Wildflower Identification

Quick links:

This is an identification program for wildflowers in the northeastern and north-central parts of United States and adjacent Canada (if you live on the West Coast, try Reny's Wildflowers). Fill out the form as best as you can and you'll find which wildflowers match. It's better to start with a few characteristics you are sure about, then add more as needed. Use the "Back" button to go back and add (or subtract) characteristics. If you want to see all the flowers in the database, simply hit "Identify" without checking any boxes.

Some books that can help include:

Wildflower Leaf Characteristics: see this image (from Wikipedia) for a useful description of the leaf terminology used below.
Check the characteristics that you see (you can always hit "Back" and change these later).

Petal-like Parts
   3 petals
   4 petals
   5 petals
   6 petals
   in a head (7 or more petals): cluster of stalkless (or nearly stalkless) flowers
   tubular petals
   irregular petals: lipped, lopsided, not symmetrical

Flower Arrangement
   single flower on stem
   several flowers on stem
   cluster or spike of flowers (a spike is a long cluster, with the flowers along the stem)
   in an umbel (flowers in an umbrella-like cluster, with stalks radiating from one point)

Flower Width
   1/8 of an inch or less flower width
   1/8 to 3/8 inches flower width
   3/8 to 5/8 inches flower width
   5/8 to 1 inch flower width
   1 to 2 inches flower width
   2 inches or more flower width

Flower Color
   whitish flower color
   pink to red flower color
   yellow to orange flower color
   brownish or greenish flower color
   blue to purple flower color

When in Bloom
   blooms in April or earlier
   blooms in May
   blooms in June
   blooms in July
   blooms in August
   blooms in September or later

Plant Height
   plant height one foot or less
   plant height one foot to two feet
   plant height two feet or more

Leaf Petiole (leafstalk) [diagram from here]
   leaf petiole present (has a leafstalk)
   leaf petiole absent (has no leafstalk)

Leaf Arrangement [diagram from here]
   alternate leaf arrangement on the stem
   opposite one another leaf arrangement on the stem
   arrangement of leaves on stem is whorled (three or more from a point)

Leaf Edges [diagram from here]
   smooth leaf edges
   leaf edge has at least 4 teeth per inch
   irregular leaf edge
   deeply cut leaf edge

Leaf Veins [diagram from here]
   parallel leaf veins
   branched leaf veins

Simple Leaves (one per stem)
   simple leaves about as long as wide
   simple leaves about 1 1/2 to 5 times as long as wide
   simple leaves over 5 times as long as wide

Compound Leaves (many per stem) [diagram from here]
   compound leaves are trifoliate - three leaflets radiating from a point
   compound leaves are pinnate - leaflets arranged along a midrib
   compound leaves are palmate - leaflets or lobes fan from one point

   stem creeps or twines
   stem is hairy or spiny
   stem is square

If you want to clear your choices, hit

Still stuck? One place that helps with all sorts of flowers is Flowers Forums. Post your photo there and you're likely to get a quick response. Another way: put your flower's picture on Flickr here or maybe here. If still no one figures it out, ask for identification from the group rec.gardens or sci.biology.botany. If all else fails, and you live east of the Rockies, feel free to send us photos for ID'ing your wildflower. We're no experts, but my wife's pretty good (and I'm not, which is one reason this program exists). Please do tell us what state you live in.

Ryan Haines (my older son) provides a free Android phone app version of this wildflower program, and Lee Dunbar has a free standalone version for the PC. A Wildflower Quiz page is also available, which lets you test and improve your knowledge. There are also identification programs for trees and birds.

This wildflower database is not all-encompassing; it contains only about 550 of the estimated 5000 species of wildflowers native to the northeastern quarter of the continent. If you find any errors or want to add more flowers, write me. The database and perl program that runs here is free to download, and is fairly simple to figure out where and how to add wildflowers.

The database used here is derived from the "Quick-Key Guide to Wildflowers," by David Archbald, Rosemary V. Fleming, and Virginia M. Kline, Doubleday Press, 1968 (long out of print, unfortunately). A large number of corrections and additions have been made to the original data.

I started this project back in 1984, believe it or not, and am doing it purely for fun. If you like this program enough to feel like showing your appreciation, please consider becoming a member or giving a tax-deductible charitable contribution to the Cornell Plantations. I have no affiliation with this fine institution; rather, I was married many years ago in their beautiful herb garden.

There are many other sites dedicated to wildflower identification, including:

last updated May 5, 2012
Eric Haines, [email protected]