Identify Plants

Gloria Dalia García Medina

The participants will look for plants of the region, edible or healthy; for remedies, condiments, infusions, or simply wild fruits.

  • Several specimens of plants from the area, in photography, drawing, or physically
  • One bag per person with the following: a magnifying glass, a ruler (alternatively you can make photocopies of the ruler and carry them folded in the bags), a notebook, pen or graphite pencil.
  • Binoculars (optional) one for the group
  • Plant identification guide material: There are two options, one is to obtain it in printed form, and the other is to use an App previously installed on a mobile device (phone or tablet).
  1. Printed guide: You will need a plant identification guide for the region, get it previously either at a bookstore, or you can download it from the web. Some regions have it available at local universities. Ideally, they should have a copy for each participant.
  2. Mobile app: This option is recommended if each one has the facility to carry a mobile phone, if there is a good data signal in the place where they are going to explore, if the participants are old enough and have the ability to use applications, if their phones have the ability to download applications.
  • Mobile phone
  • Camera of your mobile phone
  • Plant identification app (pre-downloaded to their phones)

Do the work of a true explorer. Take your bag with your notebook, pencil, magnifying glass, ruler and start the action:

  1. Focus on one plant. Identifying a plant begins with careful observation and study of its characteristics.
  2. Make use of the magnifying glass. measure it, check each of the individual parts, like the stems, the leaves, and the flowers. Draw the features, colors, shapes, size. As good explorers take note of every detail.
  3. As a general rule, they should always begin by examining the plant stem and branching pattern, then broaden their focus to leaves, flowers, buds, and other peripheral structures.
  4. Use your identification tools; For example, the guide to identify plants, photographs, drawings, etc. What can serve as a reference for the regional plants you are looking for. Some of the broader plant classifications include woody plants, herbaceous plants, aquatic plants, wildflowers, herbs, and lichens.
  5. If your route is rustic, you can save drawings and characteristics of the plants and consult them later. It is recommended that they begin to acquire basic knowledge of botany and simple identification keys.

If they chose the digital option, they have some advantages of using their mobile phones:

  • It allows them to have several tools in a single device: clock, map, app to recognize plants and trees, altimeter (An altimeter can be key to identify a plant that can only be found at certain altitude levels), take photos of plants without having to carry additional equipment, even make emergency calls, if necessary. Finally, it allows you to easily locate yourself and follow the correct route thanks to the GPS.
  • It is important that the environment of the place is natural, understanding that the native species of that habitat can be found there
  • Before directing the activity, seek to document yourself about the plants that exist in the area. It can be with the locals, with an expert, or through a guide to plants in the region.
  • In your previous tour, take note of which plant or root can be tried, if there are none in that place, get it beforehand and have it ready so that the experience is complete
  • You’ll need to decide ahead of time which ID guide option to use, both options are possible if you prepare ahead of time, just be aware that the digital option is prone to distracting them with other things
  • If you decided to go digital, here are some apps for your phone that you can download and try beforehand:
  • Use Google’s reverse image search tool to bring up related photos. Assuming you have photos of the plant in question but no other clues to go on, you might still be able to get some results by working backwards. Open the Google home page and click or tap the camera icon next to the search bar. Then, upload a photo of the unknown plant from your device and click “search”, then a variety of images with characteristics similar to the one you want to find will appear.[12]
    • To increase your chances of getting a matching result, select the clearest, highest resolution shot you have. Ideally, the plant should be the focal point of the image, with little or no external detail in the background that could confuse the identification algorithm.
    • If the result is close but not exact, highlight the image and click the “search by image” option to see similar ones
  • Get some sample of what they can find for them to look at, touch, smell and taste.
  • It’s important to find out about plants that shouldn’t be touched or tasted from that region, such as nettles, poison ivy, juniper berries, sapindus saponaria, and hemlock (similar to parsley). It is highly recommended that you have pictures of them to show them
  • Stay in the sight of the participants for any questions that you could solve
  • At the end of the activity make a tea of some root, leaves or try some fruit of what they found in the group, this will be great!

“To recognize wild plants it is not essential to be specialists if your goal is to be more in contact with nature and relax while learning” (Porru Annalisa, 2020, para. 1)

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