View Full Version : plant quiz

03-22-2010, 08:11 AM
this one ought to be easy enough. very distinct characteristics. hopefully the pics will allow enough observations. Took me a few days to figure it out.

03-22-2010, 08:29 AM
Wild Geranium?

03-22-2010, 08:53 AM
Yup I concur, wild Geranium.We call it Cranesbill.

03-22-2010, 02:09 PM
Cranesbill and storksbill are other names for wild geranium! I had to wait for it to get the tell-tale beak on it to get a positive ID.
Good Eye guys! I believe this to be the carolinianum species for it's deep lobes which are deeply serrated.

03-23-2010, 07:43 AM
Winnie, it is a naturalized plant from your part of the world. I'm amazed that we have so many plants here that you have there too! I spoke with the County Extension Agent yesterday and he confirmed it to be the carolinian species which is slightly more adapted somehow to that niche. He's a busy guy this time of year, with farmers getting fields ready and what-not, so it might be a little while before we can start taking plant walks, but it looks like I may have found me a teacher! My youngest son is in 4-H and has a lot of interest in plants too, so he's thinking now that he may want that job as his career when he's older. The honor I would feel for one of my children to become the guy that helps balance nature and civilization.
Is this plant widespread? I mean there are folks here from all over the globe. I wonder how the plant might have adapted to different environments. I was surprised that it grew as far North as Ken's locale and Winnie recognized it from across the pond.

03-23-2010, 02:49 PM
In this area we have just two varieties of Cranesbill, the Meadow Cranesbill and Herb Robert. They seem to be locally abundant. Meadow Cranesbill is common along the roadside where I live, but only in a five mile area, work that one out?! Herb Robert is quite rare here, because it seems to like growing on old walls. Lots of other wild flowers though!
I'm really pleased that you've found someone to help you with plant ID!

03-27-2010, 12:00 AM
I'm trying to do plants that are easily recognizable, especially for those new to foraging. Here's one I've been munching on today since it was so abundant in the yard we were working. hopefully the pics are clear enough.
Basal leaves

flower stalk

bonus points if you can name the plant in the background in the first pic ;)

03-27-2010, 07:09 AM
Field Sorrel (Rumex acetosella)?

03-27-2010, 07:37 AM
Bingo! Some folks around here call it rabbit grass, or sour grass. The name given to it in the books is Sheep-Sorrel.
How about the bonus question? I know the pic isn't too clear in the background, but I imagine it's abundant enough to recognize at a passing glance.

one thing I'd like to point out is the use of the Latin name. A plant may have several or dozens of generic names, but only ONE Latin name. I'm slowly (ehem... very slowly) learning the latin names of plants, and when talking with someone else about specific plants, that is really the ONLY way to know you are talking about the exact same plant. Rumex acetosella.

Way to go Crash! Good eye :D

03-27-2010, 08:31 AM
YCC - my knowledge of edible plants is weak. This is something that I had to research to answer. Thanks for the thought provoking quizes.

03-27-2010, 08:45 AM
My pleasure. It's positive reinforcement for myself too.
I had the enjoyment of taking lots of plant pics yesterday. Who's ready for another one?



here's a hint. It's one of my favorite things to eat! and they are EVERYWHERE for several months now. I've been eating on these since October. A field full of them.

Justin Case
03-27-2010, 09:02 AM
There really isnt much in the way of wild plants where I live, Just dirt and rocks LOL, there are a few spring wild flowers, but thats about it :)

03-30-2010, 09:20 PM
The last one has been up for a few days now.
Do we need another hint? perhaps a written description?

03-30-2010, 09:35 PM
Had to look in the book ,type of mustard?

03-30-2010, 10:22 PM
yessir, it is a type of mustard. close attention to the veins in the petals, and the coloring of the flower stalks is a dead giveaway. You'll also notice the shape of the last lobe of the leaf.

Four sepals, Four petals, Six stamens : four long and two short. Petals arranged in an X shape. Flowers and seedpods arranged in a spiraling raceme. Patterns of the Brassicaceae (Mustard) Family.

