Lots of observations support learning identification

I was fascinated by the varied flowers that bloomed in the grassy edges of our school field. The school was new as was the neighbourhood and patches of what was there before persisted in the places in between. I wanted to know their names and pestered the adults around me for that information. My reasonable assumption was that if they did not know themselves, surely they knew of a book that would have that information. Turned out not so much...

Peterson's Field Guide to the Wildflowers of Eastern North America would not be published for another two years after my questions; Newcomb's not for another eleven. There was a large heavy book in the school library that i was given special permission to take home for a week to study. I don't know the name anymore, only that it contained a glorious quantity of plant names and descriptions, hundreds of them. Unfortunately I made no progress at all during that week in finding the plants I knew within these riches.

My present self knows that there were two books then published that had the answers I sought: Wild Plants of the Canadian Prairies (aka Budd's Flora of the Canadian Prairie Provinces) and Scoggan's Flora of Manitoba both published in 1957. I would have probably liked the first more as it had line drawings - I was still in elementary school. Those two books remain my primary sources for plant identification in Manitoba today. The scientific names used in these volumes are those used at the time they were published. I have found VasCan to be very helpful for finding the appropriate synonym in the current nomenclature. As a bonus it provides up to date information on distribution by provincial boundary.

In the years between my first quest to identify and today, I have used a multitude of field guides, learned to use dichotomous keys, acquired a novice understanding of botanical terms, attended lectures and field outings with experts and spent a lot of time in the field or at home puzzling out the names of plants I have observed. Somewhere along the way I ended up becoming so familiar with a few species that I find I can identify them without consulting the guides or even reminding myself of the field marks.

Observing many individuals of the same species growing in different places at different times of the year helps the brain to build an archive of variations helping an identifier to disregard features that are not important in the identification of that species. This is one of the reasons why I keep submitting more observations of the same species from the places that I collect observations - to give others the same opportunity to become familiar with the organisms found here. I encourage you to do the same when you have the time and opportunity.

Mary Krieger

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Publicado por marykrieger marykrieger, 23 de enero de 2021


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