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Plant Identification

Learning to identify plant species starts with learning to observe plants, both indoors, in the wild and in your garden.  A variety of simple dichotomous keys have been developed to help 'key out' or identify common plants from a local area.  Two keys for Newfoundland trees and shrubs, developed by Dr. Michael Collins Dr. M.A.J. Collins and published in the booklet Winter Ecology (Oxen Pond Botanic Park, Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1976). It is a very useful tool when learning to identify some common evergreen shrubs and trees in Newfoundland and Labrador.

How will you know if it is native or an introduced plant? There is no simple answer to this question. If it is growing in a garden, there is a good chance the plant is not native (but there are no guarantees). Similarly, if it is growing behind your cabin, it might be native. Having said that, garden escapes are common, even from one hundred years ago, so any plant growing near an old settlement, graveyard or cow pasture could be introduced. Local gardening centers, gardening clubs and botanical gardens can help you identify your plant. Try to supply a synopsis of your data, including sketches and photographs if available to aid in identification. The good news is, you and your students will quickly become skilled observers and you will learn each plant’s identity as you go.