Identification and Classification of Grassland Plants Teacher Sheet

Identification and Classification of Grassland Plants Teacher Sheet

Answers to classroom discussion questions
What do you know about plants?
Students may talk about houseplants, vegetable gardens, flower gardens, or any other place they may see plants. They may talk about plants being photosynthetic and making their own food by using sunlight. Answers will vary.

What are the main structures of plants?
The main structures of plants are the organs: roots, stems, and leaves. Students also may think of flowers, fruits, seeds, cones, etc., which are all plant structures. However, these are usually not considered organs. Flowers are technically considered compressed shoots rather than organs.

What structures do plants have that we can typically see/cannot see?
Typically, we can see that plant’s stems, leaves, flowers, fruit, and seeds depending on the time of the year (although, some seeds may be too small to see without any aid). Some roots may grow above ground also. Typically, we cannot see the plant’s roots or any rhizomes, which are also below the ground. Some students may consider size and include something about plant cells too.

How do we tell the difference between two similar plants?
We tell the difference by observation and study.

What is a grassland/prairie? What do you know about grasslands/prairies?
Depending on where your school is, students may not know what defines a grassland or prairie. A prairie, for the most part, is a treeless plant community consisting of grass, woody plants, some shrubs, and very few trees. Students may talk about the Great Plains, bison, prairie dogs, and/or Native Americans. Answers will vary.

Answers to Plant Identification questions.
What does a botanist study?
Traditionally, a botanist is a scientist who studies living things that aren’t animals. This would include plants, algae, fungi, and other related groups of living organisms. A plant biologist would focus more specifically on organisms in the Plant Kingdom (e.g., mosses, ferns, cones, and flowering plants).

Why is identification of organisms important in biology?
Identifying organisms is important in biology because it is the way to know the names of things and to communicate with others about species you observe in the field. With that said, however, naming organisms affects all other disciplines within biology. Evolutionary biologists and ecologists need names for the species they are working with in the field. Cell biologists identify the organism from which they collect cells. Even molecular biologists use the name for organisms from which they extract and sequence DNA.

How does using a field guide help to identify plants?
Using a field guide gives you a frame of reference for comparing the known species described in the guide with the unknown specimen you’re trying to identify. A field guide allows one to systematically sort through a group of species to find a name for an unknown specimen.

Answers to Identification and Classification of Grassland Plants video questions
Why are prairies rare? How has the decline of prairies affected the plants, animals, and other organisms in the prairie?
Native prairies are rare because over time they’ve been plowed for agricultural purposes, used for pastures, or developed into cities or suburbs. Plants and animals that were native to the prairie have declined due to loss of habitat. Prairies, however, have been restored in many states.

Name the main structures of plants that you should look at in order to identify them.
Look for leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits, if present, when identifying a plant. If you can find a plant with all of these present, it makes identification easier.

What tool should you use when identifying plants in the field? Why?
You should use a field guide since you do not know all of the plants found at your site. This way, you can reference the book rather than memorizing all the plants! It is also good to have a ruler and hand lens available for plant identification too.

Why is it important to photograph a plant rather than pick it?
If there are only a few plants of one species at your grassland site, it is best not to pick the plant even if it may be found commonly around your state. In addition, the plant you are observing might be rare or endangered.

What are classification systems used for?
Classification systems are created and used by scientists so they can organize groups of organisms and clearly communicate with one another about the relatedness of organisms.

How is the scientific name of an organism different from the common name?
The scientific name is written as two Latin words that are italicized. The first word is written with the first letter capitalized and the second word is written with all lower case letters. Scientists use one scientific name for each species. The common name may vary depending on what part of the world you’re in. Different people may call the same plant species different common names but the scientific name is always the same.

Which is a scientific name? Which is a common name?

  • Tradescantia ohiensis-Scientific
  • Spiderwort-Common
  • Lead Plant-Common
  • Purple Prairie Clover-Common
  • Amorpha canescens-Scientific
  • Petalostemum purpereum-Scientific


This teacher sheet is a part of the Identification and Classification of Grassland Plants lesson.

Did you find this resource helpful?