3. Picture Guides: Remember that while picture guides may be useful for getting a "ballpark" idea of family (occasionally genus), they are NOT keys and are never to be used for species identification. For each plant that gets its picture in a book, dozens of similar plants are left out. DO NOT get your ID's from picutre books or field guides--their nomenclature is often incorrect or out of date. Read below to learn which books have acceptable names.
If your plant is a Monocot, use our Black Key version if you have Alismataceae, Commelinaceae, Liliaceae, or Smilacaceae. Any other family--that means we haven't finished the treatment of it yet, so use Correll & Johnston's Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas (C. & J.) (Exception: for the genus Sisyrinchium of the Iridaceae, the key on the folder in the student herbarium is best.
If you get stuck, ask your TA or Monique if there is some other helpful book. If you use something else, be sure to check your names and authorities in C. & J. or our Big Black Key, whichever is appropriate.
2. Texas Plants Not From the Local Area--Check with your TA or Monique to see if your gray lab key can be used, and if so, how far. Key as far as instructed in your gray key or our Black Key. Then use C. & J. to get species and authority. Sometimes the local key works all the way; sometimes not. ASK. If you use something else, be sure to check your names and authorities in C. & J. or our Big Black Key, whichever is appropriate./B>
4. Woody Plants With Fruit but Without Flowers--Check with Monique or your TA. Often the best book is E. Nixon's Trees, Shrubs, and Woody Vines of East Texas, but not always. Some names may need to be updated, e.g., Bumelia, pecans.
5. Non-Texas Material--Check with your TA or Monique to find out which key to use. Sometimes the gray and black keys work part way, but ASK. If you know you will be collecting out of state, tell Monique ahead of time, so she can round up a key for you so it's handy when you need it. Names may need updating.
6. Aquatic and Wetland Plants--Try the appropriate source above, or try one of our two sets of wetland plant keys. One is for southeastern states, one is for southwestern states, and both of them are illustrated. Names may need to be updated from these books.
2. Compare Your Specimen to the Sheets--Is it the same? Similar? Different? If you're sure it's the same--great! If it's close, you will want to check your keying again or ask for help. If it's very different--back to the key. Sometimes there are notes with helps pasted inside a genus folder or a note that says the name's been changed and directs you to another folder.
NOTE that many sheets have one or more annotation ("change") labels or handwritten notes attached. These correct a misidentification or make note of a change in nomenclature. The correct ID for a sheet is the one that appears on the most recent of all the annotations on the sheet.
DO NOT EXPECT to ID a plant to species just by figuring out the genus and then looking through the genus folder for a match! Many species are differentiated by characters that are not readily visible on an herbarium sheet. Also, the student herbarium does not contain sheets of every species found locally. Remember: Key first, look later.
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last update Dec. 21, 1999 by Monique Reed