How to Use Joy's Flower Finder


This webpage uses color and number of petals as the main guides to finding photos to help you identify a flower.  Once a possible candidate is found, there will be additional details in text -- such as overall shape of the flower, its petals, and shape of the leaf -- to help you discern between similar looking species.

If the plant doesn't seem to have any flowers, or the flowers are not yet or no longer present, there is still hope in identifying it.  Click on the "No Flowers" category on the main Find Flower webpage to approach its identification in another way.


What color is the flower ?

Two different people may look at the same color and give it a different name. 

  • Is it green (with a yellow tint) or yellow (with a green tint) ? 
  • Is it violet or pink ? 
  • Is it blue or purple ?
  • Is it purple or violet ?
  • Is it brown or a dark red ?
This flower finder helps to eliminate this stumbling block in several ways:
  1. It provides 3 examples for each color name.  Clicking on any one of the 3 examples takes you to the same next step.  For example:

    Blue Blue example Blue example Blue example

  2. For flowers that are in-between two major color categories, that flower will often be included in both color categories.

  3. For flowers that have more than one color on their petals, or whose color fades from one color to another, that flower will often be included in both color categories.

You can click on either the color name text or on any of the 3 images showing the color examples.  They all take you to the same next step.

As for the names given to the colors, this flower finder lists the primary colors and adds a few common special cases to help speed up your search:

  • Brown -- These are often just a dark red or dark orange.
  • Pink -- helps to separate these from true red.
  • Violet -- These are sort of pink with a touch of blue, but are not as dark as a purple.

Adding the above special cases helps to reduce the size of the list of flowers in an otherwise larger list.

Some flowers have a colorful center that is very different from the color of the petals.  For example, a daisy has white petals with a yellow center.  The color that you select should be for the color of the flower's petals -- or sepals when it has no petals -- and not of the color of the blossom's center.


How many petals does the flower have ?

Some flowers don't have petals and what appears to be petals are actually sepals.  Some flowers have petals, but also have colorful sepals that look a lot like petals.  Rather than forcing the non-professional user to learn such intimate details about flower biology, this flower finder (for the most part) lets the user count any petal-like part as if it were a petal.  Technically, the petals and sepals make up the outer parts of a flower and are called "tepals".

For example, in the following case, the 3 actual petals and the 3 colorful sepals are all counted, giving a total of 6 "petals" (tepals):

3 actual petals + 3 sepals 1 petal example = 6 "petals".

It is only assumed that the reader knows the difference between a petal and a stamen (i.e. those whisker-like things often found in the center) and can count just the colorful petal-like parts that are not green or brown.  If the flower itself is green or brown, then the reader will just have it figure it out.

Nevertheless, some flowers are so weirdly shaped that it's hard to tell if a bump or wave on a petal is a separate petal, or just a lobe of that petal. 

For example:

1-A 1-B 1-C 1-D 1-E 1-F 1-G 1-H
1 petal example 1 petal example 1 petal example 1 petal example 1 petal example 1 petal example 1 petal example 1 petal example

This flower finder will lump all of the above and similar cases together, calling them a single petal.  These blossoms are usually small and difficult to observe closely, and even if a closer inspection might determine that separate petals or colorful sepals could theoretically be pealed apart, that fact doesn't help a user who is looking at their own photographs trying to figure out how many petals there are.  1-G and 1-H are particularly difficult because each petal has lobes that one might want to count as a petal until one realizes that they are all connected and are part of the single petal.

So the general rule when using this flower finder is:  "If it's a complex petal shape, and you're trying to determine if it has 1, 2, 3 or more petals, then count it as just 1 petal."

The other end of the petal counting spectrum is also more difficult. 

For example:

2-A 2-B 2-C 2-D 2-E 2-F 2-G 2-H
Many petal example Many petal example Many petal example Many petal example Many petal example Many petal example Many petal example Many petal example

If there are more than 10 petals, don't bother to count them and just call it "Many".  This is especially useful when the petals are tiny hair-like rays as in the Fleabane in example 2-A or the seed stalks of a Plantain in example 2-G. 

Also, if the flowers are tiny, but there are many of them packed into a small space, lump these together into the "Many" petals category as in the Heal All example of 2-H.


Variable Number of Petals

Finally, there is the issue of cases where some blossoms of a wildflower often have, say, 5 petals, while other blossoms of the same species often have 6, 7, 8, 9, or some other number of petals.  What then ?

This flower finder deals with these special cases by having a separate count "box" just for that species, as in the following example for Rue Anemone:

6-7-8
6-7-8 petal example


What is the flower shape ?

Once you have narrowed down the set of flowers to those with a particular color and number of petals, they are then grouped by petal shape or overall blossom shape.  Click on the shape name or the shape image that most closely resembles the shape of the flower you are trying to find.

