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Plant Identification

monocot vs Dicot
What’s the name of that plant?

Does it drive you nuts when you don’t know the name of a plant? Marin Master Gardeners know the feeling as we are often asked to identify problems commonly found in plants. The UCIPM website allows for a search of the problem if you know the plant name e.g. Roses
The Marin Master Gardeners have formed a Plant Identification Guild to teach Master Gardeners some of the techniques. 

Here are a few to share:

Is it flowering or seed bearing (Angiosperm vs Gymnosperm)?
Is it a Monocot or a Dicot (Eudicot)?

Asteraceae Patterns

Knowing some basics helps you to put them into Plant Families, which have common characteristics. One of the largest flowering plant families is Asteraceae, commonly called the Daisy, Aster or Sunflower family; all are flowering and the easiest to identify.
Mint Family

Another plant family is Lamiaceae, or the Mint Family. The flowers typically have petals fused into an upper lip and a lower lip. As the name implies they are frequently aromatic as in culinary herbs such as basil, rosemary, sage and of course mint. One of the largest genera in this family is Salvia.


The largest seed bearing Plant Family is Pinaceae, Pine Family. These are trees or shrubs, including many of the well-known conifers of commercial importance such as cedars, firs, hemlocks, larches, and spruces.

Smartphone apps are available that let you take a photo and compare it to their pictures. Google images can also be used. Knowing a few of the tips ahead of time shortens the search. A multitude of books and sources allow you to be more scientific. If you know your plant name our Help Desk can suggest solutions to your plant problem. Call: 415-473-4204 Monday – Friday, 9- noon; 1-4pm.