We seem to get a ton of people wondering what different plants are on here. Sometimes the pictures are very clear and the answer is obvious. Other times, the picture may be fuzzy, the details may not be obvious, etc. I wanted to offer up this little resource for anyone who wants to have an easier time of identifying plants in their area based on the traits they display. Knowing what the different parts of a plant are is very helpful since it offers a LOT of options. Also, be aware that not every plant that could grow in your area may be listed on this site, but it does offer a lot of options. Another down side is that it is only useful within the US for the most part.
Just pick the state and click the traits you know for sure the plant has. Once you have, press Matching Taxa at the top and it will offer a list of what plants are known to be in that state that also match all of the selected traits. It wont answer every question for you, but it might at least narrow the search and can probably identify a lot of the more common plants.
That's funny, I was just thinking we needed a resource thread for people looking to ID plants here on permies! Well done!
I would say to anyone who is planning to post pictures of an unknown plant, there are a few things that really really help us to come up with an answer for you. First off, of course, is good photos, and I'd suggest at least two or three. One of the whole plant, so we can see the growth habit. One close up, with attention to leaf shape and how the leaves are attached to stems. One of the flowers fully in bloom - and this really is the best way to identify any plant, and differences in flowers are how most of the field guide books are laid out. If you post something before or after flowering and we don't come up with an answer, come back to the thread and post a picture of the flower later - it could be just what we need for an ID.
Also, knowing where you are located is pretty key, as well as the conditions where the plant is growing - woods, fields, roadside, etc?
Pictures in multiple stages of growth are what I find most helpful. Seems like a lot of the plants have different phases of appearance. Young leaves look one way, older leaves another. Finding a plant with a yellow flower is one thing, but finding a plant known to have a yellow flower and purple fruit is another. Are the stems hollow or solid? what is the pattern of growth, etc. So many times I have to spend half an hour pouring over reference photos to make sure I am not mistaken about what a fuzzy picture seems to be. Even when I know the plant at a glance, I want to be absolutely sure there isn't some look-alike from another part of the country that might seem like it in a blurry picture or half-plant visible.