Workshop 1: Names   Workshop 2: Definitions and plant parts  Workshop 2a: Floral Parts  Workshop 4: Keys  
Workshop 5: Weber Arnica key   Workshop 6: Keys and species


Learning key characteristics of just 19 families will, as William A. Weber points out in his Colorado Flora, Western Slope, assist in identifying over 75% of the plants in our area. The Western slope of the Colorado Rockies has over 2,100 species in 139 families, but Weber indicates that almost 1,600 species are in those 19 families.  The top six families are: Asteraceae (Sunflower) with 354 species, Poaceae (Grasses) 208, Fabaceae (Pea) 138, Cyperaceae (Sedges) 123, Brassicaceae (Mustards) 119, and Scrophulariaceae (Snapdragon) 99.  Note that four families (Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Brassicaceae, and Scrophulariaceae) have 700 out of the 2,100 plants. 

Remember also that you can learn family characteristics by learning species.  Learn what species a plant is and then see its similarities to another plant you find that same day and then notice in your field guide that they are in the same family.  Now you are learning the family characteristics not by memorizing those characteristics but by seeing the actual plants that possess those characteristics. 

 

 

How do we begin to identify a plant, to give a plant a name?

We work our way through books that lead us in a series of steps that place the plant in a large group (family) then a subdivision of the family (genus) and then a subdivision of the genus (species).  
This step by step approach is called "keying a plant".

There are many kinds of keys, ranging from those that work only by flower color, 
to those that start with flower color and then subdivide by family or by plant characteristics, 
to those that work only by plant characteristics.

Whatever key(s) one uses, if one wants to be sure to identify the plant correctly, the results should be confirmed with a key that includes all flora for that state or region. 

**Botanical keys do not fully describe a plant;
they give only those details necessary to distinguish one plant from another.

Wingate and Yeatts' Alpine Flower Finder
One way of evaluating the accuracy of a flora book is to check on the authors' credentials.

Alpine-1
Scientific names are based on Weber.

Komarek's Flora of the San Juans

Scientific names are based on Weber.

Weber's Colorado Flora, Western Slope

Workshop 1: Names   Workshop 2: Definitions and plant parts  Workshop 4: Keys  
Workshop 5: Weber Arnica key   Workshop 6: Keys and species