Field identification of the 50 most common plant families in temperate regions

(including agricultural, horticultural, and wild species)

by Lena Struwe © 2009, All rights reserved.

Note: Listed characteristics are the most common characteristics, there might be exceptions in rare species. This compendium is available for download without cost at . Please send corrections and additions to the author.

Biennial or perennial herbs Often with bulb (A) at base, surrounded by dry leaves (A) Onion-like smell Simple, narrow leaves in basal rosette (B) Inflorescence a terminal umbel (C), sometimes with bulblets Tepals 6, anthers 6 Ovary superior (D), 3-carpellate Fruit a capsule Seeds hard, dark (covered with phytomelans)






Examples: garlic, onion, leek, chives (Allium).

© Lena Struwe 2009, All rights reserved.

Alliaceae: Asparagales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae

Amaranthaceae s. lat. AMARANTH FAMILY


Herbs or shrubs (rarely trees or vines), often reddish, many salt-loving plants (halophytes) Stems often succulent, and/or jointed Leaves alternate, simple (A) No stipules Flowers small, actinomorphic (B) Sepals usually 3-5, free or fused basally, surrounding the fruit (C) Petals absent Stamens as many as sepals, positioned on the inside of each sepal Ovary superior or half-inferior, Chenopodium 1-3 fused carpels, one locule and one ovule, basal placentation Fruit a berry, capsule, or nutlet Seeds strongly curved (D) C



Note: Chenopodiaceae is now included in Amaranthaceae. Examples: beet (Beta), amaranth, quinoa (Amaranthus), lamb’s quarters (Chenopodium), spinach (Spinacia), cock’s comb (Celosia).

© Lena Struwe 2009, All rights reserved.

Amaranthaceae: Caryophyllales: Eudicots: Angiospermae

Herbaceous, perennial monocots Stem with bulb (A) at base Leaves linear, often grass-like, with parallel veins (B) Inflorescence an umbel Tepals 6, anthers 6 Hypanthium (fused tepals and base of stamens) often present Ovary inferior, 3-carpellate Fruit usually a capsule Seeds often black, many



Examples: amaryllis (Hippeastrum), snowdrop (Galanthus), belladonna-lily (Amaryllis), spider lily (Lycoris, Hymenocallis), daffodil (Narcissus), clivia (Clivia), swamp lily (Crinum),.spring snowflake (Leucojum), Aztec lily (Sprekelia), zephyr lily (Zephyranthes).

© Lena Struwe 2009, All rights reserved.

Amaryllidaceae: Asparagales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae

Anacardiaceae CASHEW FAMILY

Trees, shrub, lianas, or perennial herbs With resin ducts and laticifers (sap often toxic) Often pinnately compound leaves (A) Flowers 5-merous, small, with nectary disc (B) Stamens 5 or 10 (B) One ovule per carpel, 1-5 carpels in a fruit Fruit a drupe



Examples: cashew (Anacardium), sumac (Rhus), poison ivy and poison oak (Toxicodendron), pistachio (Pistacia), mango (Mangifera), pink peppercorn tree (Schinus).

© Lena Struwe 2009, All rights reserved.

Anacardiaceae: Sapindales: Eurosids II: Eudicots: Angiospermae

often dissected or lobed (B). caraway (Carum). penny wort (Hydrocotyle). C small. All rights reserved. ginseng (Panax). dill (Anethum). fennel (Foeniculum).Apiaceae s. © Lena Struwe 2009. resins) Stems hollow (A) B Leaves alternate. Some members of the former Araliaceae have berries. Apiaceae: Apiales: Euasterids II: Eudicots: Angiospermae . Queen Anne’s lace/carrot (Daucus). cilantro (Coriandrum). English Ivy (Hedera). umbrella tree (Schefflera). hemlock (Conium). and simple leaves without a sheath. and these characters only work well for the temperate herbaceous Apiaceae. Examples: parsley (Petroselinum). celery (Apium). not fused. CARROT and GINSENG FAMILY D Mostly herbaceous Aromatic. many E Petals 5. schizocarp) A Myrrhis Notes: Apiaceae now includes Araliaceae. cumin (Cuminum). white or yellow. some very poisonous (oils. lat. simple umbels. aralia (Aralia). pinnate venation Leaf petiole broadened with sheath (C) surrounding stem or base of leaf Flowers arranged in umbels or double umbels (D). not all genera in the family. sepals reduced or absent Fruit a dry fruit that divides into 2 parts (E.

simple (A). All rights reserved. © Lena Struwe 2009. frangipani (Plumeria). hoya (Hoya). pollen in pollinia (C) in some species Fruit usually with 2 separate carpels. sometimes fused Ovary superior Anthers often fused.Apocynaceae MILKWEED & DOGBANE FAMILY Leaves opposite. vinca (Vinca). oleander (Nerium). milkweed (Asclepias). bluestar (Amsonia). and sometimes fused with style head to a gynostegium (B). pinnate venation Leaf margin smooth (A) Stipules absent (A) D Latex (milky sap) in all branches and leaves Sepals 5. Petals 5. rosy/Madagascar periwinkle (Catharanthus). developing into 1-2 dry capsular parts or berries Seeds often with tufts of hairs at one end (D) Note: Asclepiadaceae is now included in Apocynaceae. C B A Vincetoxicum Examples: dogbane (Apocynum). Apocynaceae: Gentianales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . mandevilla (Mandevilla).

