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Plant Identification

One of the community services the WVU Herbarium provides is that of plant identification. The herbarium receives an average of 50 requests a year to identify plants people have found. This allows members of the public access to professional taxonomic opinions on what may be a poisonous plant or invasive exotic weed; or just an unusual variant of a familiar species.

While we welcome plant identification requests, please remember: identification requires sufficient information. If at all possible (and if the plant is not extremely rare), please send the actual plant! Press and dry the plant between sheets of newspaper under a large book or similar heavy, flat object, and send it to the herbarium. Please remember to include flowers or fruit if available; any loose bits should be put in a small envelope within the main envelope. Be sure to include the plant location and collection date (see below).

If sending the plant is impractical, a photograph may be usable. Please consider the following points:

  • Scale: a ruler held next to the object in the shot is ideal, but a common object such as a coin, pen or water bottle is better than nothing.
  • Close-ups: many plant species are distinguished based on characters such as the hairs on the underside of leaves, or the number of anthers in the flower; a few close up shots may make all the difference.
  • Wide shots: equally, some characters are best assessed with a whole-plant shot.
  • Features: again, remember flowers and fruit; but also leaf top and bottom surface, and both basal and stem leaves if present.

Include as much information as you can with your request, for example: where did you find the plant (Morgantown; Cooper’s Rock)? What was the specific location like (forest; roadside; garden)? What other plants were growing nearby? What time of year was it? These details can greatly help us in making an identification.

To learn more about WV plants, consider joining the WV Native Plant Society.