Botany 2: Keying is Believing

Botany 2: Keying is Believing
Jiling Lin (2017)

Questions to Ask

1.     Plant kingdom division
a.      Nonvascular spore plant (bryophyte) 
b.     Vascular spore plant (pteridophyte)
c.      Vascular seed plant (spermatophyte)
                                                    i.     Gymnosperm or angiosperm? ß
1.     Monocot / dicot? ß

1.     How many KCAG? (Calyx, Corolla, Androecium, Gynoecium)
2.     Complete/ incomplete? (does it have its KCAG)
3.     Perfect/ imperfect? (bisexual/ unisexual)
4.     Regular/ irregular? (radially/ bilaterally symmetrical)
5.     Inferior/ superior ovary?
6.     Inflorescence type?
a.      Indeterminateà spike/ raceme/ panicle; corymb; umbel; head
b.     Determinateà cyme

1.     Leaf arrangement? (opposite/ alternate/ whorled/ basal)
2.     Leaf division? (simple/ compound)
3.     Leaf shape? (ovate/ elliptic/ lanceolate/ cordate/ pinnately-lobed/ palmately-lobed/ …)
a.      Leaf tip? (acute/ obtuse…)
b.     Leaf base? (rounded/ acute/ truncate/ oblique/ cordate/ sagitate/ hastate…)
4.     Leaf veination? (arcuate/ palmate/ parallel/ pinnate/ reticulate)
5.     Leaf margin? (entire/ toothed/ incised/ lobed…)
6.     Stem? (herbaceous/ woody? Caulescent/ scapose? ...)
7.     Leaf surface? (glaucous/ glabrous/ tomentose/ glandular/ pubescent/ glochidiate…)  

Key it Out

1.     Know what you’re looking for (basic questions/ KCAG)
2.     Process of deduction
a.      What matters most
b.     What stands out
c.      Notice the details
d.     Go step by step
e.      Choose your own adventure
3.     Make mistakes
a.      Track back
b.     Learn from mistakes
c.      Change
d.     Proceed with care
4.     Cross reference
a.      During: use the glossary
b.     After: check a field guide with photos, or online
5.     Celebrate
6.     Practice (keep asking questions)

Other Possibilities
-        Start with what you know
o   Work forwards and backwards
-        Skip to the family
-        Do it with friends
o   Join your local native plant society, Sierra Club chapter, or create your own group!
o   Join an online community such as “Botany Everyday” on FB
-        Eat something wild everyday… and key it out

Other Considerations
-        Sometimes the Flora is wrong (cross reference!)
-        The plant may not be in the flora
o   Maybe it’s an older flora
o   Or the plant is a non-native cultivar or naturalized weed

Happy botanizing!