dumb cane (Dieffenbachia). tubers common Leaves simple. Wolffia). D Examples: taro (Colocasia). arum (Amorphophallus and other genera). elephant’s ear (Caladium). © Lena Struwe 2009. with reticulate or parallel venation (B) Inflorescence a terminal spadix of tiny flowers. anthurium (Anthirium). or herbs. All rights reserved. highly reduced. Spathiphyllum). often fleshy Rhizomes (A). subtended by a colored leaf/bract (spathe) (C) Flowers sometimes unisexual. Philodendron. duckweeds (Lemna. sessile (D) Fruits usually berries (E) C B E A Calla Note: Lemnaceae is now included in the Araceae. sometimes aquatic. Araceae: Alismatales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae .Araceae ARUM FAMILY Shrubs. and many cultivated plants (Monstera. corms. vines.

large (B) Flowers sessile Tepals 6 Fruit a fleshy drupe with one seed (C) C B Areca Examples: coconut (Cocos). sago palm (Metroxylon). Arecaceae: Arecales: Commelinids: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae . without secondary growth Leaves large. sometimes lianas or herbs Stem usually unbranched. All rights reserved. pinnately or palmately divided (A). oil palm (Elaeis). rattan (Calamus).Arecaceae PALM FAMILY A Trees or shrubs. date palm (Phoenix). © Lena Struwe 2009. rarely simple Sheath at base of leaf Inflorescence axillary. Açaí Palm (Euterpe). saw palmetto (Serenoa). betel palm (Areca).

axile placentation (B) Fruit a capsule Seed with an aril A Aloe B Note: Many of these genera were previously placed in Liliaceae. alternate. sometimes fused Stamens 6 Ovary superior. shrubs. 3 fused carpels. 3 locules. asphodel (Asphodelus). especially leaves Leaves simple. red hot poker (Kniphofia). Asphodelaceae: Asparagales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae . parallel-veined. Examples: aloe (Aloe). haworthia (Haworthia). © Lena Struwe 2009. All rights reserved.Asphodelaceae ALOE FAMILY Herbs. often with spiny or dentate margin (A) Inflorescence a raceme or panicle Flowers actinomorphic or zygomorphic Tepals 3+3. rarely trees Succulents.

Carduus). with involucral bracts surrounding it (B) Flowers small. knapweed (Centaurea). dandelion (Taraxacum). ragwort. D). A) with many flowers. © Lena Struwe 2009. All rights reserved.). boneset. ox-eye daisy (Leucanthemum). usually with 5 small lobes (C) Anthers fused into a ring around style Ovary inferior Fruit a dry nut (achene.Asteraceae ASTER & SUNFLOWER FAMILY Herbaceous usually Leaves variable. sunflower (Helianthus). groundsel (Senecio). chrysanthemum (Dendranthema). either tubular (C) or tongue-shaped (ligulate) Sepals absent Petals fused. Asteraceae: Asterales: Euasterids II: Eudicots: Angiospermae . thistles (Cirsium. etc. mugwort. artichoke (Cynara). burdock (Arctium). wormwood (Artemisia). snakeroot (Eupatorium). often with hairs on top (pappus) C D A B Artemisia Examples: Echinacea (Echinacea). with pinnate venation Inflorescence a head (capitulum. asters (Aster.

Asteraceae ASTER & SUNFLOWER FAMILY Taraxacum Anthemis Ambrosia © Lena Struwe 2009. Asteraceae: Asterales: Euasterids II: Eudicots: Angiospermae . All rights reserved.

hazelnuts and filberts (Corylus). Betulaceae: Fagales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . ironwood (Carpinus). alder (Alnus). male: hanging catkin (B). spiral (A) Leaf margin with teeth (A) Inflorescences unisexual. female: short upright catkin (C) Flowers wind-pollinated. All rights reserved. surrounded by leafy bracts (E) B A C D Betula E Examples: birch (Betula). unisexual Petals absent Styles 2 or 3 Fruit a nut or 2-winged samara (D).Betulaceae BIRCH FAMILY Trees or shrubs Leaves simple. © Lena Struwe 2009.

str. water cress (Nasturtium). Brassicaceae: Brassicales: Eurosids II: Eudicots: Angiospermae . arugula (Diplotaxis. forming a cross + from above (B). collards. Examples: white mustard (Sinapis). ‘rustica’ type). broccoli. often lobed. C) C B A Arabis Note: This family circumscription refers to Brassicaceae s. and does not include Capparaceae (capers) and Cleomaceae. with pinnate venation Leaf edge often dentate (A) or lobed Inflorescence a raceme Petals 4. kale. turnip (Brassica). All rights reserved. or pink Stamens 6 Fruit a dry capsule with inner wall (silique. mouse-ear and thale cress (Arabidopsis). yellow rocket (Barbarea). black mustard.Brassicaceae s. cabbage. MUSTARD FAMILY Herbaceous With mustard oils Leaves simple. white. woad (Isatis). alternate (A). © Lena Struwe 2009. not fused. canola. horseradish (Armoracia). garlic mustard (Alliaria). str. brussels sprouts. radish (Raphanus). rutabaga. yellow.

