FINDING ANSWERS

PLANT ID

Q

I need your help identifying a flower. It is a dark, royal purple, but it stinks. There is one leaf that is about 2 feet long and a stem that comes up from the middle. Can you help me to identify this plant? — via the Internet

A

It is possible your plant is Dracunculus vulgaris, based on the information provided. However, in order to be more accurate, more information is needed. Identification is the first step to successfully growing a species, controlling pests and controlling weeds. It would be helpful to know if this plant is tropical or in a perennial garden, what type of flower — single or multiple — and if the leaf is grasslike or not. Identifying plants requires looking for specific characteristics of the plant. You are lucky that there is a flower present to help with identification, as flowers are the basis for assigning plants to a specific family, genus and species. To correctly identify it, you will need to start narrowing down your choices. If you are not familiar with identification characteristics, find a reference book, such as Michael Dirr's “Manual of Woody Landscape Plants” or “Newcomb's Wildflower Guide.” These books may not have your specific plant, but they do have plant morphology descriptions. The descriptions and perhaps some time spent thumbing through books of plant collections are needed to aid in the identification of your plant. The latter book has a dichotomous key, in which two choices are presented and you are to choose the one which most fits your plant; from there, another two choices, and so on, until you hopefully arrive at the name of the plant you are seeking to identify. You might also take a picture of the plant to your local nursery or tropical plant supplier. Identification is more difficult when a cutting is presented because people often don't take a large enough cutting to accurately show what the plant looks like. What they think is a leaf or flower may only be a part of a leaf or flower. If the plant you're trying to identify is small, you may not have enough material to spare a cutting.

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