Classification of Plants


You have probably read about, discussed, or briefly touched on the topics of plant identification and classification in one of your science classes. These disciplines are very important to biological research and conservation efforts. This lesson will help you develop a greater understanding of these disciplines and their applications.


Use the media player on this page to watch the Plant Identification and Classification video to learn more about these disciplines.

As you are watching this video, think about your answers to these questions, which you will discuss in class:

  • There are eight major taxonomic ranks. How do scientists classify an individual plant using these ranks?
  • What more advanced method is now available to classify a plant specimen?

Now that you have observed each plant specimen's habitat, structure(s), and other distinct characteristics, you have likely noticed similarities and differences between them. Scientists use similar observations to organize each individual species into taxonomic ranks; a process which is based on how closely related each species is to another. Traditionally, plant taxonomists have relied more on reproductive structures (e.g., flowers, inflorescences, fruits) in grouping plants into taxonomic categories. Today, plant taxonomists also use additional molecular evidence, such as gene sequence comparisons, to classify plants. In this next activity, you will have the opportunity to gain a further understanding of how all of the plant life around you is related. The emphasis here is on structure rather than DNA evidence.

Once you have gathered your plant specimens, you can explore the relationships among them. You should use the Encyclopedia of Life to complete the Plant Classification student sheet.

  1. Type in the species name of a specimen in the Find search bar at the top of the page. There may possibly be a discrepancy between the species and family names you find in your field guide versus what is recognized in the Encyclopedia of Life. Ask your teacher for help if conflicts with plant names arise.
  2. Click on the correct common name of your specimen.
  3. A picture of this species may be available on the left side of the screen. Compare this to the picture you took/drew.
  4. On the right side of the screen, you will see the classification of your specimen. The classification begins with "Kingdom: Plantae" and then goes down in order of the six remaining taxonomic ranks.

This esheet is a part of the Grassland Plants: Plant Classification lesson.

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Esheet Details