forget-me-not (Myosotis). 4 locules Style 1. lungwort (Pulmonaria). viper’s bugloss (Echium).Boraginaceae s. Boraginaceae: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . str. All rights reserved. simple Inflorescence a scorpioid or helicoid cyme (A) Flowers sympetalous. 5-merous Corolla often pink as young.str. actinomorphic. BORAGE FAMILY Herbs with stiff hairs Leaves alternate. comfrey (Symphytum). 2-carpellate. © Lena Struwe 2009. Examples: borage (Borago). in center (D) Fruit a schizocarp with 4 nutlets (E) A D B C E Echium Note: These characters refers to Boraginaceae s. then blue or purple (B) Anthers attached to corolla (C) Ovary superior. attached to base of ovary.

alternate (A).Bromeliaceae BROMELIAD FAMILY Herbs. serrate. E Ananas © Lena Struwe 2009. All rights reserved. sheathing at base. terrestrial or epiphytic Leaves simple. B Bromeliaceae: Poales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae . with peltate scales Leaf margins entire. or with spines Inflorescence a terminal spike. raceme or head Bracts often brightly colored (B) Tepals 6 Fruit a berry or capsule (multiple fruit in pineapple) A Puya Examples: pineapple (Ananas). air plant and Spanish moss (Tillandsia).

B) Flower usually solitary (C) Tepals many. All rights reserved.Cactaceae CACTUS FAMILY Shrubs or trees. nopales (Opuntia). sometimes triangular or flattened (A) Leaves highly reduced or absent Spines from axillary ‘buds’. anthers many Ovary inferior Fruit a berry (D) C D A B Examples: prickly pear. peyote (Lophophora). perennial Stems succulent. many together. © Lena Struwe 2009. dragon fruit (Hylocereus). Cactaceae: Caryophyllales: Eudicots: Angiospermae . pitaya. or leaves quickly deciduous. christmas and easter cactus (Schlumbergera). not paired two together (instead of leaves in most species.

Campanulaceae s. or similarly (D) Fruit a berry or capsule Campanula D A Note: Lobeliaceae is included in Campanulaceae. Petals fused. lat. rarely shrubs or trees With latex. Leaves usually alternate. lobelia. simple (rarely compound). with pollen deposited on the outside of the style. C Examples: bell flower (Campanula). with 2-5 carpels. Lobelia © Lena Struwe 2009. axile placentation With secondary pollen presentation. without stipules (A). balloon flower (Platycodon). Campanulaceae: Asterales: Euasterids II: Eudicots: Angiospermae . 5 Corollas either bellshaped (B) or two-lipped or tubular (C) Ovary inferior. All rights reserved. BLUEBELL B FAMILY Herbs. cardinal flower (Lobelia).

with pinnate venation Leaf edge smooth Stems often with thickened nodes (A) at base of each leaf pair Sepals 5. simple. © Lena Struwe 2009. Caryophyllaceae: Caryophyllales: Eudicots: Angiospermae . corncockle (Agrostemma). chickweed (Cerastium. Stellaria). campion (Silene). not fused Fruit a dry capsule opening at top (C) Seeds attached to central column inside capsule Seeds many. All rights reserved. often strongly curved (D) B C B A D A C Examples: Carnation (Dianthus). black. baby’s breath (Gypsophila).Caryophyllaceae CARNATION & PINK FAMILY Herbaceous Leaves opposite (A). soapwort (Saponaria). fused (B) Petals 5.

Cucurbitaceae CUCUMBER FAMILY Vines One tendril per node (A) Leaves simple. 5 Anthers 5 Ovary inferior. Cucurbitaceae: Cucurbitales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . no stipules (B) Inflorescence axillary. All rights reserved. often lobed. © Lena Struwe 2009. with hypanthium (C) Petals fused or absent. alternate. 3 carpels. parietal placentation (D) Fruit a berry or pepo (or capsule or samara) A B Bryonia D C Examples: melon and cucumber (Cucumis). loofah (Luffa). watermelon (Citrullus). palmately veined. squashes and pumpkins (Cucurbita). solitary flowers common Flowers unisexual (rarely not).

scale-like (B) Unisexual cones with few cone scales (C) Female cones sometimes berry-like. Cupressaceae: Coniferophyta . juniper (Juniperus).Cupressaceae CEDAR FAMILY A Trees or shrubs Bark peels off in strips Branches often flattened in appearance (A) Leaves evergreen. Chamaecyparis). Note: Taxodiaceae is now included in Cupressaceae. cypress (Cupressus. bald cypress (Taxodium). giant seqouia (Sequoiadendron). dawn redwood (Metasequoia). © Lena Struwe 2009. leathery (C). All rights reserved. B C A Examples: cedar. coast redwood (Sequoia). arbor-vitae (Thuja).

arranged at 3 angles (tristichous) Leaves sheathing at base Inflorescence often divided into male and female parts (C). often inside a bottle-shaped structure (perigynium. nut sedge and papyrus (Cyperus) © Lena Struwe 2009. 1-seeded nut C C F B A D E B A Examples: sedge (Carex). Cyperaceae: Poales: Commelinids: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae . as spikelets (D) on terminal branches Flowers small. not hollow Leaves linear. sitting behind a bract (E) Sepals and petals absent (rarely present) Anthers 3. with parallel veins. F) Fruit a small. without nodes.Cyperaceae SEDGE FAMILY Herbaceous monocot Stems often as rhizomes (A) and upright culms (B) Stems 3-sided. solid. hanging free Ovary superior. grass-like. All rights reserved. unisexual.

