Field Botanist Term of the Day: Key Out

This is a term that can bring joy or despair to any field botanist.

To key out a plant means working through a dichotomous key to determine the species in hand. It can bring joy if someone enjoys the puzzle that identifying plants can be. It will bring despair if you hand us a crispy twig and ask us to identify it. Even worse if we are handed a plant that has no identifying features and we are expected to figure it out. Glares will be given and we may secretly hate you for a tiny bit for that.

Using a key is painful for most but it is something I enjoy to an extent. The frustrations ensue when identifying plants in the grass, mustard, or pea families. Asters can also be infuriating. My current key is a book of 700+ pages.

Keys are not something many go to first to identify a plant. Many times a regular field guide is used first and the key is a last resort. I am playing my season on hard mode and trying to use the key first. I may come to regret that decision but knowing how to use a key well is very beneficial career wise so it is not an exercise in futility.

I'm going to grab a beer, put on some soothing music, and start working on my stack of plants. This stack is mostly varieties from the pea and grass families. 

I might need more beer.

Current Mood: #sighingweasel


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