Botanic Art My art work Plants

Plant identification

“Is it on the List?”

Hermann Beckler collected 120 different species of plants around Menindee. It is that list that the Beckler Botanical Bounty Project is using. So correct identification is very important!

The type of habitat where we were searching for our plants

I am a gardener, not a botanist. I find it hard to hold the Latin names in my head. I have no idea of many of the botanical plant terms. So identifying plants was a huge learning curve for me — and I am still only a little way on that curve!

We have been so lucky to have had the support of a botanist whose work takes him regularly to Kinchega National Park.  As you walk with him he points to plants and says, “That’s a so and so (fill in Latin plant name here), that’s a such and such (add different Latin name). That one over there is on Beckler’s list, this one isn’t.” So he was able to help sort plants in the field. That was a massive help.

Looking for the right plants

However much we would have liked it, he couldn’t always be with us. And sometimes he was unsure. So then it was back to the reference books.

I am working on plants from the genus Cullen. This year I was working on a species Cullen discolor. But I had to be sure that my identification was correct.

Cullen discolor

It is described as ‘a perennial herb with stems prostrate to 1.5 metres’. Okay, I get those terms. Then the description said ‘tomentose to hispid’. These I discover are descriptions of hairiness. Its leaves are pinnately 3 foliate, narrow to broad, lanceolate to elliptic and less pubescent on the upper surface. The margins are toothed. There are petioles and stipules, peduncles and calyxes — and I never got to dissect the flower, which has more specialised terminology!

Reference material

So, having nutted my way through the key, and gone to botanical dictionaries and other more knowledgeable people, I am confident that this is Cullen discolor.

“Perennial herb with stems prostrate to 1.5 metres.”

At least I knew that this Cullen was ‘on the list’. Some artists went through the identification process, only to find it was one that Beckler hadn’t collected. Then it was out into the bush again to repeat the process.