Stringy Tailed Star Fan Orchid
Stringy Shape example Tailed Shape example Star Shape example Fan Shape example Orchid Shape example

For the purpose of this flower finder, flower shapes are grouped into the following descriptive categories:

  • Globed shaped -- these are round like a ball.
    Globe shaped flower Globe shaped flower

  • Fan shaped -- these have petals that are rounded or somewhat flat along their outermost edge.
    Fan shaped flower Fan shaped flower Fan shaped flower

  • Star shaped -- these have petals that are pointed along their outermost edge.
    Star shaped flower Star shaped flower

  • Bell shaped -- these are often single petals that are bell shaped but can be multiple petals that are curled in a closed way.  The edges may be ripled or lobed somewhat, but their overall shape is that of a bell whose open end is flared wider.
    Bell shaped flower Bell shaped flower

  • Horn shaped -- these have similar features to a bell, but the end away from the opening is thin like a trumpet.
    Horn shaped flower Horn shaped flower

  • Torpedo shaped -- these are longish flowers that do not have the thin part of a horn and is less flared than a bell.
    Torpedo shaped flower

  • Sunray shaped -- these have lots of thin petals that are arranged radially from a central disc. These can come with thin rays or thick rays.
    Sunray shaped flower Sunray shaped flower

  • Orchid shaped -- these are not uniformly symetrical.  They can have one petal that is different from all of the other petals, or they can be just 1 or two petals whose shape is hard to describe.
    Orchid shaped flower Orchid shaped flower

  • Heart shaped -- the petals have the shape of a Valentine heart.
    Heart shaped flower

  • V-shaped -- The petals are in the shape of the letter V.
    V shaped flower

  • Fringed -- these have petals that have teeth or protrusions along their outermost edge.
    Fringed flower Fringed flower Fringed flower

  • Dimpled -- these have petals that have an indentation along their outermost edge.
    Dimpled flower Dimpled flower

  • Feathery -- these have slim petals whose delicate shape is hard to describe and appears feathery.
    Feathery flower Feathery flower

  • Hooded -- these have a hooded appearance that hides the flower.
    Hooded shaped flower

  • Tails -- the distinctive features of this flower are the tails that stick up behind the flower.
    Tailed flower

  • Closed -- the petals of these flowers close up around the center rather than fanning out to expose the flower's center.
    Closed flower

  • Nodding or Drooping -- the flower droops strongly downward.
    Nodding flower

  • Stringy -- the flower consists of many thin parts that are not regular in orientation and thus hard to describe.
    Stringy flower

  • Swept back -- these have petals that point sharply back and away from the open end of the flower.
    Swept shaped flower Swept shaped flower

  • Wavy -- these have petals that may appear to be strongly wrinkled along their edges.
    Wavy shaped flower

  • Clustered -- these are groups of smaller flowers where the shape of the group is non-descript.
    Clustered flowers Clustered flowers

  • Spikey -- these are often globes of thin, stiff rays.
    Spikey flowers

  • Stalked -- these are groups of smaller flowers where the group is gathered closely around a central stalk or around separate peripheral stalks.
    Stalked flowers Stalked flowers Stalked flower

  • Umbrella -- these are groups of smaller flowers that are arranged in the shape of an umbrella.
    Umbrella clustered flowers Umbrella clustered flowers


Shape of the Petals

The images below provide examples for the terms used in this flower finder whenever it describes the shape of a petal.

  • Thick SunRay petals -- Thick SunRay shaped petals

  • Thin SunRay petals -- Thin SunRay shaped petals

  • Round petals -- Round shaped petals

  • Oval petals -- Oval shaped petals

  • Oblong petals -- Oblong shaped petals

  • Flat petals -- Flat shaped petals

  • Pointed petals -- Pointed shaped petals

  • Fringed petals -- Fringed flower Fringed flower Fringed flower

  • Wavy petals -- Wavy shaped petals


Shape of the Leaf

The images below provide examples for the terms used in this flower finder whenever it describes the shape of a leaf.

  • Smooth edged -- Smooth edged leaves Smooth edged leaves

  • Rounded Toothed edged -- Rounded Toothed edged leaves Rounded Toothed edged leaves Rounded Toothed edged leaves

  • Toothed edged -- Toothed edged leaves Toothed edged leaves Toothed edged leaves

  • Hairy edged -- Hairy edged leaves

  • Hairy leaf -- Hairy leaves

  • Lobed leaf -- Lobed leaves Lobed leaves Lobed leaves

  • Both Lobed and Toothed edged:
    -- 1 tooth per lobe: Lobed and Toothed edged leaves
    -- many teeth per lobe: Lobed and Toothed edged leaves Lobed and Toothed edged leaves

  • Heart shaped leaves -- Heart shaped leaves Heart shaped leaves -- deep center dip

  • Spade shaped leaves -- Spade shaped leaves Spade shaped leaves Spade shaped leaves -- little or no center dip

  • Football shaped leaves -- Football shaped leaves Football shaped leaves -- become narrow at each end

  • Spear shaped leaves -- Spear shaped leaves Spear shaped leaves
    -- like football above but with the widest part clearly off center

  • Glove shaped leaves -- Glove shaped leaves Glove shaped leaves -- think "softball mit" glove

  • Grassy shaped leaves -- Grassy shaped leaves -- long and thin

  • Sword shaped leaves -- Sword shaped leaves -- much wider and longer than grassy

  • Feathery shaped leaves -- Feathery shaped leaves Feathery shaped leaves Feathery shaped leaves

  • Fern shaped leaves -- Fern shaped leaves -- larger than feathery

  • Basal leaves -- Basal leaves Basal leaves Basal leaves -- means next to the ground

  • Whorled leaves -- Whorled leaves -- 3 or more leaves around a central stalk
    Whorled leaves can also be basal, but aren't required to be next to the ground.

  • Winged stem -- Winged stem example Winged stem example
    A winged stem has a leaf or structure that hugs the edge of the stem between the normal leaves or leaflets.  The wing might or might not be green.


Joy's Plant Finder Glossary

Plant Identification Reference Books