How to Identify a Plant or Weed

[MUSIC PLAYING] Hello, my name is
Steve Van Vleet. I’m the regional
extension specialist in ag and natural resources for
Washington State University. Today, I want to talk to
you about plant and weed identification. The first and most
important part when you’re wanting
to identify a weed is to first get a picture
of that weed or plant. So you get a picture from
multiple different angles to be able to determine those
characteristics of that plant. Then after you have
your photograph, you need to record information
about the characteristics. You need to record the
date, what kind of habitat it’s in, all those
different characteristics that you observe in the field. The picture’s very
good to have, but you do want to collect that plant. So you want to be able
to collect the plant and take that plant sample–
roots, stems, leaves, seeds, all of the
plant that you can– and take that plant
back to your laboratory so that you can put it in the
plant press and identify it. Before you start to identify
the plant you have collected, it’s important to
first narrow down the possible plants it could be. First, figure out what
category the plant belongs to. Is that plant a tree? Is it a succulent herb, a
shrub, a fern, a grass, a type of broad leaf plant. And then once you have
identified the plant’s category, the next
step is to group those plants that have
characteristics similar to your plant and eliminate
the ones that do not. One way to do this is the
use of manual or field guide to identify that weed or
plant by its flower color. Once you get it narrowed
down to the family, you can determine what family
that weed or plant belongs to. You might want to also try
using a digital resource, such as 1200 Weeds of the 48
States and Adjacent Canada DVD. Another way of
identifying the plants is the use of what’s
called a dichotomous key. The dichotomous key
gives you choices about the plant’s
characteristics that leads to that
plant’s identity. For example, a
dichotomous key might ask whether the leaves of your
plant are opposite on the stem. Depending on this
answer, the key directs you to another question
about another characteristic of the plant. And as you follow the thread
of all the characteristics, you’ll reach the plant’s
identification in the end. However, the most
efficient and accurate way to identify a plant
is to actually take the sample of plant,
which includes the leaves, the stem, the roots, if
possible, the seeds, also if possible, to a trained
specialist in plant identification. And if possible, make sure you
can take the pictures along with that and any
notes that you’ve taken about the
characteristics of that plant to that specialist.


  1. A weed is classed as a plant, only a plant that one do not want growing in a place! Weed is a plant.. dick

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