thin and hollow Sporangia in terminal heads (B) Spores small.Equisetaceae HORSETAIL FAMILY B Herbs Stems ridged. C Equisetum © Lena Struwe 2009. with arms (C) A Examples: horsetail (Equisetum). Equisetaceae: Equisetales . circular with nodes and sheaths (A) Leaves sometimes absent. hollow. All rights reserved.

fused. Pyrola). usually with 5 carpels Style single Fruit a capsule. sheep laurel and mountain laurel (Kalmia). often with pores as openings (B).Ericaceae s. or drupe. wintergreen (Chimaphila. sometimes herbs (some species mycotrophic and without chlorophyll). Flowers actinomorphic (arely bilateral). Note: Included in the Ericaceae is Empetraceae. Examples: blueberry. without stipules. berry. azalea and labrador tea (Rhododendron. Ledum). and Pyrolaceae. indian pipe (Monotropa). Ericaceae: Ericales: Asterids: Eudicots: Angiospermae . © Lena Struwe 2009. Ovary superior or inferior. Petals 5 (rarely 0-7). BLUEBERRY FAMILY Shrubs or small trees. B Stamens in two whorls. often leathery and evergreen. etc. (Vaccinium). All rights reserved. heather (Calluna). attached to petals Anthers inverted (bent upside down during development). cranberry. Vaccinium With nectary disk inside stamens. lat. Monotropaceae. 5+5 (rarely less). A Leaves simple. often hanging (A).

sometimes highly reduced without sepals and petals B Nectaries common Ovary superior. Codiaeum). 5-merous. or drupe Euphorbia A Examples: poinsettia and euphorbs (Euphorbia). two stipules often present (sometimes as two spines below each leaf. cassava and manihot (Manihot). A) Inflorescence cyme or cyathium (B) Flowers unisexual. often white Stems often succulent and fleshy (A) Leaves simple. castor bean (Ricinus). All rights reserved. trees or vines With latex. rubber tree (Hevea). capsule. physic nut (Jatropha) .Euphorbiaceae SPURGE FAMILY Herbs. 3 carpels Fruit a schizocarp. Euphorbiaceae: Malpighiales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . © Lena Struwe 2009. copper leaf (Acalypha). shrubs. croton (Croton.

© Lena Struwe 2009. with many small leaflets). compound (A. All rights reserved. keel Keel hidden between wings Stamens and style hidden inside keel C Stamens 10 . sweet pea (Lathyrus). Fabaceae: Fabales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . carob (Ceratonia). a dry capsule without inner dividing walls. chickpeas. peanuts (Arachis). clover (Trifolium). 9 often fused Fruit a bean (legume. licorice (Glychyrriza). soybean (Glycine). wings. nutrients stored in dicotyledons inside seed Note: the flower characters work only for subfamily Faboideae. bilateral with 5 parts: banner/standard. lentil (Lens). C). some trees and shrubs Leaves alternate. sometimes with tendrils Stipules at base of each leaf (variable in size) Corolla of ‘butterfly-type’ (B). alfalfa (Medicago). and with seeds attached to one side Seeds splits in 2. A B Examples: beans (Phaseolus). Pisum).Fabaceae BEAN FAMILY Mostly herbaceous. peas (Vicia.

beech (Fagus). often lobed (A) Inflorescences unisexual with male catkins or heads (B).Fagaceae OAK FAMILY Trees Leaves simple. All rights reserved. usually alternate. wind-pollinated Fruit a nut (acorn in oaks). and a few female flowers inside wooden bracts (cupule) at the base of the male inflorescence (C) Woody bracts Flowers unisexual. tiny. © Lena Struwe 2009. chestnut (Castanea). surrounded by the cupule (D) A B D Quercus C Examples: oak (Quercus). often highly reduced. Fagaceae: Fagales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae .

Geraniaceae: Geraniales: Rosids: Angiospermae . stork’s bill. Erodium). alternate (A) Stipules common Inflorescence a cyme. All rights reserved. umbel or flowers single Flowers actinomorphic D or zygomorphic Petals 5. in two whorls. usually palmately veined C and lobed. usually 5 fused carpels. free (B) E Stamens 10. fragrant Leaves simple or compound. fused at base into a ring. styles 5 (C) Style growing longer and firmer in fruit (D) Fruit a capsule or schizocarp (E) D B A Geranium Examples: crane’s bill. filaree (Geranium. Pelargonium. staminodes common (C) Ovary superior.Geraniaceae GERANIUM FAMILY Herbs Often with aromatic oil glands and hairs. © Lena Struwe 2009.

spike. corms. often sheathing at base. gladiolus (Gladiolus). parallel-veined (A) Inflorescence terminal. often with bracts below (B) Tepals 3+3.Iridaceae IRIS FAMILY Herbs or shrubs Rhizomes. 3 locules. Iridaceae: Asparagales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae . placentation axile (C) Style often petal-like Fruit a capsule B A C Iris Examples: iris (Iris). or simple and linear-narrow. 3 fused carpels. © Lena Struwe 2009. sometimes of different sizes Stamens 3 Ovary inferior. and bulbs common Leaves sometimes unifacial. crocus. blue-eyed grasses (Sisyrhinchium). saffron (Crocus). cluster or solitary flowers. All rights reserved. freesia (Freesia).

