Leaf Length

This measure is of the smallest unit of the leaf. Thus if it is a compound leaf it is the measurement of a single leaflet. It is the measurement of the leaf blade from the point at which the leaf stem connects to the point opposite. It is an average length of a normal leaf. Take into account that leaves can be much bigger when found in the shade, and can be highly stunted in the full sun when conditions are marginal for the species.


This refers to the structure of the plant's stem; non-woody stems will often break easily when bent.

Leaf Width

The information described above for leaf length also applies to this measurement, this is the measurement at right angles to the "Leaf Length".


Plants that have thorns do no necessarily have them all over. Some have them only on young growth, others only on old growth. The search facility has been designed to allow for this, however the presence of thorns should be carefully noted as if they are present they will help to narrow the fields of search down.
Absent Not found anywhere on the plant, young growth or old growth
Recurved The thorn is bent backwards like a hook
Straight The thorn is not bent; it grows in one direction, although sometimes it might fork.

Flower Size

This measurement is taken to be widest dimension of the mouth of the flower. If there is more than one flower in a flowering system it is the measurement of the individual flower, not the flowering system itself. However in the case of two families, Asteraceae and Mimosaceae, the flowers are so small that the flowering system looks like a flower and in these cases the flowering system is the measured dimension.


Latex can be observed when the bark is broken or when a leaf is removed from the stem. This feature is present only when the specimen is fresh and thus at time of collecting careful observation should be made and field notes recorded.
Absent When the stem or leaf is broken no substance exudes or is apparent
Milky When the stem or leaf is broken a white, often sticky, substance is present
Mucilaginous When the stem or leaf is broken a clear, mildly sticky, substance is present
Resinous When the stem or leaf is broken a clear, thick and often sticky, substance is present. Often it is fragrant and sometimes has a yellowish or reddish tinge.
Watery When the stem or leaf is broken a clear, not sticky, substance is present

Flower Color

This refers to the predominant color of the flower as in many cases more than one color is present in the flower. If it is difficult to decide upon this parameter then run two searches and see which one turns up the plant that best fit the rest of the parameters of the specimen in hand.

Leaf Style

Most plants have leaves, although not all. If the leaves are single individual units, each with its own stem, then they are simple. However if the leaves appear to be broken up, or there are many smaller units (leaflets) then these are called compound leaves.
Absent: No leaves present through the year. Note that some plants shed their leaves in the dry season.
Simple Complex
The leaves present all appear single, entire units The leaves are made up of smaller leaflets/subunits

Flower Aroma

This is often only apparent with fresh specimens and thus carefully field observation and field notes are critical. It is also the case in some of the plants that the aroma is stronger during the night, in the early evening or morning. This should be taken in to account when in the field.

Leaf Type

The leaves can further be sub divided depending upon their appearance; if they are simple they can be further defined as simple, linear or lobed. The compound leaves can be defined as compound, bi-pinnate, pinnate, palmate or trifoliate.
Linear Lobed
The leaves are long and thin The edge of the leaf is entire, but is not straight, rather it curves in and out creating positive and negative forms
Pinnate Bipinnate
The compound leaf is made up of one level of leaflets Two levels of leaflets
Trifoliate Palmate
The compound leaf is made of 3 leaflets (sometimes five or seven) The leaf is like that of a palm tree, and all of the nerves come from a single point in the center

Fruit Type

Most plants produce seeds which are protected in a fruit until they are ripe or ready for dispersal. Also the means by which the seeds are dispersed varies: by animal, wind, water or explosion are the most common methods. If a fruit is described as dehiscent it means that as it becomes ripe it dries out and opens to expose the seeds. Indehiscent means that as it dries out it does not open to expose the seeds.
Absent No fruit is present on the plant
Berry A many seeded fleshy fruit that often has a soft outer skin eg tomato
Drupe A fleshy fruit that has one or rarely two seeds inside it that are surrounded by a hard shell
Nut A dry, indehiscent fruit that is usually shed as a one-seeded unit.
Achene Any simple, one-seeded, indehiscent, dry fruit
Fig A soft fleshy fruit that contains many small seeds on the inside hanging off the inner wall
Capsule Any dry, dehiscent fruit derived from two or more, many-seeded, fused carpels
Follicle A dry, dehiscent, many seeded fruit, derived from two carpels, which on ripening splits down one side only
Pod A dry, dehiscent fruit, developed from a single carpel, containing one or more seeds

Leaf Aroma

This is observed by taking a leaf, rubbing between the fingers and sniffing. If a recognizable smell is present then it is called aromatic It is one of the first actions a field botanist should undertake when confronted by an unknown species as, if present, as it is a powerful diagnostic feature.

Fruit Size

This is the largest dimension of the fruit, not of individual seeds.

Leaf Arrangement

Absent: No leaves present
Alternate Opposite
Leaves arranged above and below each other on the stem Leaves arranged opposite each other on the stem in pairs
Radical Whorled
Leaves arising close together at the base of the stem Leaves arranged on the stem in groups of three or more

Fruit Color

This refers to the color of the ripe fruit. It should be noted that many fruit change color as they ripen. The majority of fruit, when unripe are green, and thus in field careful attention should be paid to try and find a ripe fruit which will give more information.