Identification keys

This link leads to identification keys for plants in the Intermountain Region. The keys are "in development". When completed, they will include keys to species that gorw in the region outside of cultivation, plus several cultivated species, including those grown in teaching greenhouses of the region's colleges and universities. The inclusion of greenhouse plants makes the keys more useful for teaching in areas with long cold winters. It will also benefit those who enjoy growing houseplants.

The keys currently in development will be in three formats: downloadable PDF files, interactive directed-choice keys, and interactive free-choice keys. Image-based keys are still a dream.

PDF Files: These include all the keys for a major group of plants in the region. If you like working from printed copy, or want all keys for a group, these should be your choice. They include some links to other online resources that are constantly in development, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), Encyclopedia of Life (EoL), Wikipedia, and the Intermountain Biota Web site. To take advantage of these links, use the files online.

Directed-choice keys. In these keys, the author decides in what order characters should be examined and how they are described. Dichotomous keys are a special case of directed choice keys. Eventually they will be include illustrations that clarify the meaning of the leads and be connected to descriptive pages that provide further information about the identified taxa.

Free-choice keys: These keys, often called multi-access keys, allow the user to decide the order in which to use the various characters. This helps if one has incomplete material or is not familiar with some of the terminology used to describe particular characters. The author chooses which characters to use and how to divide them up, but the user chooses which characters to look at first.

Image-based keys: With image-based keys, the user (or computer software) identifies a plant by matching it to an image. Yes, this is like using a wildflower book but a computer site can store many more images than a wildflower book. It will be a few years before we can offer image-based keys for the region - but we are making plans for building them.