Naming the Wildflowers, Even the Obscure Ones

I’ve made some progress on the plant-identification front! Yipee! One of my farm goals is to know the names of all the plants growing on the farm, even the weeds and wildflowers. This has turned out to be more fun and interesting than I expected. There’s always something new and unusual growing underfoot or overhead that catches my eye each time I visit the farm. These are not the usual and familiar suburban garden plants.  I’ve never seen many of these plants before!

When I encounter a new (to me) plant, I usually take a lot of pictures and then ask for the local name. Our caretaker is from the area, so he is familiar with the plants growing in the farm. At first I thought this was such an amazing feat. Then I realized that it was just like knowing the plants growing in your backyard. It’s not that unusual to find a homeowner that knows the plants growing in his or her yard. It’s just a matter of scope. For our caretaker, his “yard” covers many hectares. Later, our caretaker pointed out that one of the workers is “taga-bundok” or from the mountains. That fellow knew even more about the trees than our caretaker. After getting the local name, I check the pictures and description  my reference materials to see if it matches the plant in the farm.

It’s much harder if the caretaker can’t provide a local name. In the beginning, I was able to find a lot of the very common weeds by looking doing a search for things like “weed, flower, pink”on Stuartxchange and looking at all the entries that came up. If I was still stumped, then I would turn to Facebook! I would post my pictures on two plant groups and ask the experts in the group to “please ID this plant”. But after several of those kinds of posts, I figured I should learn to ID the plants on my own. Especially since they were probably very common and easy to id plants.

I came across a website called The Wild Classroom that said that the key to plant identification is learning the plant families. Aha! But, there are several hundred plant families. Uh oh.  But still, it is easier to learn hundreds of plant families than thousands of plant species.  Every plant family has its own characteristics. So if you can figure out the family of a plant, then you can narrow down your search by several hundred thousand species.

When I first saw this plant, I called it the Three Leaves Weed because I thought that was its most striking characteristic. It has three leaves  make it look triangle shaped when viewed from the top. I also thought the firm stem might be significant. But a google search of “three leaves weed triangle” didn’t yield any results.

firm stem
firm stem

Then I read up on the first plant family in the “First 5 Plant Families To Learn” on The Wild Classroom, I realized that the small petals make this part of Asteraceae, the sunflower or daisy family. From there I went to PhytoImages where they have an index of images by family. The closest image was of a plant found in the US. This one found on the farm is Elephantopus scaber

note the three leaves around the flower
note the three leaves around the flower

The next flower I found was this one:

flower
flower

The funnel shape looked very familiar! I had seen many other similarly-shaped flowers before. I was quite sure that the funnel shape was a family characteristic. I googled “plant family funnel flower heart shaped leaves” and came up with Convolvulaceae, the Morning Glory family. It was very satisfying to look through the Convolvulaceae family in PhytoImages and find a photo of the same exact plant! Of course I could be wrong, but it looks exactly the same. So now I know this wildflower’s name. Obscure Morning Glory Ipomoea obscura. 

Obscure Morning Glory Ipomoea obscura
Obscure Morning Glory Ipomoea obscura

That’s two out of two plants that I was able to identify by using plant families! Woo hoo, really happy for these small victories! Now to learn more plant families!

6 thoughts on “Naming the Wildflowers, Even the Obscure Ones”

  1. You are a good student, Sylvia, very diligent in learning about plants! I am inspired. And most of all you are a very good writer. If a reader reads an article from beginning to end and smiles in her heart, the writer has power! More, more!

      1. Actually, I can describe what you do in one word. Nakakaaliw! Botany basics, whoa! I will watch out. I think you should make a small pamphlet, like a pocket guide, on weeds or flowering weeds of the Philippines (alien or endemic). You will be surprised that most of them are medicines!

  2. I came across this website just by chance. I think what you are doing is great. Although I live in the UK, my wife and I have a property in Negros Oriental with some land around it. Here in the UK, my local town’s public park has an area reserved for wild flowers. It looks very nice because such flowers are disappearing so fast from our British countryside. I would like to try and plant a small meadow with wild flowers on part of our land on Negros, so I am looking to see what wild flowers are native to the Philippines. James.

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