Learning to recognise plants
It is important to be able to recognise the plants that are used
• If the plant is a weed, correct identification will assist in its
• If the plant is a pasture grass or legume, correct
identification will help to manage the plant to get optimum
growth for grazing
• If the plant is a crop species, correct identification will help
to determine the right fertiliser treatment
Resources that help with plant identification
• Plant identification key
• Local experts
There is a large number and diversity of
plants available to us for production and
Examples of this would be plants used for:
• Food crops wheat, cabbage, canola, rice
• Fibre crops, cotton, hemp
• Pasture species to feed animals
• Natural species in the region where you
• Cultivated garden plants
• Cut flowers
How do plants get classified?
The plant kingdom is a name for all
plants ranging from one-celled
organisms, such as bacteria, to
flowering land plants. It contains a
very diverse collection of organisms.
This kingdom is simplified by
breaking it down into groups that
show a relationship. The diagram
shows you the main groups of plants
and how they are related.
Why do we need to classify plants?
Biological classification involves grouping plants with similar
characteristics together. The image below of grassy box woodland
includes several varieties of Eucalypts.
The aims of classification are:
• Stability and consistency in naming (everyone in the world does it
the same way so there is a common point of reference)
• Managing large numbers of plants in a meaningful way
The following table contains rules, (or conventions). The naming
rules do not cover 'common names'.
When we apply the naming rules, the genus and species names
combined give us the name of the plant. This name (made up of
two names) is called the binomial. It can also be called the
scientific name or the botanical name.
The binomial name for the Dandelion is Taraxacum officinalis. It is
a member of the family Asteraceae.
Species Name Meaning Species Name Meaning
niveus Snow white chinensis From China
Flavus Yellow Indica From India
Cerasinus Cherry red Japonica From Japan
pupurea Purple Sax atilis Growing on rocks
viridus green melanoxylon Black wood
A plant family is a collection of plants that
share similar characteristics, particularly of
their flowers and fruits. The system of grouping
and identifying plants is called botanical
nomenclature and is an international language
allowing an individual plant, wherever it grows,
to be identified by one universal name.
Families are then divided into one or more
Some Australian plant family names are
Casuarinaceae (e.g. Casuarina), Myrtaceae
(e.g. Eucalypts) and Mimosaceae (e.g.
Acacias), Gramineae (e.g. grasses image
Each plant has two names: a genus name (written
first) and a species name (written second). These
names are written in italics and the genus name is
given a capital letter, as in Banksia ericifolia.
The flower and fruit similarities are closer within a
genus than they are in the family classification. A
genus (plural - genera) name may be descriptive or
it may be commemorative (named after someone).
Within any genus there may be one or more
species. Some genus names are Acacia,
Eucalyptus, Banksia (named after Sir Joseph
Banks.Capt.Cook’s botanist on the Endeavor),
Hakea, Grevillea, Melaleuca, Callistemon.
This is the basic unit of classification.
Plants in this grouping have common
characteristics and qualities. A species
can be described as ‘plants that freely
interbreed producing recognisable
offspring generation after generation.
Species name is usually descriptive
and is written in italics. E.g Callistemon
Plant Botanical Name - summary
Contains the plant’s Genus and Species written according to the rules of Naming
Conventions e.g. Rubus fruticosus – blackberry
Some plants are grown and bred especially to suit a need or produce a new habit
or flower. They are called Cultivars which is short for 'cultivated variety'.
Plant Common Name
The common name may vary from place to place. You may use the one you like
or remember best. No one name is correct everywhere e.g. Microlaena stipoides,
common names - weeping grass, weeping rice grass and weeping meadow grass
Remember that a Family is a group of Genera (plural of Genus) which have things
in common. The name always ends in ‘aceae’.
This is the place where the plant naturally/ originally grew. It can be a country or
area, or state.
Recognising and Naming Plants
When identifying plants there are several
characteristics used including:
Flowers and fruit – these are the reproductive parts
of the plant and are the main key to identifying the
plant. Size, shape colour, fragrance, and the number
of parts (e.g. petals).
Leaves – vary in colour texture, shape, size and
Roots – used by plant for uptake and support and
generally fall into tap roots and fibrous roots.
Stems – support above ground structures; features
include texture, colour, shape and flexibility.
Habit – the shape, form, and size of a plant
Recognise the plants that you work with
Look around your school farm or local area and be able
• 5 introduced or naturalised pasture species
• 4 native grasses
• 6 weeds