If you’re looking at a new plant and not sure where to start with an ID, the internet is your friend! Whether you’re looking in a park, on a trail, or in your own backyard, we hope that these tips will help you figure out what plant you’re looking at. We’ll get into some plant ID specific applications, but before you get started it will be helpful to become familiar with some useful plant terms.
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Life Cycle and growth pattern
Tools to Use
If you have a smartphone, it may have a built-in app that can help identify your weeds. There are several others you can download as well. Listed are a few of the team’s favorites. What apps do you like to use?
- Google Lens – Search What You See
- PictureThis – Plant Identifier App | Plant Identification Online (picturethisai.com)
Pro Tip: If you aren’t confident about the ID, do an internet search! See if the images you find match up with what you are seeing.
- Seek by iNaturalist · iNaturalist
- Often Seek it will get stuck at the monocot and dicot level. Simply put, monocots have a single cotyledon (remember that term from above? Hint: it’s in the life cycle & growth pattern section.) and dicots have two. This is not very useful when faced with a new plant. Try searching key terms to try to narrow it down instead. Or use a different app and see if you can get a positive ID.
- A Community for Naturalists · iNaturalist
- If you are a little more confident in your ID iNaturalist is a fantastic tool to track the distribution of noxious weeds. It can even help us in early detection rapid response (EDRR). Check out our blog post on an early spotting of floating primrose-willow.
- Wildflower Search
- Despite the name, this is useful for more than just wildflowers and unlike some of the others can be used offline.
- If you know you’re looking at a noxious weed, you just aren’t sure which one, the Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board has a handy tool, similar to Washington Wildflower Seach where you can plug in key features, and it will give back a list of possibilities.
Ask an Expert
If the internet and apps just aren’t cutting it, try asking an expert! We may refer you to these groups ourselves if the plant in question is not a noxious weed so you can receive the best possible advice.
Master Gardeners of King County
The Extension Master Gardeners have clinics throughout King County, where people can go for FREE advice on gardening, plant problems, plant identification, pest management and soil improvement. You can find a list of locations here. You can also email us plant questions at firstname.lastname@example.org .
PNW Garden HotlineThe Garden Hotline offers individualized solutions to garden problems that are practical, safe, effective, and natural. Our services are FREE to home gardeners and landscape professionals throughout Seattle and King County. We are reachable through our website: The Garden Hotline | Pacific Northwest Garden Solutions or by calling 206-633-0224.
Or for all things noxious weeds, ask us! Our email is email@example.com and the program phoneline is 206-477-WEED (9333). Our website is also a useful resource at kingcounty.gov/weeds and be sure to check out our Instagram. There’s always fresh content on weed identification, control, and more.
- Send in close ups! Now that you know all those handy terms, you can let us know you’re looking at the leaf margin or you think it’s a first-year rosette. The more specific the photo the easier it is for us to identify the plant. Close ups of leaves, any reproductive parts (seeds, flowers, etc.), and the stem/stalk are all very helpful.
- Multiple photos! The more angles the better.
- Timing! Let us know when you took the photo, seasonality can really change what we look for in identification.
- Location! Just like seasonality, habitat can be another key piece of the puzzle. If it is in a wetland vs a roadside, we may have a different answer for you.
- Attach to the email! This allows us to zoom in on specific features without downloading the image.
Now that you have all these new tips and tricks in your back pocket, check out our summer weeds post! What features are you noticing on those weeds?