A Detailed Study of Keys (Six Videos)

Audubon Society

The first field guide I ever used was one based on identifying a wildflower by its color and overall form.  This was the National Audubon Society Field Guide to Wildflowers.  Initially, I found it helpful since I had no other resource for wildflower identification.

I soon realized that this field guide frequently did not have the wildflower I had found — so I chose to purchase some additional field guides.  I also acquired field guides to plants other than wildflowers.  That’s when I discovered each field guide might have a different method for locating and identifying plants within its pages.  Some of them used a wildflower’s color while others had a dichotomous key.  And I even had a field guide which was arranged by plant families.  Now that was difficult for me to use!

I suspect I’m a lot like you.  I want a quick simple way to find a plant’s name.  Because I refused to learn a field guide’s method (key) for identifying a plant, I struggled my way through looking at each and every page of the illustrations — looking for the plant I had seen.

Finally, I decided to figure these keys out.  And that is what I intend to help you with — how to use a field guide’s key.


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