Introduction to

Plant Identification and Classification




This web-based guide is designed to provide support material for Biology 317 (formerly Botany 113), Plant Identification and Classification. The primary goals of this class are to teach students to be able to recognize common plant families, to identify unknown plants, and to understand the principles on which plant classifications are based. In order to accomplish these goals, students need to learn about the variation in plant morphology (the shape or structure of plants) and how to use technical manuals, or Floras, with taxonomic keys for identification. Background information is presented here that is intended to supplement the information learned in lectures and lab.


Much of the material included here was developed by Melinda F. Denton, who taught this class for over 20 years, and was included in a lab manual for the class. However, some of the material is new or revised, and some, particularly the Conifer lab exercise, was developed by C.L. Hitchcock, when he taught the class.

Note: You will need Acrobat reader 6.0 to read articles 13-15. This can be downloaded for free from the Adobe Website.



1. Life Cycles of Vascular Plants

2. Table Comparing Mitosis and Meiosis

3. Whatever happened to the Scrophulariaceae?!

4. Consider the Lilies