On your last nature walk, did you find any plants that made your heart sing? Have you revisited them to see them grow and bloom? It’s beginning to look like summer with blooms, fruits and all kinds of plant delights. What will you spot in your neighbourhood?
Can you hear the hum?Lupines and Foxgloves with their tall, spike-like flowers are often humming with bees in early June.
Anything hanging over the fence into a laneway or over the sidewalk is fair game to pick and taste, but you didn’t hear that from us.
We encourage you to learn more about the nature that surrounds us. Identifying plants is tricky as a beginner, they all look mostly kind of green. The first step to identifying a plant is to describe it’s leaf shape or flower. Below is a guide to look for clues that help you get to know the plants around you.
Leaf shapes are important to knowing a plant, so let’s take a closer look
Here are some common leaf shapes and descriptive words for the edges (“margin”) and the veins (“venation”). Can you describe the leaf shapes for each of the edible plants below?
Simple or compound?
Shape: Spatulate (not listed above) Edge: Wavy or toothed?
Veins: Pinnate net or palmate net?
Pinnate means a single dominant vein with smaller veins branching off it.
Palmate means there are multiple main veins originating from a single point.
Simple or compound?
Leaf shape: Trifoliate (divided into 3 leaflets)
Veins: Pinnate, palmate or parallel?
Once you have some new words to describe the differences, it can be hard to tell plants apart.
COMPARING SIMILAR LEAVES or FLOWERS
Is this carrot or dill?
Similar leaf shape (tri-pinnate, lobed), however one is a little more wispy or feathery. How else can you tell them apart? Smell? Parsley, carrot, dill and fennel all come from the same family and look similar, but if you rub the leaves gently then smell your fingers, the smell will give you a clue as to which plant it is.
Are these both lavender?
To some eyes, these flowers look different. The shape, petals and shade of purple are all different, yet they are just two varieties of the same plant. They both have needle-shaped leaves and woody stems. If they weren’t flowering, you would know right away they are both lavender.
Based on leaf alone, rosemary (pictured above) looks similar to lavender, so again, try the smell test to help identify the plant.
Can you find any spherical flowers?
When you look closely, you might find they are made up of many tiny flowers, rather than petals. What other shapes of flowers surprise you when you look close?
Spring and summer is the perfect time of year to observe plants. Go wandering with your journal in your neighbourhood to see what you can find and identify. Document, draw and write down your discoveries and questions.
Step1: Find a plant that you love.
Step 2: Sit with the plant for a few minutes. Look, listen & smell.
Look closely at the plant, some details to notice are:
- the leaves
- the stems
- how the new leaves grow
- the buds
- the flowers
- the fruits.
Step 3: Investigate the leaf shape. Which are new and which are old?
Step 4: Look for flowers and flower buds or fruit. What do you notice?
They might be similar or completely different. If they are similar, take a closer look at the subtle details. Come back in two weeks and do the same process with the same plants. Notice the differences.