Anyone care to guess the species? It's gonna mess with your mind if I tell you the answer...:tongue_smilie:

03-30-2010, 10:24 PM
The last one has been up for a few days now.
Do we need another hint? perhaps a written description?

wild radish ?

03-30-2010, 10:47 PM
I think we have a winner :D
The yellow petals fade whiter as the plant grows older and the veins in the petals become more defined. It's a delicious winter green, but the seeds might cause some digestive irritation.
excellent observations everyone!

03-30-2010, 11:17 PM
It's good practice to start identifying plants that have very distinct characteristics. The Geranium is easily recognizable by it's leaf alone, whether it has a flower or seeds, or not. Of course for the novice, like myself, you want to observe the whole plant as it grows.
Sheep sorrel is similarly recognized by it's basal leaves shaped with little "ears".
Some plants however, will need to grow up a little to show it's true self. Many of the mustard plants look the same when they are small, and you have to look at the details of more mature plants. The raceme of seedpods and the flowers are tell-tale characteristics of the mustard family plants, but there are a LOT of them. Little details like the fading flowers or the pinkish flower stalks are the kinds of details you have to look for for positive ID.

And I cannot stress enough the importance of positive identification. Brassica arvensis looks VERY similar to wild radish, but the petals do not fade and expose their venation the way the radish does. Even the flowers are similar in size. If you go messing around with members of the Apiaceae family, you are asking for a quick torturous death. Mustard family plants are safe in moderation. Hemlock and Wild Carrot are in the same family; One is completely safe to eat, the other will kill you in minutes.

Just because I posted these pictures and said that these are the plants I say they are, PLEASE RESEARCH THEM YOURSELF! DON'T TAKE MY WORD FOR IT!!
I thought these common and unique plants would be good exercise for those new to wild edibles, and would help newcomers to understand the kinds of observations that need to be made. Every time I key out and identify a wild plant, edible or not, I feel like I've learned and made progress. Then I spend a LOT of time going over the details, repeating the Latin names, and commiting details to memory.

If anyone would like me to clarify characteristics of any of these few plants, please feel free to ask. I would like to help anyone learn to be a good observer for their OWN safety. It literally took eons of trial and error to figure out the toxicity (or safety) of wild plants, and as you can imagine, many people died in the process. Many people still die each year thinking they've found an edible plant and eating some, only to wind up in the hospital, or graveyard. Don't be one of those!
I don't know many plants, and I'm definately no expert. The ones I do know, I'm still using as practice for observation.

03-31-2010, 05:35 AM
My parents did the plant ID thing with me and my sisters in reverse. They showed us what WASN'T edible and left the rest to us. So I know what most(not all) poisonous plants and fruit looks like. I guess it made sense to them. It kept us relatively safe as children, there's nothing more likely to put you off eating something than the three words "it's deadly poisonous"
There are some lookey likey plants here too that I would not eat, because the difference is difficult to see unless you're an expert.

03-31-2010, 07:52 AM
As my kids are learning plants, I tell them the same thing. If I ask them questions about a plant they could ID yesterday, and they get even ONE question wrong I tell them not to eat ANYTHING!
Thanks for the input!

05-14-2010, 08:37 AM
I found another interesting plant in the yard. Anyone care to take a guess at this one?
a special note here, the leaves are alternate, not whorled.

05-17-2010, 02:20 PM
I haven't had a lot of time for botany in a day, but is it in the mallow family?

05-17-2010, 02:24 PM
I'd have to agree. Musk Mallow.

05-18-2010, 06:05 AM
It is definately in the mallow family. The close-up might be a little misleading, the flower is only about half an inch wide. For all the info I can find it is not musk mallow, which has a rather large flower. Maybe this will help.


What features do you recognize that place it in the mallow family?

05-18-2010, 06:22 AM
I hope everyone (that is interested in learning plants) is finding this little thread fun and good practice. Recognizing family characteristics will help you with plants no matter where you are in the world.
Right now, plants are my primary focus. I wish I'd have started learning plants when I was 4 or 5 years old, like the NA's.
Last year and this year, I began learning identities and latin names. This year, I'll be taking specimens for scrapbooks, and samples for eating those I've been studying for a year. I'm having trouble remembering all the Latin names, but for now, as long as I know what I'm talking about, and other people can recognize the common names, I'm not too worried. It's when you run into ambiguity that common names will be problematic.

