The Fronds Project

How to Use a Key to Classify Plants

Background: Many scientists rely on a "key" to help them classify the leaf or the plant which they observe. A key poses one question at a time. The answer to the question is paired with instructions to go another specific question until the scientist arrives at the plant name.

Oregon State gives a good example of using a key to classify conifers of the Pacific Northwest. Of course, if you don't live in the Pacfic Northwest, their key may not be quite so helpful. If you work with students in grades K - 3 you may wish to use the simplified key created for this project.

Activity: Collect a leaf from one of the dominant trees in your area. After you have carefully observed your leaf click on the Arbor Day Foundation link for your area and see if you can use a key to classify the tree (You may want to use a known tree the first time).
Western United States Trees Key
Eastern & Central United States Trees Key

If you live outside the United States you'll need to find a Tree Classification for your area or you can buy a Field Guide for your region.



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Copyright © 2011 Brandon Thacker