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Plant ID My New Backyard

 
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I will be moving from an apartment to a house soon and will finally have some land to grow food on! I noticed that the backyard had a lot of plants aside from grass, but I don't have much in the way of plant identification skills.

Can you identify any of the plants in the picture? And, if so, what might these plants indicate about the condition of the soil in the backyard?
ID_125304.jpg
[Thumbnail for ID_125304.jpg]
 
pollinator
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I see many dandelions, violets, chickweed. Some clover. The plants that look like strawberries are most likely mock strawberry (potentilla indica).
 
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yep. the big one’s a Rumex species, probably yellow dock. there’s also some little cress-family things.
 
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I highly approve of this exercise!  That might be orchard grass in the top left corner.
 
pollinator
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I see some form of dock, lots of dandelions, a violet and while it's hard to tell from the photo, those little white flowers look like bittercress.  Look up those varieties and if you can positively identify them and are positive the yard is chemical-free and no domestic animals use the area as a bathroom,  you have some really good eating there.  Bittercress and violet are two of my favorite spring foraging plants.
 
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There's also a deadnettle (Lamium) near the top of the photo. :-)
 
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With all those dead canes in there, and some of those tiny, fan-like leaves, it looks like you may have some wild blackberries, that someone has cut to the ground, too.
 
Angel Hunt
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Wow! Thanks everyone! This is so cool and helpful. I am going to look up all the plants you identified.
 
greg mosser
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Carla Burke wrote:With all those dead canes in there, and some of those tiny, fan-like leaves, it looks like you may have some wild blackberries, that someone has cut to the ground, too.



i think the long thin things are midribs from a tree with pinnate leaves - walnut, ailanthus, ash, etc.
 
Carla Burke
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greg mosser wrote:

Carla Burke wrote:With all those dead canes in there, and some of those tiny, fan-like leaves, it looks like you may have some wild blackberries, that someone has cut to the ground, too.



i think the long thin things are midribs from a tree with pinnate leaves - walnut, ailanthus, ash, etc.



Entirely possible! I tried to blow up the pick, to see if they were squared/ribbed canes, and if there were any thorns, but couldn't really tell, for sure.
 
pollinator
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Ooh, this is fun! I'll play too.

A bit to the left of the bottom-right corner there is a little thing with kinda curly-looking leaves. Hard to tell from the picture, but my best guess would be something in the genus Veronica. Unless it's also some kind of deadnettle?

Near the bottom-left corner there's something that looks like clover to me...

Edit: Found another one of the curly-leaved one, about halfway up the right side, and it has a half-closed tiny blue flower. Almost certain it's a Veronica.
 
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I didn't find anything that wasn't already said but that was fun. It reminded me a Where's Waldo where everything looks the same until you take a second closer look and start noticing all the different details.

When I took my first botany class in college, it was as though everywhere I looked, hundreds of plants suddenly sprung up out of nowhere. What before looked like a boring patch of grass in our "mowed but otherwise ignored" lawn became a wild miniature jungle of exciting plants.

Someone else should post another picture of a weedy patch.
 
Angel Hunt
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I am so impress by all of you! This really makes me want so up my botany skills faster.

When I took my first botany class in college, it was as though everywhere I looked, hundreds of plants suddenly sprung up out of nowhere. What before looked like a boring patch of grass in our "mowed but otherwise ignored" lawn became a wild miniature jungle of exciting plants.


So true! That is how I felt looking at this yard. Years ago this would have just looked like one homogeneous mass of greenery to me. I also remember how excited I was when I walked by a derelict plot of land in the city and recognized dandelion amidst the different weeds. It felt like being a young kid looking at the pages of a book and suddenly being able to make out words.
 
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Looks like dandelion, purple deadnettle, dock, mock strawberries, violets, buttercream and wood sorrel. And maybe henbit
 
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what might these plants indicate about the condition of the soil in the backyard?


The doc and dandelions are making deep tap roots to bring up nutrients. They store up energy to bloom later.  You can taste their leaves as indicators of soil fertility. When they grow fast in healthy soil the are less bitter.

That you have such variety indicates your dirt is healthy and welcoming plants that feed soil which is the living things in the dirt.  As the dirt progresses from red to black you will know the living things have made soil.
 
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FIELD GUIDE TO EDIBLE WILD PLANTS By Bradford Angier
Bradford Angier is the author of numerous best-selling books on nature and outdoor living, including Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants (978-0-8117-2076-2), Wilderness Shelters and How to Build Them (978-1-5857-4430-5), and Looking for Gold (978-0-8117-2034-2). David K. Foster is associate professor of biology and environmental science at Messiah College in Pennsylvania and a member of the Society of American Foresters. --This text refers to an alternate kindle_edition edition.

