section, herbs with
distinctive vegetative features. And so first item, forest plants without chlorophyll. If it didn’t have chlorophyll it wouldn’t
be green, so it must have chlorophyll. Moving along, we have aquatic plants with
finely divided leaves under water, but whole leaves above the water. Does that fit? No. Not an aquatic plant. Neither is it a vining plant, and it is not the fourth item here, bristly,
hairy, or sticky. So we continue on down the page, we have next
section herbs that have flowers with four united petals. Does that fit? No. Our petals are clearly separate from each
other. So we go down to the last section, herbs that have flowers with four separate
petals. Going through these items our first one is
leaves opposite, and does ours have opposite or alternate leaves? It maybe a little hard to see in the photo,
but these are alternate leaves. So we’ll skip that one. The next one is leaves opposite or whorled,
we’ll skip that one. And then we go down to leaves opposite or
alternate. We do have alternate leaves. So it says succulent. Succulent would mean that the leaves are kind
of thick and fleshy. Does that fit? No. Two sepals… does that fit? Definitely not. So we continue on down to the next item, leaves opposite or alternate, again succulent. Four sepals, four petals, one or two times
as many stamens and three or more pistils. Ahh, does that fit? No, our plant is not succulent and it has
only one pistil. Moving on down, we have leaves opposite, alternate,
or basal, four sepals and four petals, four or eight
stamens, often a four-parted stigma, does that sound
familiar? You bet it does. It will be the Evening Primrose family. Now it’s good practice to go through the rest
of these to look to see if there is anything else that might match that
we want to compare and make sure that we have the right one. But for our purposes this sounds good, so we’ll turn to the Evening Primrose family
and read about that. So here we have the Evening Primrose family. The delicate flowers of this family have mostly
regular, bisexual flowers with four separate petals… (actually) four
separate sepals, sometimes colored like petals, and four separate
petals. There are an equal number or twice as many
stamens as petals. It has a compound pistil with styles fused
together but not the stigma lobes. Note the distinctive four-parted stigma in
the illustration, an essential pattern for recognizing this
family. And if we look, towards the lower right side of the page of colored pictures you’ll see
that our specimen is shown there and that our plant
is a fireweed. Looking through my photo library I see a number
of other flowers that have the same pattern with four sepals,
four petals, four or eight stamens and a pistil with a
four-parted stigma. Those include evening primrose, hairy evening
primrose, scarlet bee blossom, and clarkia. Now many of these flowers are illustrated
in Botany in a Day. However, any that are not, are easy to look
up in any other book that is organized by families. Once you know the family pattern, once you been able to identify a plant to
the family, then you can turn to just that family in whatever book that you’re
working in and flip through the pages to find a match
to your particular specimen. And that is a super easy way to identify plants. Okay, well that wraps it up for me. We’ve covered the key patterns for identification for eight core families of plants, and we’ve
introduced the Evening Primrose family and the Mallow
family. We’ve also looked at the differences between
monocots and dicots, and we’ve walked through the steps of keying
out a new and unknown flower through the keys in
Botany in a Day. From here it is up to you, you have all the
skills that you need to take Botany in Day out and identify flowers
in your area. For more information on the book, on Botany
in a Day or Shanleya’s Quest and card game, be sure
to visit our website at: We also have a photo gallery with hundreds
of different wildflowers organized by families to aid in your identification.


  1. Can anyone recommend anything else to watch like this? I cannot afford to buy the book unfortunately but found the explanation of type identification extremely useful.

  2. I am only on third of the way done with your video and I am having so much fun. I am an avid gardener. I have been studying computer science and I recently decided to study botany. You live the life I seek. Birds, pets, plants growing in the house, etc. I can tell you are passionate tool. Great ideas with the cards and such.

  3. Thomas, I wanted to say thank you for taking the time to do this video. It is required viewing for a university class and it was wonderful. Well done sir!

  4. Thanks for your video, interesting, relaxing and fun. I don't have kids, but I still love the idea of your cards and kids book. Nice Job! I think I'll have to buy all three!

  5. Interesting information about plants. You know, every time I step outside my backyard and look at all the different plants and trees, I cannot help but fall in love with just how beautiful they look, which made me come to your video out of curiousity.

  6. Even if you believe you cannot afford the book, you should still buy it!

    This one book has everything that you will need to identify what grows around you and how to use it.

    There is nothing better and probably never will be.

    If you can buy gas for a car, buy coffee or whatever you can buy this, too.

  7. Excellent video Thomas, this should be a part of every horticultural course! I only wish I had come across this video 8 months ago when I started school ha ha, better late than never I suppose 🙂

    Just ordered all 3 books and the cards, can't wait til they get here!!

  8. Brilliant! I cannot tell you how many books I've purchased to learn to identify plants. You've simplified this process tremendously. Thank you.

  9. This will surely help anyone as it did me!
    Great work. I am QUITE thankful to have gotten the books and cards!

  10. I am a beginning reader. What's the meaning of three numbers in ( / / ) for each introduced plant stand for ? Thank you 🙂

  11. What other books would you recommend for plant identification apart from yours? I am a biology student and am looking to buy severeal books for this, yours looks pretty awesome definitely gonna buy it.

  12. OMG!! I loved this video. When you first opened the book while sitting in front of the brick wall it reminded me of the school in the village i attended in Kenya. We used to learn about plants in this way, the teacher would take the whole class outside to look at the plants. Not to mention it's a coffee and substance farming region so listening to you talk about the plants i grew up with in a scientific way is almost tear jerking. Kids in developed countries miss so much of life! side note, I finally got some bougainvilleas, two of them, I hope they survive my patio tonight(freezing temps)… never thought that would be a problem in Texas. Excellent video.

