Identifying plants during your travels
Monday, July 02, 2018
Did you know the invasive kudzu is taking over the South and is also edible?
Traveling the country gives you a unique chance to increase your knowledge in plant identification. The plants can include wildflowers, weeds, epiphytes, cactus, trees, and edible plants.
Every location has a slightly different habitat, so there are constantly new plants to learn. The following are some methods to increase your knowledge of plants.
Set a goal
My goal is really small, but that means it is attainable. I try to learn one new plant at each stop. It sounds small, but over time I’ve learned quite a few plants.
Cardinal airplant at the Everglades National Park in Florida
You would think that learning a plant once would be enough, but it doesn’t work that way for me. It especially is true for plants that are in a limited area.
For instance, I’ve learned the names of various cactus two or three times but I always seem to need to learn again when I return to Arizona and neighboring states.
Talk to the rangers or the locals
One trick I do is to take a picture of a plant or flower that I want to learn on my phone. I show this to the ranger who can usually identify it for me.
Saguaro cactus at an RV park in Tucson, Arizona
One thing you should never do is pick the plant then take it to the ranger. One time a volunteer at the park told me to do that.
We both were yelled at by the ranger for removing a plant from its environment!
Many parks have free classes on edible plants or nature walks where plants are discussed. It’s a good way to learn the local plants.
By the way, there’s an edible plant class at St. Andrews State Park in Florida that I’ve repeated three or four times. Each time I remember a little bit more.
Coreopsis in Vermont
Look for signs along the paths at parks or even rest areas that identify plants. Trees are probably the most likely to be identified since they don’t move over time but I’ve seen flowers and cactus identified.
Sign at Falling Waters State Park, Florida
Sometimes there will be a single sign with multiple plants identified. I like to take a picture of the sign, then refer to it when I think I’ve found the plant.
Museums / arboretums
Parks may have museums. Often you can find a small area in the check-in office with pictures and identification of the plants found in the park.
Plus, you can visit local museums and arboretums to increase your knowledge of plants.
Over time, the plants you learn about will seem like old friends as you learn both their name of interesting facts about them.
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