Venomous Animals And Poisonous Plants of North America North of Mexico Imitation Leather – January 1, 1994
Sponsored by the National Audubon Society, the National Wildlife Federation, and the Roger Tory Peterson Institute
"In this century, no one has done more to promote an interest in living creatures than Roger Tory Peterson, the inventor of the modern field guide.... His greatest contribution to the preservation of biological diversity has been in getting tens of millions of people outdoors with Peterson Field Guides in their pockets." - Paul Ehrlich, The Birder's Handbook
A FIELD GUIDE TO VENOMOUS ANIMALS AND POISONOUS PLANTS
The essential guide to safety in the field
Features 90 venomous animals and more than 250 poisonous plants and fungi, from the irritating to the lethal
340 line drawings make identification fast and simple; 160 species are also illustrated with color photographs

I use the books to know what to eat, as well as what to never eat.

Spend time in parks, woods, beaches & fields to find where said pant lives.
It is best to gather plant with someone who can teach you how to clean, cook & store said plants.
I am also a fan of you tube, you can learn a lot by watching others.
If you are new to this life, take a class.
 
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Try a App for that ;)

https://www.wellandgood.com/app-that-identifies-plants/
 
pollinator
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As far as "plant ID", one thing I would suggest is that whenever you know of a plant, you seek the Latin name for it. It is a bit of a bother, I know, but that is truly the only way to be sure of a species so you can report on it. [Our Permies did a great job of figuring out what you have here, but it is based on a photo: some are easy, others may be faulty].
For each, you can make a little "dossier" to keep in alphabetical order and keep it in a 3 ring binder. You can refer to it often and you will be surprised at how quickly you learn essential facts.
The Wiki is a quick but still very good reference to use.
I often email my sister in France and my sons in Chicago, so of course they have different names, and using a nomenclature that is common to both countries is crucial. From there, you can also learn the "ideal" conditions for a plant. The so called "common name" of a plant is not so useful as folks have different names for the same plant depending where they live.
In Google, you can also get multiple pictures of a plant, which will help you ID it with certainty. Conversely, you can walk around with a good book to identify plants. I'm not too successful with this as the photos are not always very good and fail to capture just a little difference that I see.
As far as figuring out what your soil's properties are, it is probably not a great idea to try and deduct from the plants that grow there. You are trying to get at the truth from multiple 'deductions'. Mess up on just one and the whole thing falls apart. Dandelion, for example is everywhere, no matter what kind of soil you have, and you may think you have it figured out but.... https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taraxacum. but even IT has look-alikes.
Clicking on "false dandelion" in that article will take you to :
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dandelion. clicking on those that are highlighted in blue will open up a world of dandelion-like plants, with pictures... And some of them  really look a lot like my humble dandelions here!
But the main reason to learn what you have is not just to identify what you have in your lawn: It is *also*, and I think, more importantly what you may want to grow, and for that the best thing to do is a soil test. You can get a do-it yourself test kit [and you alone will be responsible for the interpretation]. Or just take a sample to your local county extension or University near you. [It will cost a bit more, but knowing *exactly* what you have to work with may save you a lot of money in plant failures!.
By crumbling some soil in your hands, you should 'feel' if the soil is more crumbly [sandy] or slimy, heavy [clay]. The soil test will also tell you the Ph and what your soil might be lacking to grow what YOU want to grow.
To identify plants with certainty, you could dig up one and take it to your local County or University extension. They do it for free. They are also a fountain of knowledge as far as the generic soil you have on your property, deducted by your geolocation. They are also a lot more familiar with the environment you have and they know the most frequent 'weeds' you are dealing with.
You did not indicate where you are, so it is difficult to figure out by elimination what they *cannot* be.
 
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I definitely got the dandelions, but thought the largest leaves were plantain. Haha. I also got the strawberry leaves, but see I may be off on that.

I would recommend investing in some plant identification books for your area, they can often be found at local state park offices. And definitely agree with keeping a notebook on what you have in the yard and surrounding neighborhood with bits on edibility, any medicinal uses, etc.

I know many plants and weeds in my current location, and know I will be learning many new ones after my cross country move next year.
 
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I have a free plant identification app on my phone, Picture This, that often enlightens me.
 
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Angel Hunt wrote: And, if so, what might these plants indicate about the condition of the soil in the backyard?



Dandelions will indicate that the backyard has poor soil, as well as compacted.

The good news is that the dandelion roots will help by breaking up the soil.

I am not familiar with most of the other plants mentioned though they all sound like some great plants to have.
 
