Using GoBotany for Plant ID

During the last two weeks of summer, I took the Plant Sex and Pollination field course offered at Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS), where I had a chance to learn a lot about identifying plants using the GoBotany website.

Over the first week of the course, the instructor wanted to make sure we were aware of many of the possible plants we could work on for our final independent projects, as well as study sites. So, our first assignment was a herbarium collection, which we had to identify primarily through the plant database, GoBotany.

GoBotany offers an extensive online dichotomous key, allowing the user to skip to family or genus, if this is known about the plant at hand.



Hovering over key words also activates definitions so that users don’t have to rely on external sources.



Previously used bulky and expensive keys can be almost entirely replaced by this free website that can be easily accessed from any device – adding convenience and cost-efficiency for both biology student and botany enthusiast. Of course, the website is enhanced greatly by old-fashioned keys as it only covers species found in New England. As well, both roots and reproductive structures are often necessary to observe when using GoBotany, but reproductive structures may not always be available at certain times of the year.

Identifying plants is an important skill to develop as a plant ecology student, citizen science participant, or general global citizen. This is not only because it gets oddly fun and addicting once you get started and begin to recognize plant genera everywhere you go, but also because of the importance of accuracy and consistency in our work. I encourage all of my classmates and those interested in plants to try using GoBotany and begin learning more about the plants in their surroundings.

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