How to identify wildflowers

Photo by Steve Berardi

Photo by Steve Berardi

Are you tired of having a bunch of nameless wildflower photographs?

Well, below are some tips to help you put some names on those photos! And, don’t worry–you don’t need to become a botanist to identify flowers.

Get to know your local area

The best (and most rewarding) way to identify wildflowers is to get to know your local area. This sounds tough, but it really isn’t–buy a good guidebook or just browse Flickr for wildflower photographs from your area.

After you look at a bunch of wildflower photos from your area, you’ll take mental note of the ones you’re naturally drawn to, and you’ll recognize these flowers once you’re out on the trail.

For the California area, check out these two books to get you started:

When you get to know the native plants of your local area, you’ll learn to identify flowers before you even photograph them.

Ask a park ranger

If you took your photo at a state or national park, show the photo to a park ranger (or describe the flower to them), and they will most likely identify the flower for you–it’s their job and usually their passion to know that park and all of it’s native inhabitants.

Post your photo to an online forum

Why not call upon the many users of the Internet to help identify the flower for you? Post your photo on a site like Flickr, and add it to one of the flower groups (I recommend Flowers, Flower Pictures, or Flower Photography). Posting to one of these groups or forums is also an excellent way to get some feedback on your photo!

Search for the flower in an online database

It’s difficult to create a complete online database of all the world’s wildflowers (there are just so many!), but here are a couple of good ones out there:

Do you have another method for identifying flowers? Please share them below!

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the flower pictured above is a Desert Dandelion. The species of the American Midwest is considered an obnoxious weed, but the desert species is… precious.


  1. I found taking a wildflower course at my local community college very helpful. I learned more flower names on our first field trip, than I had in trying to use books and the computer for four years! Our college offers courses in the Spring, Summer, and Fall.

  2. Hi Steve.
    I usually just do a google search by typing in the area I have photographed in along with “wild flowers” in the search criteria and then search the photos. I’d say I am lucky about 90% of the time and find a photo of the same flower. If that fails I search web sites dedicated to wild flowers of the region. There are a few out there that don’t have photos, only flowers by name. In that case I copy and paste the name in Wikipedia search and hope to get lucky quickly but then sometimes it takes a while.
    I think the best way is to get a field guide. Probably best to ask a librarian which one they think is the most comprehensive before forking over the buck$ for one.
    As always, great articles on your blog. Keep them coming.

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