One Approach To Flower Identification
Flower identification can be very simple at times, at other times maddeningly frustrating. You see a beautiful flower in a garden down the street, you'd love to have one of them in your own garden, but no one is around to tell you what it is. Or you spot a little wildflower in a national park and wonder what it's called. Again, no one is there to help you out. You can't pick either bloom, and take it home to research it further. At least you shouldn't. It's probably illegal to take from a neighbor's garden, and it certainly is in most national parks. If someone can tell you the name of the flower, fine. Unless that person is a horticulturist or botanist you'll probably be given the common name, not the Latin name. The Latin name is more precise, the common name is generally good enough however. The only problem is that one person may identify the flower in question as a Canadian Dogwood, another may say "No, that's a Bunchberry", while all the time you thought it was a Dwarf Cornell. You were all correct. The problem with the common name is that one flower often goes by more than one name.
One thing you can do for flower identification is to carry a guide book with you, especially if you're on a hike in the wilderness. These books generally aren't too large to take with you, are well organized, and contain a ton of information. Walking around town is a different story, unless you want to take a number of flower seed catalogs with you, in the event you run across something of interest.
How Flowers Are Categorized - Just knowing that flowers, be they garden flowers or wildflowers, have been classified and categorized is a help. This classification and categorization makes it easier to publish books or guides on the subject of flower identification. Looking into the way flowers (plants, actually) are classified botanically, may not be all that much of a help, but a little knowledge doesn't hurt either. Knowing Latin can get you a step closer, but those of us who ever took Latin either did poorly, or have forgotten it. In any event, what we learned was pretty basic, and had little to do with the classification of flowers. In classifying flowers, we start with the Class, which divides plants into one of two classes. Not too much help so far, nor is the sub-class, or the next level, the Order. It's only when we get to the Family level we can begin sorting out one flower from another, as flowers are placed in families, in accordance to their physical characteristics, growth habits, and other factors.
We go into further detail by looking at Sub-Families, Tribes, and Sub-Tribes, and finally, when we get to the Genus, things start to make sense to us. The Genus name describes the type of plant and an outstanding characteristic, which may be its color or shape. In the Latin name for a plant or flower, the first word is the Genus. The next level we encounter is the Species, given by the second word in the Latin name, which takes us to an individual plant, and finally the Variety, if a given plant exists in two or more varieties. None of what we've just covered is going to help you all that much with your flower identification on your next field trip. What has happened though, is we've laid the groundwork used by published field guides (as an example, the Guide To Western Wildflowers), and garden and seed catalogs, especially those dealing in the more exotic flower types.
What You Need To Know For Flower Identification - The field guides usually give the botanical name for each flower described, but that's not how you go about identifying the flower. You don't even have to take a guide with you if you don't want to, you can just take notes (unless you have a very good memory). Flower identification can be done by noting certain characteristics of the flower, and later looking in a guide where the flowers are arranged in terms of one or more characteristics. A guide to mountain or alpine flowers for example, may be divided into two general categories of flowers, flowers of the forest, and flowers of the meadows. The flowers in each category are then identified in terms of color. Nothing more. This is possible because in alpine regions, the number of different flowers encountered is not likely to be very large, perhaps 100 or so at most.
In one of the the National Audubon Society's guides, where a larger number of different flowers have to be searched for, the classification is first by flower color, and for each color there is a further classification by shape and form of the blossoms. Flowers are described as simple shaped, daisy shaped, odd shaped, cluster, and so on. If you are going to put together a guide, you can use what every descriptive categories you want, as long as it makes some sense, and makes flower identification easier. (continued...)