Identifying Plants Using a Dichotomous Key

Identifying plants is a great way to learn plant anatomy and learn about plants. There are many field guides that can help you identify plants, but one of the easiest ways to identify plants is to use a dichotomous key. A dichotomous key is a series of questions - each question is a choice that leads you to a new question. This process continues until you reach the final question and the identification of your plant.

There are some leaf structures that you should understand, please see the page on that. You need to understand margins (the edges of leaves), how leaves are attached to stems (leaf arrangement) and leaf shapes.

We are going to use the dichotomous key from Virginia Tech for the tree identification activity. (See the link to the dichotomous key below.) Identifying trees you will select the leaf key and then select the state you wish to identify trees in. You will use this key to identify four trees in your area.

Assignment –

Select four leaves from your backyard or neighborhood that you are going to identify. You do not need to pick the leaves, you can take pictures. Also, take a picture of how the leaves are attached to the tree as that will help to identify the trees.
Use the dichotomous key to identify the leaves.
For each leaf, identify:
Leaf margin
Leaf shape
Leaf arrangement
Tree name