no stipules. deciduous Leaves alternate. pecan (Carya). sometimes these fall off (C) A C B Juglans Examples: hickory and walnut (Juglans). All rights reserved. wind-pollinated Fruits drupe-like. wingnut (Pterocarya). no sepals or tepals.Juglandaceae WALNUT FAMILY Trees. aromatic when crushed Inflorescences unisexual Male catkins long. pinnately compound (A). hanging (B) Female flowers solitary or small groups Flowers reduced. but is a nut enclosed in fleshy or hard involucres (husks). © Lena Struwe 2009. Juglandaceae: Fagale: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae .

often with rhizomes (A) and perennial Stem sometimes round. rather reduced. © Lena Struwe 2009. usually brown C B A Juncus Examples: rush (Juncus). or triangular.Juncaceae RUSH FAMILY Herbs. often tristichous (arranged in 3 rows) Inflorescences as cymes or heads. not fused. parallel-veined. alternate. actinomorphic Tepals 6. wood rush (Luzula). Juncaceae: Poales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae . grass-like and slender. Flowers small. 3 fused carpels Style 3-branched Fruit a capsule. sheathing around stem (B). brownish with thin margins (C). Stamens 6 Ovary superior. All rights reserved. similar to leaves Leaves simple. hollow.

thyme (Thymus). dead nettle (Lamium). 5 (C) Corolla 2-lipped (D) Stamens 2 or 4 (E) Fruits: 4 nutlets hidden inside calyx D Origanum Examples: basil (Ocimum). © Lena Struwe 2009. rosemary (Rosmarinus). coleus (Coleus).Lamiaceae MINT FAMILY B Herbaceous (some woody in the tropics) Aromatic. arranged at 90 degrees angle to each other Stipules absent (A) Stem usually quadrangular Flowers in groups (verticillasters) C in leaf axils or in terminal spikes (B) A Sepals fused. often hairy with glands in or on E leaves or glandular hairs Leaves opposite. mint (Mentha). teak (Tectona). sage (Salvia). lavender (Lavandula). beebalm (Monarda). Lamiaceae: Lamiales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . All rights reserved. with essential oils. simple (A). catnip (Nepeta).

© Lena Struwe 2009. rarely lobed Stipules absent Inflorescence axillary. Lauraceae: Laurales: Magnoliids: Eudicots: Angiospermae . All rights reserved.Lauraceae LAUREL FAMILY Trees and shrubs With aromatic oil glands. some as staminodes Anther opens with 2 or 4 valves popping open (B) Ovary 1-carpellate. free Stamens 3-12. camphor (Cinnamomum). leaves often punctate Leaves simple. cinnamon. evergreen. usually superior Fruit berry or drupe A B Laurus Examples: bayleaf (Laurus). avocado (Persea). with hypanthium Tepals 3+3. actinomorphic. alternate. sassafras (Sassafras). cyme or solitary flowers (A) Flowers small.

fritillary (Fritillaria). © Lena Struwe 2009. but many genera have been moved to other families such as Alstroemeriaceae. 3-carpellate. Ovary superior. Colchicaceae. with nectaries at base Stamens 6. LILY FAMILY B C Perennial herbs Bulbs or rhizomes (A) Does not smell like onion Leaves alternate (rarely whorled).Liliaceae s. All rights reserved. ellipsoid to rounded D A Tulipa Note: Liliaceae were previously a larger family. trout lily (Erythronium). and Smilacaceae. str. often basal. stigma 3 Fruit a capsule Seeds flattened. raceme or solitary flower Tepals 6. free (C). Melianthaceae. Liliaceae: Liliales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae . lily (Lilium). axile placentation Style single. sheathing at base. free. 3 locules (D). parallel-veined (B) Inflorescence terminal. often spotted or striped. Examples: tulips (Tulipa).

Magnoliaceae MAGNOLIA FAMILY Tree and shrubs Leaves simple. whorled or spirally arranged Anthers many (C) Ovaries many. or samaras C B A Liriodendron Examples: magnolia (Magnolia). with deciduous stipules around the buds in spring Flower terminal. large (B) Tepals many ( rarely few). on elongated structure in center of flower Fruit an aggregate of berries. tulip tree (Liriodendron). Magnoliaceae: Magnoliales: Magnoliids: Eudicots: Angiospermae . follicles. © Lena Struwe 2009. All rights reserved. solitary. apocarpous. alternate (A).

as well as the tree family Tiliaceae. marshmallow (Althaea). Examples: Cotton (Gossypium). lat. mallow (Malva). cola (Cola). balsa wood (Ochroma). All rights reserved. hibiscus (Hibiscus). often fused in a tube around the style or as separate bundles Ovary usually superior. The characters listed here works best for temperate herbaceous Malvaceae. jute (Corchorus). cacao (Theobroma). simple or palmately compound (A). 5-merous. 5 (C). B) C B Petals free. linden. 2-many carpels Fruit usually a capsule or a wheel-shaped schizocarp (D) Note: This family now includes the mainly tropical families Bombacaceae and Sterculiaceae. Malva Malvaceae: Malvales: Eurosids II: Eudicots: Angiospermae . often D convolute in bud Stamens 5-many. often with an epicalyx (extra calyx outside normal calyx. baobab (Adansonia). durian (Durian). COTTON FAMILY A Herbs (shrubs or trees) With stellate or peltate hairs (star-shaped or stalked scales) Leaves alternate. © Lena Struwe 2009.Malvaceae s. kapok (Ceiba). with palmate venation (rarely pinnate) With stipules that fall off early Flowers actinomorphic. okra (Abelmoschus). basswood (Tilia).

