My Native Plant Field Guide

Did you know that every one of us live in a place that contains native plants special to just the place we live? The geography, climate, and microclimate of each special location combine to make a habitat just right for the plants. Botanical field guides are useful resources for identifying and learning about your local plants. Creating your own personal or class guide is a great way to preserve and record botanical history for now and the future.

Try This!
Try your hand at making a field guide for the native plants in your area. Go to your library and find a field guide for plants that includes your location. Take the guide, your science journal and a hand lens out to the field. Try identifying some of the more commonly found plants. Once you have identified some, use your journal to make notes about them.

Here are some things to record for each native plant:

  • Name of the plant- both common and scientific
  • Range or area where the plant can be found
  • Description of the flower
  • Time of year it blooms
  • Description of the leaves
  • Uses for the plant
  • Kind of habitat where it prefers to grow
  • Insects or signs of insect activity on and near the plant

Build the Guide
After you research facts about each native plant, begin to build your guide. In addition to the facts, draw a picture of each plant.
Take a good look:

  • flowers or seed heads- are they single or in groups, and what color are they?
  • leaves –are they opposite or alternate on the stem, smooth or hairy?
Drawing courtesy of Archbold Biological

Did you see any insect or spider activity? Early in the morning when it is cooler outside is a good time to observe and draw them because they move more slowly. Add other details to your drawings. You can be very creative about your representation. Take a look at the example of a Prickly Pear cactus.
If you make a field guide with your classmates, make it into a book. Reproduce pages to make many copies and let each person color the plants to make them look real.

Journaling Questionss
1. Why do you suppose plants have 2 different kinds of names- common names and latin-based scientific names?
2. Plants’ names can tell a story. Some of them are pretty funny. Can you find some that you find humorous? Why do you think they got those names? (Examples- Cowslip, Bouncing Betty, Dogwood)
3. Why would insects and spiders move more slowly in cooler temperatures?