Finding New Plant Names

New plants turn up in well traveled places. Some are brand new to plant lists. I find ones I’ve never seen before. Either way, new plant names are needed.

A couple of weeks ago I had to walk around in town. Out of habit, I watched for plants in bloom and saw several. Spring beauty, grape hyacinths, chickweed, dead nettle and henbit were among them.

One I didn’t recognize was covered with red purple blooms. It was a small plant, a few inches tall. It had lacy leaves and hairy stems.

finding plant names uses leaf arrangments
The plant is low, only six inches tall. It’s numerous stems sprawl across the ground. Flowers bloom from along and at the tips of the stems. This fits lots of plants as do the lacy leaves.

Lots of plants fit this description. Finding new plant names is difficult when sorting through a pile of them with no idea how to narrow the search.

There were no seed pods on the plants. I made a note of where to find one patch so I could come back to see the seed pods.

finding plant names uses the flower arrangements
The flowers are a half inch across. They have five petals and five sepals. The center is a conical mound topped with the anthers and styles. Lots of flowers have five petals and five sepals. Lots of flowers are the purple these are. Finding the name can be difficult. Once the group is determined, the similarities to others in the group become obvious.

In the meantime I planned to check out the flowers on http://www.missouriplants.com, my go to place for new plant names. All you really need to know is the color of the flower and whether the leaves are alternate or opposite. Then you scroll through the thumbnail pictures until you find the flower.

Like so many good intentions in the spring, this one got shoved aside by more pressing matters.

An opportunity presented itself for me to race out and check this plant for seed pods. I found the patch and sat down to check the plant and stared.

finding plant names became easy after seeing the seed pod
The seed pod was the clincher for me. The somewhat bulbous base and long stalk is typical of the various crane’s bill group in the geranium family. It is the source of the common names for the plant as well.

It couldn’t be! These distinctive seed pods couldn’t belong to this plant, or could they? They did and I knew the group this plant belonged with: crane’s bills.

Another crane’s bill, the Carolina Crane’s Bill, grows near the driveway on my road and in nearby areas. The seed pod is a definite identification of the group, no other group has anything like it.

Carolina crane's bill flower
Carolina Crane’s Bill has lovely pink flowers a half inch across topping a scraggly plant that can reach a foot tall. It is a typical geranium flower, but much smaller than the commercial ones.

Finding new plant names can be much easier if the group is known, the geranium family in this case. This little plant has the common name Stork’s Bill. It is the introduced one originally from Europe.