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Systematic Botany - Recognition List

This page contains links to photographs of plants that constitute the list of species that students should learn to recognize on sight. The intent of the recognition list is to provide multiple paths of entry into what may seem at first to be an vast and impenetrable forest of plant diversity. The selection of species included is, frankly, somewhat arbitrary, but effort was made to represent the breadth of diversity of vascular plants that occur in the Virginia flora and to emphasize some of the most common and distinctive elements of our flora. In addition, the effort required to learn these plants will require practice developing important observational and analytical skills; it will be important, for example, to think about these plants in terms of their salient structural attributes (e.g., habit, leaf arrangement, inflorescence type, floral construction, fruits, etc.) and assiduously apply appropriate descriptive terminology to consolidate your observations.

Students will be quizzed periodically on these species throughout the semester and species recognition will constitute a major component of the final exam. Tests of student mastery of the recognition list will entail three responses for each unknown presented: family, genus, and species. Test/quiz material may take the form of live specimens, herbarium specimens, photographs, or any combination of the three. Because testing will employ specimens and/or photographs different from those made available for study, it is imperative that students develop a generalized understanding of these species (i.e., based on inherent structural qualities, not the vagaries of how a particular photograph is composed or how a specimen happened to be pressed and dried.