Plant Identification

Floras and field guides are two kinds of plant identification references.

A "flora" is a book that lists plant species growing within a region and provides taxonomic keys to the species. Some floras specialize, covering only certain groups of plants or genera. Experience with "keying out" species is usually necessary to use a flora effectively.

A field guide usually uses photographs and/or illustrations to help with plant identification. While these guides are easy to use, some species are omitted. Nonetheless, the visual aids in a good field guide are helpful.


Ownbey, Gerald B. and Thomas Morely. 1991. Vascular Plants of Minnesota: A Checklist and Atlas. University of Minnesota.

This checklist is out of print and hard to find. If you have one, hang onto it! Although the taxonomy is somewhat dated, the distribution maps are very useful.

For an up-to-date checklist of Minnesota's plant species, contact Dr. Anita Cholewa at the Bell Museum Herbarium.


The Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS) collects data on the location and ecology of rare plants, animals, and native plant communities. To date, 74 of Minnesota's 87 counties have been surveyed. The Minnesota DNR publishes a wide variety of books and reports on Minnesota's ecology, vegetation, and plants.

Field Trips

These resources will help you plan trips to visit plants. Remember: don't pick flowers or collect plants in local, State, or National Parks or State Scientific and Natural Areas. For more information on where and how to collect plants, visit our Herbarium Research page.

For field trip ideas, visit our Where to Visit Plants page.

MN Department of Natural Resources. 1999.
A Guide to Minnesota's Scientific and Natural Areas, 2nd ed.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Minnesota Native Plant Society. 1996.
Guide to Spring Wildflower Areas: Twin Cities Region.
University of Minnesota.
Contact the Minnesota Native Plant Society to find out how to get a copy of this guide.

Cloud Cartographics, Inc. (CCI).
Minnesota Highway & Recreational Atlas.
Cloud Cartographics, Inc.
This atlas shows the locations of Wildlife Management Areas and also provides map coordinates in Latitude/Longitude and Township, Range, and Section.

A wide variety of books that focus on Minnesota are available at:
Minnesota's Bookstore
660 Olive Street
St. Paul, MN 55155
Phone: 651-297-3000 or 800-657-3757
Fax: 651-215-5733