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Native Plant Trust: Go Botany Discover thousands of New England plants

Simple Key

Which group best describes your plant?

Please go through the groups in order.

Woody plants

Trees, shrubs, sub-shrubs, and lianas

Key Characteristics The outer tissues of the stems are thickened; most have bark and winter buds during the dormant season

Exceptions Some very short shrubs can be mistaken for herbaceous plants

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Aquatic plants

Plants with their leaves and/or stems submerged or floating in water

Key Characteristics Specialized submersed or floating leaves and tissues to withstand flooding

Exceptions Some land plants can be flooded temporarily but cannot live long in water. Also, sometimes aquatic plants are stranded out of water or may be amphibious

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Grass-like plants

Grasses, sedges, and other plants with long, narrow leaves

Key Characteristics Leaves consisting of a narrow blade and a tubular sheath around the stem; small, inconspicuous flowers without obvious sepals and petals

Exceptions Some non-grasses have very narrow leaves but produce showy flowers

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Orchids and related plants

Lilies, orchids, irises, aroids, and other monocots

Key Characteristics Seedlings have a single embryo leaf (cotyledon); plants have flower parts in multiples of 3 and parallel-veined leaves

Exceptions Grasses are also monocots but are grouped under Grass-like Plants

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Ferns, horsetails, quillworts, lycopods, and relatives

Key Characteristics Plants that reproduce by spores; the spores often grouped in specialized structures like sori, sporangia, and/or spore cones

Exceptions Some seed plants have frilly, highly dissected leaves that resemble ferns

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All other flowering non-woody plants

Asters and all other flowering plants

Key Characteristics Flowering plants without parallel-veined leaves, and flower parts usually in multiples of 4 or 5

Exceptions This is a large group with species that vary widely in characteristics; some narrow-leaved species have only one leaf blade vein, so floral characteristics are important

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