Friday, July 10, 2009

Wildflower Identification

Some wildflowers are easily identified. Others take a bit more work. Years ago the plant explorers sketched the plants. Some collected specimens, since I do not believe in collecting specimens, and since I cannot draw a circle. I rely on observations, and in this wonderful age of digital photography, I can make a visual journal..that is if I remember to focus on the ENTIRE plant, not just the bloom. Such is the case of The Hawkweed, there are seven different forms of Hawkweed, but since I was just enthralled with it's sunny disposition..it remains a Hawkweed..possibly the Canada Hawkweed..but unless I go back..I will never know for sure.

Hawkweed of the Genus Hieracium species unknown
I use several references, for identification. In my arsenal are Wildflowers of Minnesota by Stan Tekiela, a very basic book with a focus on quick reference by color. Our copy is dog eared and worn. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers ( Eastern Region) again arranged by color, but it does take it a step further and includes flower form or shape. Both of the before mentioned books I purchased for Far Guy. The one that I purchased for myself, is called Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, it does not cover all of Minnesota..but if you use "The Key" you can identify just about anything. Keys can be confusing, simply put it is a series of five questions that will lead you to a correct identification. If you guess at any of them..you will be SOL. That is not short for Sunny Out Look either. Used correctly a good key can be very useful.

Wild Indigo (Yellow) or Baptisia tinctoria
I used it to identify this plant.. (Flower Type One) =irregular flowers, (Plant Type Three)= Wildflower with alternate leaves, (Leaf Type Four)= Leaves Divided. So then I took my numbers 134 and went to the locator key..where it said Leaflets three, entire or finely toothed (Question #4) with yellow flowers (Question #5) ..page 58 where seven drawings and descriptions were located..Bingo ..Wild Indigo (Yellow) ..easy peasy.

I had to write a Key once, it was not easy..it was part of a final exam. The Instructor did not have too much hair left to pull out and I did get an A. We have become a society that has come to expect instant gratification.. like Far Guy's color coded Wildflower Book. To go deeper into the plant world you must be willing to put aside instant observations to make a definite correct identification. The plants out there will speak to you, if you let them.

Last evening I picked up a booklet at the local County Fair, it is called Wildflowers of Minnesota's Northern Prairies...it highlighted 51 of the almost 500 species of native plants found in our area. A quick run through, and I found several errors..probably not significant errors..but they obviously did not use a key, or double check their sources. Their photographs could have been better too. Maybe I should just shut up, it is a reasonably nice publication, and it will probably raise public awareness, which I am sure was their intention. As a tax payer in the State of Minnesota, I thought "Who are the Idiots that were hired for this project?" " How much did this little project cost?" Far Guy was not sympathetic with my whining.. he just said..write your own book. I am not sure if this little booklet is enough to push me over that edge, I would have to photograph and research everyday during the summer, and I have laundry and errands to do, you know important stuff that makes a difference. However it is an interesting thought, for now I am adding it to my bucket list. You know the before I kick the bucket list! :)

16 comments:

  1. You can take me with you on your wild flower hunting journeys. jo

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  2. We think that is an excellent idea! You are a wizard with that camera and you could reach a lot of people. Sign us up for a copy! Then you could do Oregon flowers!!!

    Kisses for Chance,
    Emma Rose and The Duchess

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  3. What a great idea - to write your own book! The laundry can wait... get started now!

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  4. This is a really a neat idea. Our Horticulture instructor (and Master Gardener) has created a website you might like http://conpm.wordpress.com/
    to see. She teaches for CSU and others, plus here.

    Linda
    http://coloradofarmlife.wordpress.com

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  5. Why don't you do it? You sure know your flowers.
    Btw, when you are done with Minnesota, can you come to the U.P. of Michigan and do one on our wildflowers?

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  6. I'd love to be able to identify wildflowers (which most people consider weeds, and I do too when they are in my garden!).

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  7. I've lucked into a friend who's a botanist and loves to hike, so I just walk along beside her and try to soak it all in.

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  8. What a perfect project for you Connie. You should go for it.

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  9. yes, write a book. After Minnisota, Idaho!!

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  10. I agree, you would produce a very accurate book. That's because you seem to care about getting things right. Or so it appears from reading your blog.

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  11. Come to Alberta and write a book:) I've been looking for a good one. We've got Hawksbeard blooming here now too..........or at least that's what I think it is, my book is less than the best.

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  12. Maybe it's time to talk about Native Vegetables?

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  13. I wish someone would do a good book/booklet like that for my state.

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  14. Far Guy, native vegetables? What's a native vegetable? Local heirlooms?

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  15. I love reading your posts, you really do crack me up sometimes!

    I've learned my lesson with my milkweed post - get a picture of the WHOLE plant. LOL Since this one resides in our pasture, I can go back out and get another photo of it - when the temps aren't in the 100s, perhaps.

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  16. Hi Connie, every time I visit my mom's acreage in SW Wisconsin, I realize how comparatively few native wildflowers I can name. When I get back home it's always a mad dash for the computer to see how many I can identify. I hope you do write that book, and if you do, I'll order an advance copy! I'm sure there are lots of native plants WI and MN have in common.

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Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your comments! If you have a question I will try to answer it here. Connie