Anita Morton - Growing Gardens
Even the most experienced and knowledgeable gardener can sometimes be caught out by an unknown plant. Fellow gardeners are the first resource we have for identifying these, so take a specimen and show it to a few people. Garden clubs are also a valuable resource, but if that fails, I turn to books.
For garden plants my first port of call is Stirling Macoboys classic What Flower is That? This is a well-photographed collection of common flowering plants in cultivation in Australia, and contains lots of useful growing information. When identifying an unfamiliar plant, I often use the Botanical Relatives section, which sorts plants into their families. If a plant looks like sage, for example, I know to check the Lamiaceae or mint family. Its then a simple matter to look up each plant in the list until I find the right one. Stirling Macoboy was a prolific writer and also produced useful references for trees, shrubs, indoor plants etc.
For native plants I check out the University of New Englands Rainforest Plants series, which covers trees and shrubs, climbing plants and fruits. These have general information and also a good key, which allows one to positively identify a plant. They are illustrated with line drawings only for colour pictures and cultivation information, I go to Hugh and Nan Nicholsons Rainforest Plants series.
When all else fails, try the experts. The Queensland Herbarium offers a terrific plant identification service which is free to non-commercial customers. Go to the Environmental Protection Agency website www.epa.qld.gov.au and type botanical specimens into the search window. This will take you to the relevant part of the site, where you can download information and the form to send in with your specimen. You can also get plants identified over the counter at the Herbariums reference centre at the Mount Coot-tha Botanic Garden. The centres open 9am-5pm Monday to Friday.