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Noble Research Institute Sources for Plant Identification

Posted Mar. 1, 2009

The plants that surround us are often overlooked in the day-to-day routines of many. In fact, most people have no idea of the types of plants that exist in the field. For the casual observer, identification of plants is probably not all that important. But for the landowner trying to produce products from the land, manage wildlife habitat or for those providing assistance to these landowners, knowledge and identification of plants is extremely important.

Plant identification is essential for "reading" the landscape and better understanding plant community response to management practices. Therefore, plant identification is key to understanding how your management practices are influencing wildlife habitat management or grazing management. Plant identification is also essential for determining the presence or absence of nutritionally important plants for wildlife or livestock. Additionally, the presence or absence of certain plants will give you a good idea of management practices needed to promote or demote these plants within the landscape in order to better meet the needs of wildlife or livestock.

The Noble Research Institute has developed several tools to make plant identification easier. One of these tools is the Plant Image Gallery. The Plant Image Gallery is being updated with a newly implemented search engine. The search engine is the first of its kind, is easy to use and greatly enhances the search and identification of the grasses, trees, shrubs and vines contained on the site. The search engine allows you to input known characteristics about a plant and helps narrow the choices for identification. This identification tool is still a work-in-progress, but should be complete by the end of 2009.

There are more than 500 species of grasses in Oklahoma and Texas. An aid to identify 116 of these grasses is the Grasses of Southern Oklahoma and North Texas: A Pictorial Guide, a fairly comprehensive reference book for the diverse grass flora of the southern Oklahoma and northern Texas regions. Full-color photographs of grasses are organized alphabetically by tribe, genus, species and common name in the 120-page book.

Trees, shrubs and woody vines are flowering plants that belong to many different families. There are about 330 species of woody plants in Oklahoma and about 980 in Texas. Our latest identification book, Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vines: A Pictorial Guide including 134 of these woody plants, was released in January 2009. Full-color photographs of the plants are organized by family, genus, species and common name in the 138-page book.

Many of the plants featured in each book can be found throughout the Great Plains and other regions of the United States as well. However, the majority occur in south-central Oklahoma's Mixed Grass Eroded Plains, Tallgrass Prairie, Post Oak-Blackjack Oak Forest, Oak-Hickory Forest, Oak-Pine Forest and Bottomland vegetation areas, and north-central Texas' Rolling Plains, Cross Timbers and Prairies, Blackland Prairies and Post Oak Savannah vegetation areas.

Both books provide users with photographs of stems, leaves, flowers and fruits as an aid to plant identification. For each plant, photographs of the entire plant and any identifiable characteristic, when appropriate, are included with the family, genus, species, common name, origin, growth form, flowering or fruiting periods, plant height and a brief narrative of plant descriptors or uses. The books provide farmers, ranchers, wildlife managers, landowners and other plant enthusiasts with a means to easily identify commonly occurring grasses, trees, shrubs and woody vines. Biologists, botanists, other professionals and students should also find them to be useful references.

Both books are available for $25 each plus $4 shipping and handling. For more information or to order, call Noble's Ag Helpline at (580) 224-6500 or e-mail tlcampbell@noble.org. For an order by mail, send a check or money order for $29 to the Noble Research Institute, Attn: Tabby Campbell, 2510 Sam Noble Parkway, Ardmore, OK 73401. Please specify the book you are requesting and include your shipping address. To order online, go to www.noble.org/storefront