raceme. © Lena Struwe 2009. sometimes in/on a fleshy perianth or receptacle E Examples: mulberry (Morus). catkin (B).Moraceae MULBERRY FAMILY B A Trees. All rights reserved. with stipules (A) Inflorescence axillary (head. shrubs. or flattened or urn-shaped receptacle) Flowers unisexual. very small (C) C Sepals 0-10. fused at least at base Petals absent (D) D Stamens 1-6 Morus Styles 2 (D) Fruit is a multiple of many 1-seeded achenes (nutlets. Moraceae: Rosales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . or herbs Monoecious or dioecious Often with latex (milky sap) Leaves simple. E). spike. fig /banyan trees (Ficus). breadfruit/jackfruit (Artocarpus). osage-orange (Maclura).

inferior. very aromatic Leaves opposite or alternate.Myrtaceae MYRTLE FAMILY Trees and shrubs Leaves and stems with oil glands. often the showy part of the flower (B) Nectary disk on top of ovary or inside flower Ovary syncarpous. sometimes leathery (A) Flowers actinomorphic. free or fused into a few bundles. simple. myrtle (Myrtus). © Lena Struwe 2009. placentation axile Fruit a capsule (C) or fleshy B A C Eucalyptus Examples: eucalyptus (Eucalyptus). allspice (Pimenta). guava (Psidium). Myrtaceae: Myrtales: Rosids: Eudicots: Angiospermae . bottlebrush (Callistemon). All rights reserved. with hypanthium Sepals and petals 4-5 Stamens many. tea tree (Leptospemum). cloves (Syzygium).

superior. no stipules (A) Inflorescence a panicle or raceme (B) Flowers actinomorphic Sepals and petals 4. jasmine (Jasminum). lilac (Syringa). ash (Fraxinus). fused (C) (reduced in wind-pollinated species) Stamens 2 (C) Ovary 2-carpellate. capsule or samara B C A D Ligustrum Examples: golden bells (Forsythia). berry (D).Oleaceae OLIVE and JASMINE FAMILY Trees and shrubs (vines) No latex Leaves opposite. fringe tree (Chionanthus). Oleaceae: Lamiales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . privet (Ligustrum). olive (Olea). © Lena Struwe 2009. simple or compound. 2 ovules in each locule Fruit a drupe. All rights reserved. osmanthus (Osmanthus).

with parallel venation (B) C A Inflorescence a raceme. with many dust-sized seeds Note: some of the advanced floral characters are missing in subfamilies Cypripedioideae and Apostasioideae. cattleya (Cattleya). boat orchid (Cymbidium). some with spurs or sacs Stamen 1. often sheathing at base. epidendrum (Epidendrum). inside 180 degree twisted flower stalk (resupinate) Fruit a capsule.Orchidaceae ORCHID FAMILY Herbs. simple. moth orchid (Phalaneopsis). dendrobium (Dendrobium). © Lena Struwe 2009. All rights reserved. or solitary flower Flowers zygomorphic (C) Tepals 3+3. corms and rhizomes common (A) Epiphytic species with air roots (with white velamen) Leaves alternate or whorled. lower tepal often enlarged into a lower lip (labellum. free. spike. fused with style and Calypso stigma into a gynostegium/column Pollen spread as pollinia Ovary inferior. Examples: vanilla (Vanilla). slipper orchid (Cypripedium. 3-carpellate. Paphiopedilum). terrestrial or epiphytes Tubers. C). B Orchidaceae: Asparagales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae .

sometimes scale-like Inflorescences often with colored bracts (B). lat. sometimes without chlorophyll (then white. 2 long and 2 short Ovary superior. lousewort (Pedicularis). purple. C) Stamens 4. 1-locular. fused. as racemes. spikes (B) or solitary flowers Petals 5. BROOM-RAPE FAMILY Fully or partial root parasites on other plants. Indian paintbrush (Castilleja). © Lena Struwe 2009. 2-carpellate Fruit a capsule (D). simple. with many tiny seeds B C D Melampyrum A Note: Several genera have recently been moved from Scrophulariaceae into Orobanchaceae. Orobanchaceae: Lamiales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . brown. beech drops (Epiphagus). 2-lipped (3 lobes on lower lip. eyebright (Euphrasia).Orobanchaceae s. red or pink) Root system small (A) or haustoria Herbs or rarely shrubs Leaves opposite or alternate. false foxglove (Agalinis). Examples: broom-rape (Orobanche). All rights reserved. cow-wheat (Melampyrum).

larch (Larix). D 1-10 in fascicles on branches. with woody and spirally arranged cone scales (C). wind-pollinated Female cones large. maturing over several years. sometimes flattened. spirally arranged (A) Male cones smaller (B). hemlock (Tsuga). Pinaceae: Coniferophyta . spruce (Picea). fall off after releasing pollen. fir (Abies).Pinaceae PINE FAMILY Monoecious trees (rarely shrubs) Usually evergreen Bark not falling off in long strips Resinous. All rights reserved. douglas fir (Pseudotsuga). fragrant Leaves as linear needles. © Lena Struwe 2009. each scale with 2 winged seeds (D) A B C B Pinus Examples: pine (Pinus). cedar (Cedrus).

toad flax (Linaria). butter-and-eggs. often 2-lipped) Stamens 4. lat. Plantaginaceae: Lamiales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . turtlehead (Chelone). foxglove (Digitalis). Callitrichaceae and Globulariaceae are also included in Plantaginaceae. snapdragon (Antirrhinum). Examples: plaintain (Plantago). chinese house (Collinsia).Plantaginaceae s. © Lena Struwe 2009. often aromatic Leaves alternate or opposite Flowers bilateral (A. All rights reserved. beard tongue (Penstemon). PLANTAIN FAMILY Herbaceous (rarely shrubs) Hairy plants. speedwell (Veronica). 2+2 together (A) Ovary superior (B) Seeds attached to center of fruit (axile placentation) Fruit a dry capsule (B) Seeds numerous Veronica A B Note: Many species in this family previously belonged to Scrophulariaceae.