  13. I was given small plant , but I dont' know anything about it or the name of it. I would like to identify it and to know more about it. It was given my non English speaking old woman , she did not know the name of the plant.

  14. Thank you, was really helpful. I marked the book as 'to read' in GoodReads but I live in Europe. I hope to find a similar book for the flora of Europe.

  15. Studying for my vascular plant systematics exam right now, got 60 families to remember… Thanks for the help 🙂

  16. Payday hurry up and get here so I can buy the book. I think I can actually learn the flowers & families with your way of teaching. This is Awesome!

  17. This was a very enjoyable video.  I had already bought the book, but it had been sitting on the shelf collecting dust since my service-connected injuries started getting worse and worse.  Now that they are stabilized a bit, I want to pursue a new career path as a self-educated herbalist.  Videos like this help so much.  Thank you again.

  18. I would love to have games and books like these for the plants in the Netherlands . Maybe I could try to write a Dutch version of Botany in a Day 😊

  19. this is great…only one question though concerning the grass flowers…carnations have those bump also but are not in the grass family?

  20. I am a plant science student, and unfortunately I didn't have the chance to study more about plant systematics and classification but I'm quite interested about this subject. thank you so much sir, your videos r much helpful, hopefully I can buy ur book someday ☺

  21. OMG!! My cat loves cards too. Seriously, the minute any card or post it is sitting on my desk, she immediately goes for it. She loves sliding into and scattering them 😀

  22. You mention Water hemlock and poison hemlock. That's interesting, as I think in Britain what we call 'Water Hemlock' is the poisonous variety!

  23. Sorry for all the questions. I read that the buttercup (ranunculaceae) family has many different genus (geni?) that have strikingly different characteristics, for example anemone, celandine and clematis, all have different numbers of petals. So in this instance you would have to be able to identify the genus name, not only the family, is that correct?

  24. Fantastic work sir. Looking to start attending the University of Arizona beginning of next year in Plant sciences with hopes of becoming an Enthnobotanist someday! Thank you.

  25. That was a great tutorial. Very well explained and your system is brilliant. I am going to look at getting those cards as I want to share them with my daughter too. Well done.

  26. Wonderful video!! I paused this in the middle and went and bought your children book, and I will be purchasing the cards and the other book soon. Thank you for your thoughtful video!

  27. Wow, so hard to believe that there a such kind people like you in the world who are so willing to share!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Now I am going to buy your books and the card game. I love your granny!!

  28. Question: Here the rose family is described as "5 petals, many stamens," but what folks usually call a "rose" seems to have many many petals- are some of the petals actually sepals? are the petals folded to seem more numerous?

  29. My great grandmother was like your grandmother. She had a lot of kids and taught them all about gardening, wild herbs, what heals and what you can eat. My grandfather still lives by this and thats how my mom grew up. Id love to become a botanist or plant-biologist. Im in pennsylvania, can you recommend any good programs for me? Im especially interested in medicinal plants and teas.

  30. Wow that video was amazing! My friend got a sunburn a little while ago and I remembered you saying that plants from the mallow family cure that and I fixed her sunburn. Keep up the great work!

  31. You have a unique way of teaching with the card games. ☺ I'm in Georgia and have lots of tall (5 ft +/- ) bushy wildflowers with yellow blooms (5 or 6 petals) blooming right now. It's driving me crazy not knowing what they are. They may be thin leafed sunflowers but not sure the petal count is correct and can't find a photo online to compare the leaves and blooms. Are wildflowers identification covered in your book? Thanks!

  32. I think I might buy the book but I'm more of a visual hands on learner. Hope to learn more on plants & herbs for a more wellness lifestyle.

  33. Mr. Elpel…thanks for your accredited way of teaching. I am surprised with that! I like your way of learning the families…So, what may I do to collect those books and materials you taught with? I live in Bangladesh.. How can I get or buy those from my country? I think those would be very useful to my students as well….(My name is Muhammad Saikat Rahman). I am an assistant professor of Botany.

  34. Thnak you! I've been trying to figure out how identification works, and how I will memorise all the information, and this is a great start!

  35. Very helpful, very encouraging. For non botanists, the complexities of flower identification especially edible wild plants seems overwhelming. Like so many challenges in life, breaking them into recognizable patterns/groups makes learning manageable. Making a good video, requires lots of preparation of graphics, and subject matter arrangement, lighting, careful sound recording, and camera direction. "It is tough!" "I know" This was a great video that could be a lot better if the camera stayed focused "closely" on each picture for a "pregnant moment". I say that because it sends a signal to the viewer. This image is important to observe closely. Each time a critical leap of new information comes along it's important to define it carefully distinctly to isolate the new concept. The card games are a great tool. Please do more. Millions of us crave new understanding. life only has so many days to take it all in. We need your help. Thanks.

  36. A Flower is the Face, in a plant Kingdom. An inspiritional approach to botany made simple and easy to understand . Thank you .

  37. Thank you so much for sharing so much great information and for doing such a great job with the books and cards!!😊

  38. More of these videos please, sir! A deep dive into the key families would be ace. Great, great book, by the way. Thank you.

  39. I found this introduction to plant families helpful as a learning aid. The descriptions are clear and memorable. Thank you.

  40. Bless you for making this info available on youtube … i have been brought to tears unable to afford a course n felt completely overwhelmed. Been trying to learn by myself off n on for several years to no avail. This feels like a HUGE breakthrough for me

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published