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Cécile Stelzer Johnson wrote:

But the main reason to learn what you have is not just to identify what you have in your lawn: It is *also*, and I think, more importantly what you may want to grow, and for that the best thing to do is a soil test. You can get a do-it yourself test kit [and you alone will be responsible for the interpretation].

This very much depends on where you are. My land has been so disturbed over much of its area, both by nature and humans, that any sort of soil test is near useless, because 1 foot in any direction may give a very different reading. I would choose your planting area first. I would consider if there is any chance nasty contamination - not just pesticide residue, but also things spilled like motor fuel/oil - is possible. Many nasty things like lead, can easily be remediated by planting plants like sunflowers, or wood chips inoculated by mushrooms like Oyster mushrooms, so don't feel like there isn't a way to fix these problems easily.

I agree with the suggestion that you try to match up Botanical names - they're a nuisance in casual conversation, but if you want to be sure you're on the same page, it's the only way. Courgette anyone?
 
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I see many here already told you which plants are to be seen in the photo. I will only recommend you to do a course to get to know more about wild plants. Then in the future you know them yourself.
I never did a course, I grew up with parents who taught me all about wildlife (plants and birds mostly). Better education than any school or course. But if you didn't have that kind of childhood, a course is really useful!
 
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[quote=Jay Angler

Courgette anyone?

LOL. Love zucchini,  :-)
 
Michelle Heath
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Many have recommended taking taking a class or course, but depending on your location and/or schedule, that may not be possible.  YouTube has been a big help to me when it comes to learning more about wild edibles and field guides are great for making positive identifications.  Check and see if your state/province has had a comprehensive guide to flora published.  Our state has an excellent one that's quite pricey to find a copy of, but I intend to own it one day.
 
Carla Burke
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Diana Barrett wrote:I have a free plant identification app on my phone, Picture This, that often enlightens me.



They can be great tools, but I'd advise anyone using them to use at least 2 or 3 different ones, on any given effort at an id - especially if you're thinking of eating the plant, or even part of it. The picture quality, angles, and much more goes into getting an accurate id, and many of the apps I've tried (on plants I already know) have come up with potentially dangerous inaccuracies.
 
Ela La Salle
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Angel Hunt wrote:I will be moving from an apartment to a house soon and will finally have some land to grow food on! I noticed that the backyard had a lot of plants aside from grass, but I don't have much in the way of plant identification skills.

Can you identify any of the plants in the picture? And, if so, what might these plants indicate about the condition of the soil in the backyard?



I don't know how helpful this may be but if you have time, dig up few of the plants (roots and all), place them in a container and visit a local garden center and ask to speak with a horticulturist.
Every  garden center/ greenhouse etc. always has one on staff.
This way, the horticulturist can see, feel, touch plants, and you.... can take notes  For free.
You'd do that few times , and you'll learn what's-what.
Many horticulturists enjoy sharing "something different" for a change.
It's sounds like a cop-out,  but hearing it from "horse's mouth" beats wearing your eyeballs out and still, not being sure.

 
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For help identifying plants I find this tool useful:
https://identify.plantnet.org/
 
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Once you identify the plants growing for free find out which are edible or have medicinal use and voila you have  a "vegetable" garden!  Also promote those that feed the pollinators and protect against plagues.
 
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I think others have done a great job discussing and identifying the plants. The only thing I would add is that to me the soil looks like it has been cultivated relatively recently. I'm not familiar with your climate so this may be incorrect; but I would expect more ground cover in an area that gets a bit of sun. The fact you have bare soil suggests that it has been "weeded" or dug over, leaving perennial plants (dandelion, dock) and adventitious weeds (bittercress, chickweed) to recolonise it. It looks to me like there are lumps of darker soil - which could be dug in manure, or remains of plant pot material. It would be interesting to know whether the strawberry is a cultivated variety, or a wild form. Maybe this was a strawberry patch, or the plants have moved in by runners from elsewhere?  All the weeds look nice and green, so I wouldn't say there is anything wrong with the soil at all.
 
Angel Hunt
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Thanks everyone! You all are amazingly helpful. Just to follow up on a few notes, the house is located in Virginia. I do have a plant identification app on my phone, but I did not have access to internet while I was at the property. I am going to work my way through Thomas Elpel's botany book, and I do plan to get a field guide or two. It seems to me that Peterson's field guides for wild edible plants and medicinal plants are the best as far as identifying plants you have no preexisting knowledge of, but I have not looked into books specific to Virginia yet.


Michelle Heath wrote:Many have recommended taking taking a class or course, but depending on your location and/or schedule, that may not be possible.  YouTube has been a big help to me when it comes to learning more about wild edibles and field guides are great for making positive identifications.


