Native or invasive? Tips for learning to identify plants, trees

These days, landowners who want to give deer, turkeys and nongame wildlife a helping hand are looking at the big picture. Instead of planting a few food plots, they are incorporating habitat management on a much larger scale. They are eradicating nonnative invasive plants while helping beneficial plants.

Doing so requires an in-depth knowledge of plants. In order to know which trees, grasses and shrubs are good for wildlife and which ones are bad, it’s mandatory to be able to identify them.

The bad news? According to at least one database, there are more than 17,000 native plants and nearly 4,000 nonnative plants in the United States. The good news is that they don’t all live on your land. Even better, identifying the flora on your property is relatively easy when using the following steps. 


There’s no better way to get to know the plants on your land than with a couple of good field guides. Whether you want to identify trees, flowers, grasses or shrubs, there’s a good chance it’s in a book. If it isn’t, you can be sure that plant can be found on the Internet. Most books separate plants into various groups — colors for flowers, leaf shape or bark texture for trees, for example. That helps you narrow your search. 

Make It Fun

Take those books every time you step into the woods and learn three, five or 10 new plants. If you have children, take them along and turn it into a game. The best time to do that is in the spring and summer. That’s when flowers are blooming and trees are leafed out. Both help narrow the identification process. Remember, though, different flowers will bloom at different times of the season.

Keep a List

Just as serious birders keep life lists of bird species, it’s not a bad idea to keep a checklist of all the plants you’ve identified. If nothing else, you can look back and recall the various plants you identified and where you were at the time.

Article Categories