Plantaginaceae: Lamiales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . All rights reserved.Plantaginaceae PLANTAIN FAMILY Linaria Digitalis Plantago © Lena Struwe 2009.

© Lena Struwe 2009. bentgrass (Agrostis). sugarcane (Saccharum). rye (Secale). oats (Avena). rice (Oryza). sheathing. styles and anthers hanging out from spikelets Stamens 3 Style often branched and plumose (feather-like) Fruit a one-seeded nut (caryopsis) C Poa Examples: corn/maize (Zea). with ligule at top of sheath Inflorescences with terminal and axillary spikelets (C). called palea and lemma When flowering. with parallel venation. shoots) Stems round. fescue (Festuca). reed (Phragmites). barley (Hordeum). bamboo (many genera).Poaceae GRASS FAMILY D Herbaceous or seldom woody Stems often rhizomatous and/or with erect culms B (A. wheat (Triticum). C with nodes (B) Leaves linear. All rights reserved. bluegrass (Poa). hollow. Poaceae: Poales: Monocotyledons: Angiospermae . subtended by bracts (glumes) Flowers without sepals and petals A Spike (awn) often present on bracts Stamens and ovary hidden inside bracts (D).

knotweed. buckwheat (Fagopyrum). smartweed. often pinkish or greenish (D) Tepals 3+3 or 5. All rights reserved. sometimes vines or trees Stems with swollen nodes Leaves alternate.Polygonaceae BUCKWHEAT FAMILY Herbs or shrubs. © Lena Struwe 2009. Fallopia). B) Inflorescences in fascicles arranged in spikes or racemes (C) Flowers small. simple (A). fused at base (D) Stamens often with nectaries at their base Ovary superior Fruit a 3-sided achene or nutlet with a single seed (E) A D C B E Polygonum Examples: rhubarb (Rheum). Polygonaceae: Caryophyllales: Eudicots: Angiospermae . persicaria (Polygonum. often with stipular sheath surrounding the stem at base of leaf (ocrea. Persicaria. sorrel (Rumex). pinkweek.

meadow rue (Thalictrum). simple or compound (A). bugbane. hellebore (Helleborus). wolfsbane (Aconitum). few to many. with or without stipules Inflorescence a cyme or flowers single Flowers with spirally arranged parts (B) Sepals often petal-like. Rancunulaceae: Ranunculales: Eudicots: Angiospermae . love-in-amist (Nigella). goldenseal (Hydrastis). free Petals free. marsh marigold (Caltha). anemone. often with nectaries (C) on inside base and/or spurred Stamens many (B) Gynoecium with few-many carpels. clematis (Clematis). often lobed or dissected. superior (B) Fruit a follicle. monkshood. cohosh (Actaea). achene (D) or berry (often aggregated from several carpels) D B Ranunculus Examples: buttercup (Ranunculus). separate (apocarpous). lianas or shrubs Leaves alternate. pasque flower (Pulsatilla). larkspur (Delphinium). hepatica (Hepatica). columbine (Aquilegia). All rights reserved. © Lena Struwe 2009. windflower (Anemone). baneberry.Ranunculaceae BUTTERCUP FAMILY C A Herbs.

Ranunculaceae BUTTERCUP FAMILY Actaea Aquilegia Anemone © Lena Struwe 2009. All rights reserved. Aconitum Rancunulaceae: Ranunculales: Eudicots: Angiospermae .

free D Hypanthium (C. Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla). All rights reserved. or dry nutlets C Rosa Examples: Rose (Rosa). pear (Pyrus). often shrubs or trees Stipules (A) at base of each leaf Sepals 5. drupelets (blackberry-like). plum/almond/peach/apricot (Prunus). Rosaceae: Rosales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . hawthorn (Crataegeus). strawberries (Fragaria). sepal. drupe (stone fruit). often pome (apple-like). and stamen bases) Stamens usually numerous (D) Fruit type variable. spiraea (Spiraea) © Lena Struwe 2009. apple (Malus). dry capsules.Rosaceae ROSE & APPLE FAMILY A B Herbaceous or woody. petals 5 (B). cup-like structure composed from the fused petal. blackberry /raspberry (Rubus).

