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There are literally thousands of
plant genera that may be identified using computer and net-based
technologies. Here were limit our scope to genera and taxa groups
of interest to the ornamental landscape trade. Our early efforts
will emphasize woody plants and herbaceous perennials grown in
New, original keys to
perennial genera, resource links, hybridization charts,
articles, comparative ID charts, and more. This site is
available to New Ornamentals Society members by
subscription. Click on the icon for access information.
- Comprehensive Keys - These guides cover many genera such
as regional tree keys or a 'campus flora'.
- All Families - World Wide Flora Plant Family ID by Dr. Ray Phillips of Colby
College. This very interesting key has you check off
numerous habit, foliage, fruit, and flower
characters. No matter how many or few characters you
have available it will suggest family matches. One
can experiment with this for hours!
- Angiosperm Families - DELTA
- Trees (Iowa) - Interactive Key of Common Iowa
Iowa State University. Photographs assist each
- Trees (PA) - Common Trees of Pennsylvania is a web-based version of the
Edward Dix book of the same name. Detailed
illustrations and descriptions are quite useful.
- Trees (DE) - University of Delaware Tree Key is a work in progress that shows
- Angiosperms (Ohio) - Ohio Historical Society Key provides leaf and fruit keys.
Users click on images that match their specimen.
- European Garden Flora - this published set of encyclopedias
provide the most complete set of keys to cultivated
species ever offered. It is work of vast scope and was
compiled by finest European taxonomists. In general the
set replaces Rehder's Trees and Shrubs or Bailey's Manual
due to the number of recently discovered taxa and updated
nomenclature. Names are generally in compliance with
Flora Europaea - which may or may not prove comforting.
The keys to Lilium, Geranium, and Hosta alone are
remarkable and worth the price. Every horticultural and
botanical library MUST have the EGF. If horticultural
taxonomists have any secret tools that makes them look
good - this is it! It may be ordered online from Cambridge
- ID Bibliographies
- Why do we need to identify
- DETERMINE SYNONYMS. Cultivar A
looks a bunch like Cultivar B but it's hard to be sure.
Modern lab techniques can often resolve old taxonomic
mysteries with high decrees of confidence.
- DOCUMENT COLLECTIONS. Botanical
gardens and arboretum occasionally have labels or records
that are lost, scrambled, or otherwise unusable. They may
know that they have 10 different cultivars of a species
but need to match the names to individual living
examples. This is not always feasible but when dealing
with a finite number of known taxa it is often
- NURSERY EFFICIENCY. If you've
ever worked at a big wholesale nursery you'll run into
people who can sort azalea cultivars by foliage alone!
Working with young junipers and small roses is no easy
task either. To propagate, transplant, move, and pick
vast quanitities of plant material cultivar ID is an
essential skill. Billions of dollars of such product is
identified and transfered around the world each year.
Sometimes you can teach it to others but most of the time
it's just a learned skill using the best graphics
processor and supercomputer ever invented - which
fortunately most people get free at birth.
- PREDICT FUTURE LANDSCAPES.
Anyone who plans and designs landscapes (whether a home
gardener or award-winning landscape architect) needs to
understand cultivar growth potential. Do I leave this
plant because its a compact dwarf - or will it soar and
cover the expensive new windows and threaten the
structures in an ice storm. Young plants in many genera
look very similar. One may grow a quarter inch a year
while another may put on a couple of feet per year.
Mistaking a dwarf Chamaecyparis pisifera for x
Cupressocyparis leylandii or vice versa can be costly to
property and reputation. The world's landscapes are full
of obvious and foolish mistakes because one cultivar was
confused with another.
- SALVAGE NURSERY STOCK. On some
occasions vast acreages of plants become undocumented for
one reason or another. Very valuable plant material needs
to have a reliable name to command top market prices.
This can be a difficult task but on occasion the cost of
expensive analysis and hiring consultants has been
- INVESTIGATE PLANT PATENT AND
TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENTS. The legel evidence from
chemotaxonomy and DNA analysis can make the OJ trial look
like 8th grade biology. This should be a lesson to anyone
who has found a great unknown plant, propagates it, sells
it, and does not do good exhaustive research first. Not a
few well-meaning folks have found themselves descended
upon by a host of attorneys and had to spend days in a
distant court. In a few cases the very businesses have
been placed in financial jeopardy. If there is even a
remote chance you have a patented or trademarked plant
PLEASE scrap it and obtain stock from a reliable or
- PLAN CULTIVAR DEVELOPMENT.
Without a very specific and meticulous knowledge of
existing cultivars one cannot set out to breed, select,
or collect new superior cultivars. You have to understand
existing differences with all the individual cultivar
flaws and strengths before creating a new niche.
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Copyright 2000. Laurence Hatch. All Rights Reserved.
All educational and commercial use requires written permission.