Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador
Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador

Keys

Keys and Comparison Charts

When Identifying a plant, it's not enough to say that your plant 'looks like' a certain species. To be certain of an identification, botanists use keys to determine its correct name. Keys are probably the most important tool used by botanists to identify an unknown plant; they consist of a series of 2 statements, called couplets, that provide the reader with 'either-or' options of several characteristics to differentiate between similar species. All keys are presented here in a bracketed format (rather than indented format), which minimizes the amount of white space on the page.

The original keys for the Flora of Newfoundland and Labrador were written with the field botanist in mind. Features included are usually those clearly visible in the field, and several traits are included in most couplets to account for different seasons or stages of development. While a hand lens is essential for seeing most smaller features in the field, traits that require comparison of measurements with the use of a microscope have been kept to a minimum in the keys.

Comparison charts, which group 2 or more similar species together in a table to facilitate easy comparison between species, have also been compiled and are presented directly after the keys. Those features that are most useful in confirming an identification are in bold text.

The keys and comparison charts were originally written for the forest flora only, but most of these have been expanded to include species from all habitats. Our goal is to include keys for all native and introduced species in Newfoundland and Labrador. New and expanded keys will be posted as completed.