I have one more really interesting flower I found in the new WMA I'd like to share when we get past this one.

At least I'm enjoying this thread. I hope you all are too!

05-19-2010, 03:01 PM
Just goin from memory here YCC, but 5 petals, 5 sepals and many stamen?

Really though, it just had the hybiscus or hollyhock look to me.

05-27-2010, 06:03 AM
Ok, not many takers, but you did recognize the mallow traits. Good eye. For all the comparisons I can find the last plant is Modiola caroliniana

Here's the last one for a while. If anyone else has pictures of common plants that are relatively easy to recognize by some feature(s) feel free to post them to this thread. I hope it to be a thread that newcomers and plant students to reference to get some idea of what they are looking for, and help them to make good observations.
Here's the last one for a while.

5 sepals, 5 recurved petals, and a corona of lipped petals around the center. The corona is what you are looking for as the most discinct feature, alongside the long recurved petals. This is a pretty common flower in folks yards used to attract butterflies. Hmmm... maybe I've said too much...

05-27-2010, 07:39 AM
Aslepias tuberosa or butterfly weed

05-27-2010, 08:09 AM
Great thread, keep it going.

05-27-2010, 05:17 PM
Nell got that one quick! Do you have these growing in your yard? The ones we observed at the new fishing hole last weekend had big yellow, and the swirly tail black ones all over them.
Almost looks like a patch of fire in all the greenery. I hope to get some growing in my yard to attract butterflies. Pretty to look at too!

06-13-2010, 04:41 PM
Here's one for the group to ponder. I won't say what's what till you guys have had a couple guesses..


If you need hints or more info, I'll do my best. You'll see why I chose these two plants once I tell the answer.

06-19-2010, 11:46 AM
Ok.. a hint, since we've had no guesses.
One grows in the garden, one grows in moist soils along creek and pond banks.
One is prefectly edible, while the other will surely kill you.

Notice the striking similarity of the flowers, and the extreme differences in growth habit and structure. There is no steadfast rule to tell if the kin plants are poisonous without research. This is another of those dangerous families where you better double check your ID before you eat any. There is one more curious thing about these plants that I'll save till later (kinda like turkey).

06-27-2010, 08:21 AM
Okay, no takers. This is a particularly interesting set to me because of their striking similarity (flowers) and easy to spot differences.
The top two pictures are of garden peas. Notice the trifoliate leaves. This is the most noticable difference in the two.
The bottom two pics are of crotalaria in it's first year as a spreading prostrate plant. Next year it will get the telltale erect flower stalk. The common name for the plant is "rattlepod" and is considered poisonous, causing cyanide poisoning. Notice the alternate leaf pattern as distinctly different from most pea family plants.
While garden peas are "safe to eat" they still contain chemicals said to be "toxic" but if you break it down to what the toxins actually DO to you, it's not much different than thanksgiving turkey. The toxins cause gas and lethargy... the equivalent of a full belly and wanting a nap... no biggie, unless you ate the crotalaria!!
I really wanted to bring this one to light because we talk about hemlock and nightshade as being the MOST poisonous North American plants, but you should all be aware that there are many, MANY other poisonous plants around too. Simply identifying a plant into a general family that is generally regarded as safe, can make you generally dead. If you are going to identify a plant, often a family classification is not enough. You need to at least identify the genera of the plant because all the plants in that genera will have similar toxic properties. There are actually very few plant families where every genera is safe to eat (like mustard plants).

Be diligent in your research, or you could end up like that guy in Alaska that died alone in a bus, starving, with perfectly good guides to get him along. DO NOT force the identity on a plant and double check the details. Missing one detail could cost you your life!!

questions and comments welcome!

06-30-2010, 06:26 PM
It's hard to resist the temptation when there is an abundance of a plant, etc. that you think is probably edible, but there's always next season... if'n y'all follow YCC's advice that is.