Name That Plant

Erin Conant

In the world of science, all plants are identified and classified by their unique characteristics. Known as plant taxonomy, it represents the relationships between plants.

In school, we all learned about the hierarchy of that identification system: kingdom, division, class, order, family, genus and species. One of the easiest ways to learn plant identification on your own is by learning the characteristics of plant families.

Take the Fabaceae, or bean family. It’s one of the largest in the world and is easily recognized by the following attributes:

  • The seeds or fruit are almost always dry and found in a pod. The pods have a seam on both sides that bursts open to naturally spread the seeds.
  • The leaves are typically compound, giving them a light feathery appearance. Great examples of this are the Texas mountain laurel and the mesquite tree.
  • The roots are able to fix nitrogen in the soil, eliminating the need to apply supplemental nitrogen-rich fertilizer.

Though not a visual characteristic, most members of the bean family are also extremely drought-tolerant so watering is best kept at a minimum.

Take a walk through your garden and see if you can identify some other members of the bean family!

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