Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men or animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock. ~Henry Ward Beecher, Star Papers: A Discourse of Flowers

Here are 5 things to ask when you are trying to deduce the identity of a plant.

  1. Is it a tree or is it a shrub? A tree is considered to be a single or multi-stemmed plant that generally reaches 10 to 15 feet and up. A shrub is considerably smaller, though some shrubs can have the appearance of a multi-stemmed tree if they have been left to grow.
  2. Is it evergreen or deciduous? Evergreen means that the plant keeps the majority of its leaves through the winter season. Deciduous means that the plant goes dormant, losing all of its leaves in the winter season.
  3. Does it flower significantly? Though most plants produce some type of flower, some are more significant or obvious than others. For example, a magnolia or an azalea are more known for their showy flowers than a holly or a laurel that produce smaller and less notable flowers.
  4. Does it have notable fruit? Ornamental flowering trees are often lacking in fruit. However, the fruit is another way to identify a plant. Dogwoods, for example, produce a fruit-like pod after the bloom. Nandina produce bright red berry clusters.
  5. What is its habit? Is it upright or prostrate (growing along the ground)? Is it round or oval? Is it vase shaped or pyramidal? The quality of shape and habit can help to identify a plant.