Archive for the ‘Plant Identification’ category

Sugar Maple on Sugar Packet Not Right

February 8, 2012

Below is a photo from a Domino sugar packet distributed by Ginsbergs Foods of Hudson, NY from a series that features state symbols. Hmmm, does that look like a sugar maple leaf to you? We hope they get it right the next time, especially since they are a New York company. – Steve Young

Guide to Identifying Viburnum Species

February 7, 2012

Cornell University has a guide to identifying native and exotic Viburnum species as part of their citizen science project on Viburnum leaf beetles. To access the guide CLICK HERE. There is also good information on the beetle itself and a list of viburnums with their susceptibility ranking that you can ACCESS HERE. We hope the Viburnums can somehow survive the beetles in the long run.

If You Care About Chara, Read This Post

January 11, 2012

Chara is a genus of algae that occurs in waters of high pH and is also known by the common name stonewort. Perhaps you have seen this light tan, pondweed-like, branching algae clogging the waters of calcareous ponds, streams, and fens (see photo). It’s brittle texture results from a covering of calcium carbonate precipitate and calcium salts in the cell walls. See more about this interesting plant in the Wikipedia entry and the web page of Dr. Kenneth Karol at the New York Botanical Garden.

Chara filling the water of a marsh in Monroe County. Photo Kim Smith.

Dr. Karol has been working with Characeae for several years now. He uses the two volume 1964 monograph of Chara by Wood and Imahori for identifications. Dr. Karol states that this is an excellent monograph but the broad species concepts and numerous subspecific taxa make it difficult to work with. Given that this is the most recent comprehensive work on Characeae, he has a long-term goal of revising the monograph and updating the keys. If you would like to help him with his work, he needs specimens! If you come across this unique algae in the field, collect a specimen (with the permission of the landowner) and send it to him at the following address:

Kenneth G. Karol, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator
The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Program for Molecular Systematics
2900 Southern Boulevard
The New York Botanical Garden
Bronx, NY 10458-5126 USA

Phone: 718-817-8615

Two New Tree Identification Apps

January 8, 2012

More and more smartphone apps are being written about plant identification and the public is looking for them so they can use their smartphones and tablets in the field instead of bulky manuals. Two new apps for the iPhone are about tree idenfication, one from the Arbor Day Foundation called What tree is that? (also available to use on their website) and another one called TreeID by MEDL mobile and created by Jason M. Siniscalchi, PhD. Both apps are good but they differ by the types of keys they use.

“What tree is that?” is a dichotomous key (asking a series of questions to narrow down the choice) as seen below.  There is a separate glossary with some illustrations as well as illustrations that accompany the key choices.

After the species is keyed down to the final choice the app shows a drawing of the branches with leaves and fruits plus some natural history information. See below for white ash. You can see the full list of trees included in case you think your species may not be in the key. The My Trees tab allows you to choose to post the location of your tree which helps in their creation of a crowd-sourced tree database.

TreeID is a random access key that allows you to use any of the 31 plant characters available about the tree.  Below is a what their key looks like. Each character has an illustrated glossary (you click on the question mark) that you can use to see what the character choices look like, a nice feature.

When a tree is identified it shows an infomation-rich page about the tree that includes a range map and photos of the leaf (many with fall color) bark and flowers and/or fruit. It also shows the silhouette of the tree architecture which is handy.

I have not tried these apps in the field to any extent and field testing them will be the key to their usefulness.  They look promising and I would recommend getting both of them to use since they approach identification in different ways.  If you happen to use them, leave a comment in our comments section about your experience. We look forward to more of these apps, especially of groups like ferns, fern allies, and orchids that are well defined and popular with many people. Dick Mitchell produced a fern key for computers many years ago.  Something like that is ripe for turning into an app. For more information on other Apple plant ID apps CLICK HERE for an earlier post – Steve Young

Calflora Smartphone Plant Reporting App

December 10, 2011

The California Flora project has a neat app to report observations of any of their species in California. According to their website: This application makes it easy for you to report the species name, date, and location of over 10,000 California native and non-native plant taxa. You can also add a photograph to a report, and share it with others later to confirm identification. Your reports are transmitted wirelessly to the Calflora database, where you can edit them and see them on a map. To read more about it CLICK HERE. The Bay Area Early Detection Network uses it to map invasive plants.  Below is a 9 minute video of how that works. The app demonstration starts at minute 2:15. Would it be useful to have something like this for the New York Atlas?

Flora Novae Angliae – published!

November 8, 2011

Arthur Haines’s Flora Novae Angliae (A manual for the identification of native and naturalized tracheophytes of New England) has been published. This work is one of the most important floristic works covering New England to ever be published. Although not covering New York this book will be still prove extremely useful in New York due to the similarity of the flora between the two regions. It will provide New York botanists with a much needed modern treatment of tracheophytes of the region and is a must have publication. Thank you Arthur for all your hard work! For detail see this link.

Video: Using Keys to Identify Plants

September 5, 2011

I recently came across a website called by Angelyn Whitmeyer from North Carolina that contains resources and tips for identifying plants.  One of the videos is below:

CLICK HERE to see the full list of videos and the website.

This is a good website for beginners and contains useful information on plant identification.  Check it out and let others know what you think in the comments section. – Steve Young