Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Plant Identification

Plant identification is an important part of the study of just about any field of agriculture. It's a basic part of any agronomy class because we need to know what plants we are dealing with.

The Internet has expanded my scouting to the state next door to around the world. I get all kinds of plants and pictures emailed to me. I got this one in yesterday's mail and it stumped me for awhile.

It's in a lawn in Arkansas that looks like a pasture field. I saw the purple dead nettle, a relative of Henbit in the background and the flower resembles it. But the plant looks more like a grass than a broadleaf, the two major plant classes, so the blue flower on the green stem confused me.

Opening the picture up, it looks like an onion plant. I don't know if they have blue blooms but it sure looks like onion. What is your identification of this plant? An application of 2,4-D or TriMec lawn weed killer would help control these weeds in this "au naturale lawn" but we better plant some grass seed to fill the space!

Any of the fescue type lawn grasses work well here to the south. Fescue has been credited to saving more soil in the south than any other plant introduced to the region.

So how is your plant identification and weed id? Who do you go to for identification? As an ag teacher and county agent, I have been looking up plant names all my life.

I started a bad thing today, I mowed grass. Mowing stimulates growth and now it will be mow, mow, mow all year!



  1. I am not good at it. I can never match the plant to the picture. Some sort of mental block or something.

  2. This is a muscari AKA grape hyacinth, and it's a bulb plant indeed, good catch.
    I don't think they're native to America, but it is a common ornamental flower and very easily naturalizes into the wild. You frequently find them on grassy roadsides, escaped from gardens along these roads.

    Plant identification is best learned with a teacher, or you'd never realize that meadow you're walking on has edible ground nuts.
    A dichotomous flora in pocket book format is a great help on the field. The Bonnier flora for France is even available on PDA format now:

    In just 5-8 clicks, you can identify any plant in the country, without being a botanist.
    Basically it asks you series of questions one at a time, such as does it have flowers sometimes or does it never have flowers. Which may be baffling out of season when all you are trying to assess is if these unknown tiny seedlings in Spring are going to develop into huge weeds over the Summer...

    There does not seem to be many plant id tools online, I don't know what botanists use. For agricultural purpose, there are usually many focused resources from the USDA or state universities, or their equivalent in other countries, for instance to identify weeds from their seeds.

    We're probably heading toward some open source public tool in all languages and for all plants in the world, but there's not much help besides teachers and books for now. Hopefully there will be something more practical than the Flora of North America in several dozens of $100 volumes. The latest volume covers the poaceae family. Well, part 1 of the poaceae family. And from Mexico only. Well, Northern Mexico only.

    It takes only a few plant id sessions to recognize families of plants, even if you're not sure of the specific species name.

    I have always had this curiosity to know what's around me, plants, birds you never see but always hear, name of the stars above in the sky, it gives me a sense of belonging or something, I guess. And I can't seem to forget this type of knowledge, I can always spot Arcturus or the Dolphin constellation without even thinking about it, while you'd see me hopelessly stammering trying to answer a simple question about my ten preferred movies or music bands. And I love movies and music, with over 3,000 CDs of every genre in my collection.

  3. Forgot to add Funny Link of the day:

  4. Thanks, Chimel, I remember now! Grape Hyacinth! That one stumped me. Great investigative work unless you already knew it from the picture, either way, good knowledge, great job.

    Our friend Bill sent some very constructive comments, also. I have some great readers!


    Here is a random critique.

    Any of the fescue type lawn grasses work well here to the south. Fescue has been credited to saving more soil in the south than any other plant introduced to the region

    This is a partially true statement for the northern two thirds of the Southern States. I suggest that bermudagrass fills the roll better in the southern three fourths of the Southern States region.
    Probably the more intense heat and the higher level of ultraviolet light.


    I really prefer Northern Aroostook County Maine. Potato country. Up around Caribou, Limestone. Frenchville & North. The weather is better up there, yes it is colder and has more snow, but it is not as damp a cold. The true value up there is the People. They are Friendly where the Southern Main inhabitants tend to be a little more bisque in their dealings with outsiders.
    Not only that but in 1974 you could still buy a complete farm and pay for it with it's crop.

    CHOPKINSCaFeMg(mightygood Now this is a real piece of art. Congratulations.
    I would tweak it a little.
    I believe Cobalt is just as critical for legumes as Molybdenum, though the plant needs only about 10% of the level of Mo. ( ? )
    John Menghini at Midwest is supposedly doing some work for a Third Party and the information is proprietary to the third party.
    Sodium is a real essential element, though it is easy to have too much. Probably the most essential part of tissue analysis is to make sure there is sufficient but not excessive sodium.

    I believe this would be more logical on Page 2

    Have a Grand & Glorious Season Bill

    Don't fear your mortality, because it is this very mortality that gives meaning, depth, and poignancy to all the days that will be granted to you.
    Paul Tsongas"

  5. I know the flower very well, it is very common in France, in gardens or naturalized. My original ag certificate is pompously called Brevet Professionnel Agricole, for which I specialized in "horticulture", spending my work experience with both a landscaping guy and some organic farms.

    I knew it under the muscari name, I learned about the "grape hyacinth" name only after I googled "muscari" to include the link. Not really fair to the hyacinth, these muscari don't smell anything like it. ^-^