Rosaceae ROSE & APPLE FAMILY Fragaria Alchemilla Rosa Potentilla Malus © Lena Struwe 2009. All rights reserved. Rosaceae: Rosales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae .

no stipules Leaves often with oil glands as small dots inside leaves (fragrant) C B Flowers actinomorphic (A) Sepals 4-5. juicy part is swollen hairs). free or fused Nectary disk inside flower below ovary and stamens (B) D Stamens 8-many. rue (Ruta).Rutaceae RUE or CITRUS FAMILY Citrus A Trees. grape fruit. lime. drupe. often in groups. © Lena Struwe 2009. schizocarp or hesperidium (D. sometimes with thorns Leaves alternate. kumquat (Citrus). All rights reserved. simple or compound. fruit wall often with oil glands Examples: lemon. prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum). shrubs. free or fused Petals 4-5. 4-many fused carpels. orange. Rutaceae: Sapindales: Eurosis II: Eudicots: Angiospermae . axile placentation (D) Fruit a berry. lianas (herbs). mandarine. sometimes fused (C) Ovary superior.

sometimes aggregate Examples: bedstraw. All rights reserved. or trees Leaves opposite. inserted into corolla wall. Ipecacuanha (Psychotria).Rubiaceae COFFEE FAMILY Herbs. shrubs. Galium C B A Coffea D D Rubiaceae: Gentianales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . B) Inflorescence cymose. madder (Galium. yohimbine (Pausinystalia). fused at base Petals 4-5. placentation axile (D) Fruit a capsule. morinda. © Lena Struwe 2009. buttonbush (Cephalanthus). fused. West Indian jasmine (Ixora). quinine tree (Cinchona). or flowers solitary Flowers actinomorphic (C) Sepals (0)4-5. or schizocarp. Rubia). drupe. berry. as many as petals Ovary inferior. usually 2-carpellate. simple with entire margin (A) With interpetiolar stipules (or stipules leaf-like to resemble whorled leaves. coffee (Coffea). noni (Morinda). pentas (Pentas). corolla often trumpetshaped Stamens 4-5.

poplar. © Lena Struwe 2009. str. aspen (Populus). style very short (D) Fruit a capsule with many seeds (E) Seeds with long hairs (F) (wind-dispersed) B Salix F C D E Note: Flacourtiaceae was recently included in Salicaceae. Examples: willow (Salix). simple. Salicaceae: Malpighiales: Eurosids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . A alternate (A) With or without stipules Inflorescences as unisexual catkins (B) Each flower with a bract below (C) B Sepals and petals absent (C) Each flower with nectaries Ovary from 2 fused carpels. cottonwood. more restricted sense. dioecious Leaves deciduous.Salicaceae s. The field characters listed here work mostly for Salicaceae in its older. All rights reserved. WILLOW FAMILY Trees or shrubs.

The characters listed here are for the new version of the family. Orobanchaceae. never parasitic Stem not angular Leaves alternate or opposite Flowers usually at least slightly zygomorphic (rarely actinomorphic. Examples: figwort (Schrophularia). inserted into corolla tube (B) Ovary superior. All rights reserved. MULLEIN and FIGWORT FAMILY Herbs. str. © Lena Struwe 2009. A) Sepals 5. fused at base Petals 5. butterfly bush (Buddleja). 2 fused carpels Fruit a capsule with many seeds A B Verbascum Note: Many genera of ‘old’ Schrophulariaceae were recently moved out of the family into Plantaginaceae. Scrophulariaceae: Lamiales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . str. fused at least at base (B) Stamens 2 or 4 (rarely 5). and unfortunately there aren’t many good field characters to identify Scrophulariaceae s.Scrophulariaceae s. mullein (Verbascum). mudworts (Limosella).

angel trumpet (Brugmansia). attached to center of fruit (axile placentation. Lycopersicon). petunia (Petunia). or funnelshaped or tubular Ovary superior (B) Anthers often fused. corolla star-. porate (C) (peppershaker-type) Berry (D). often lobed. or capsule Seeds many.Solanaceae TOMATO. E) Solanum C A B E Examples: potato/tomato (Solanum. © Lena Struwe 2009. jimsonweed (Datura). drupe. often woody in tropics Leaves alternate (A). tomatillo (Physalis). fused a little or a lot. trumpet-. sometimes with prickles Stipules absent (A) Sepals 5. Solanaceae: Solanales: Euasterids I: Eudicots: Angiospermae . often hairy. incl. fused D Petals 5. PEPPER. All rights reserved. & POTATO FAMILY Herbaceous in temperate areas. tobacco (Nicotiana). chili pepper/sweet pepper (Capsicum).

1885. E.biologie. 71 (1840).edu/~struwe/ © Lena Struwe IMAGES used in this compendium (copyright free or used under Creative Commons licensing) Lindman. L. II. vol. © Gerhard Keuck. Or. Reg. M. All rights reserved.Resources BOOKS and WEBSITES Plant Systematics by Michael G. USDA PLANTS website. Published by the author. Rutgers University.html HOW TO CITE THIS COMPENDIUM: Struwe. C.1883-1914. horticultural. 1999. Simpson. The Botanical Magazine.mpg. NJ. http://plants. Gera.mpiz-koeln. New Brunswick. A. http://caliban. F. many with photos and maps. Bot.mpg. available at http://www. 1919-1923.html Curtis. and wild species). http://caliban. 2009.rci. 1901-1905. Köhler.uni-hamburg. 2007. . The Cactaceae. Flora von Deutschland Österreich und der Schweiz.usda.html Thomé.de/bonline/thome/index. All native species in the USA are Bilder ur Nordens Flora. http://www. Field identification of the 50 most common plant families in temperate regions (including agricultural. Elsevier Academic Press.rutgers. Medizinal-Pflanzen in naturgetreuen Abbildungen und kurz erläuterndem Texte. Flower-Garden Displayed. W. USA.mpizkoeln. O. Project Runeberg. Excellent textbook for introduction to morphology. many color photos. Britton & Rose. classification and evolution of plants. xxvi. © Daniel Schweich. © Kurt Stueber.