Know your weeds!

During the last week I’ve been trying to memorise and retain 60 different weeds for today’s identification test. Here at Wisley we are regularly tested with plant identifications, usually fortnightly, and although it can sometimes feel all too much like hard work with everything else going on, the botanists do try to make it fun!

I do like a plant ident myself, and although I rarely get full marks, I like to take on the challenge and see what I can identify! Over the course of the last two years I feel that my plant knowledge and identification skills have really come on, and the more you do the more you can begin to understand how plants relate; either by genus or families they are a part of.

The weed ident is one that the botanists note as a particularly tricky test, alongside conifers, winter stems and autumn leaves. So to help out they provide a workshop when the list is announced and discuss the plants in question with useful botanical and general identification tips.

Learning the botanical names is always interesting. Some are more simple than others, perhaps because they are more common, or just seem simpler to pronounce. I just found it tough to remember Heracleum sphondyllium (common hogweed) even though I knew it by sight, I just could not remember the name!

I always like to research the meanings of the genus and species names to understand how plant hunters and botanists are trying to describe the plant in such a succinct way. I guess we have Carl Linnaeus (a 17th century Swedish botanist) to thank for the system of naming plants.

But back to the weeds – it’s just so important to try and remember what you can on this subject because then you can keep on top of invasive species and will also prevent you from pulling things out that you actually wanted to keep.

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