Plant identification

On this page we point you towards all the books, websites and downloadable files we know about to help you identify wild plants, whether you are a beginner or an experienced botanist. There's extra help on offer to BSBI members who can consult our network of 100+ plant experts. Our members will also find useful information on plant ID in our periodicals. *NEW* Check out our new videos page for even more ID help.

*NEW* Help trial a new, free resource for identifying wetland plants. John Poland has teamed up with the Freshwater Habitats Trust to produce a draft Vegetative Key to Wetland Plants. Download your free copy from this page, test the key in the field and then ask to join this (closed) Discussion Group and tell fellow botanists how you got on. They are asking for feedback from botanists at all skill levels, beginner to expert, so please take part.

Identification Resources: getting started

If you're just starting out with plant identification, check out our Helpful Hints here: you'll find a review of plant ID books in print, tips on ID resources, and links to some groups on social media which offer ID help or which talk you through the various stages in identifying a plant.

You could also post photos on iSpot and ask for ID help - contributors are very helpful.

Try using BotanicalKeys: a free and easy online key, by Quentin Groom.

The Daffodil Site, by Mick Crawley takes you through how to identify daffodils.

Snowdrop identification by Mick Crawley also has a user-friendly ID key.

There are some very user-friendly ID keys here - they are the work of Ken Adams, BSBI's County Recorder for Essex.

John Crellin's Floral Images website allows you to browse groups of plants by flower colour; the A-Z listings contain thousands of plant photos which show the features necessary for ID.

If you think you know what your plant is, you can check it against images in Chris Dixon's Pictorial Guide to the flora of the British Isles. Chris has also produced a smartphone app, the MAKAQues Multiple Access Key to the British Flora. It's available from Google Play and costs £15.49.

Don't forget to check out the ID videos available via our new videos page.

Identification Resources for experienced botanists

BSBI publishes a range of Handbooks for difficult plants as well as Floras, ID keys and the Plant Crib. Many of the files from the Plant Crib are available for you to download free of charge from the Plant Crib page.

There are some useful hand-outs on the Recorders' Conference webpage to help you identify tricky plants such as docks, willow-herbs, firs and aquatics; you can also download Tim Rich's introductions to identifying dandelion characters and sections. 

Andy Amphlett's   ID guide to sundews (Drosera spp. inc hybrids)

Stonewort ID Key by Nick Stewart.

Guidance from Andy Amphlett on Identification of subspecies of Puccinellia distans.

Jeremy Roberts’s website on Trichophorum, Eleocharis, Viola rupestris and Hymenophyllum. And click on the link to download Jeremy's Trichophorum (Deergrass) fieldguide.

Notes on eyebrights by Alan Silverside.

Andy Amphlett’s key to Balsam Poplars.

Dog Rose taxonomic revisions

If you’re a real expert, you can try identifying northern hawkweeds using Tim Rich’s online key. - good luck!

The TEP files

Grass identification leaflets for surveyors, produced by Peter Gateley of Warrington-based ecological consultancy TEP. You can download them, print them out and laminate. They are pdfs up to about 2 Mb.

Plant experts

Members of the BSBI can make exclusive use of our network of 100+ plant experts, who will name difficult plants for you. There are two referees just for beginners; specialists in garden shrubs and cultivated trees; aquatics and alpines; as well as experts in orchids, grasses, tricky plant families...

Contact details for our experts/ referees are in the BSBI Yearbook, which is sent out to members each year in January and is available via our password-protected members-only area. If you’re not a member, and you are interested in plant identification, you may want to think about joining BSBI.