Are there any particular YouTube channels or videos that you found helpful?

I would consider if there is any chance nasty contamination - not just pesticide residue, but also things spilled like motor fuel/oil - is possible.  


I am concerned about that too, particular with the potential for lead contamination since it is an old house that likely had lead paint in its history. But apparently soil contaminant testing is not widely available, and the one lab I found so far that did test for lead suspended that service due to pandemic staffing shortages.

I don't know how helpful this may be but if you have time, dig up few of the plants (roots and all), place them in a container and visit a local garden center and ask to speak with a horticulturist.  


That is such a great idea! I would not have thought to do that.

he only thing I would add is that to me the soil looks like it has been cultivated relatively recently. I'm not familiar with your climate so this may be incorrect; but I would expect more ground cover in an area that gets a bit of sun. The fact you have bare soil suggests that it has been "weeded" or dug over, leaving perennial plants (dandelion, dock) and adventitious weeds (bittercress, chickweed) to recolonise it. It looks to me like there are lumps of darker soil - which could be dug in manure, or remains of plant pot material. It would be interesting to know whether the strawberry is a cultivated variety, or a wild form. Maybe this was a strawberry patch, or the plants have moved in by runners from elsewhere?  All the weeds look nice and green, so I wouldn't say there is anything wrong with the soil at all.


Thanks for that perspective. It is really fascinating. I have very little idea of what the former owner did with the backyard. A neighbor told me he had grown marijuana back there, so maybe the bare patches are where he dug out those plants.

I don't think he was super into gardening otherwise, but he did also plant various trees. I don't recall him mentioning strawberries. He just told me that he planted a bunch of dwarf, fruit trees, but that turned out to not be accurate. He planted an oak tree just feet from the house that will grow to 60 feet high! The trees he planted are going to be too big and are too close together, so sadly I will have to remove the trees soon while they are still young, further disturbing the soil.
 
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Don't forget my old friend cardamine hirsuta, near the left edge of the picture with lil white flowers.   Despite folk names like "bittercress" I've found it not to be bitter.  The leaves are quite bitter, but if you eat the flowering shoots while tender its a mustard green with some extra flavor.  Only problem is, flowering shoots are are usually about 3 mm in diameter, and it can take longtime to gather a hearty serving.

 
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Thanks for asking the question. Permaculture is about observation and working with nature.
I must say your photo was challenging for my aging eyes for identification, plants a tad older and a better photo would help.  I concur with many observations adding what I think is Shepherd' purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) upper left and Cardamine hirsuta, or bittercress as someone mentioned, also sometimes called winter cress cuz it's not bitter or popweed because the seeds pop out when ripe and touched.  So..yeah, you have a fine salad and medicinal garden right there in that spot!!  I would recommend letting them thrive together. Perhaps you have a lot of this and want to try growing something else, well okay, but don't take out these plants until you are actually ready to put in something else. Here's ways those plants help humans. Strawberry, dandelion, popweed (and chickweed but I don't really see it) are all good edibles. Violet, shepherds purse even henbit (and rumex) and strawberry leaves can make good teas and be eaten in small quantities. Dandelion, Rumex, violet, shepherd's purse, strawberry leaves are all used in herbal medicine.  Did I mention Dandelion as being useful...cuz yeah!  All parts of it are edible and helpful for cleansing toxins out of our bodies living in a toxic world...so yeah, dandelions. Also you should leave and eat the dandelions : ).  More nutritious and versatile that what you would plant. Put the leaves on sandwiches, fritter the flowers, roast the roots and make tea, steam the leaves and slather with butter...
Let's appreciate and work with what the earth is giving us, Peeps.  Baring the ground is not a good starting point for permaculture. Sure, some plants need some discipline, but my philosophy is to try to work with what presents itself, not taking out plants, weeding, unless I know what it is and why I must weed it.  Eat what is in abundance. Terri
 
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Angel Hunt wrote:I will be moving from an apartment to a house soon and will finally have some land to grow food on! I noticed that the backyard had a lot of plants aside from grass, but I don't have much in the way of plant identification skills.

Can you identify any of the plants in the picture? And, if so, what might these plants indicate about the condition of the soil in the backyard?


One of those looks like a
diente de león
I don't remember the name of the others. You can use the app to identify plant names with a photo. https://www.idplantae.com/aplicaciones-recursos-y-herramientas/aplicaciones-para-identificar-plantas-con-el-telefono-o-device-movil/ I hope it helps you. Greetings.

 
pollinator
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People have done a great job identifying many plants in your photo. I have only one additional identification to add. On the far right, in the centre, there is a small plant with purple flowers, which is speedwell (Veronica).
 
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