It takes time and experience to learn the botanical names of plants and identify plants you see when out and about. Here are some tips to identify a native plant in NSW:
- consider whether it is likely to be an Australian native plant or not, depending on where you see it
- consider where you see the plant and the conditions it is growing in and whether it is likely to be local to the area, planted from elsewhere in Australia or a cultivar or hybrid: national park, roadside, public garden, private garden, disturbed land
- look for identifying features such as distinctive leaves, flowers, fruit, oil glands or aroma
- ask someone likely to know, such as the owner or manager of the land, or your local nursery
- join your local APS group and attend meetings and activities to get to know the plants which grow in your area in the bush and gardens
- provide good quality photos of the whole plant and distinctive features to assist in identification
- try some of the printed or online resources below
- find a resource specific to the area (such as the Sydney region) or the group of plants (such as eucalypts, banksias or orchids)
- remember, the more specific the resource is to an area, and the more information you have about the plant and its location, the easier it is to identify.
- Don't eat a plant you think or have been told is a 'bush food' unless you are very certain of the identification and know how to prepare the particular part of the plant for safe eating.
Our Facebook page is a great place to learn about how to identify native plants.
APS NSW Facebook
Another great site managed by one of our members is about banksias:
Banksia Lovers Group
District Group resources
District Groups develop materials and resources to assist in identifying local native plants, along with providing great stories on activities, visits and talks:
Central Coast - fact sheets
Coffs Harbour - newsletters
East Hills - local plants and links
Hunter Valley - links to places and resources
Menai - resources
North Shore - resources and newsletters along with Walks and talks program
Northern Beaches - resources and newsletters
Southern Highlands - newsletters
Southern Tablelands - newsletters
South-Eastern - information, newsletters and article archives
Sutherland Group - Coastal Plants of the Royal National Park identification CD
Books for ID – Sydney region
There are many books on native plants in particular regions or groups of plants. Here are some favourites.
Les Robinson (2003) Field Guide to the Native Plants of Sydney, Third Edition, Kangaroo Press.
Alan Fairley and Philip Moore (2010) Native Plants of the Sydney Region, Third Edition, Kangaroo Press.
For rarer plants, try
Alan Fairley (2004) Seldom Seen: Rare Plants of Greater Sydney.
Books for ID – Specific groups of plants
Some resources are very specific. For instance, APS Sutherland Group member Margaret Bradhurst has written a book on local orchids.
Margaret Bradhurst (2016) Native Orchids of Southern Sydney. Available here.
Understanding the origins of botanical names, many of which refer to features of a plant, can also help with identification.
Perrin, D. (2018) Dictionary of Botanical Names. Read more here.
Workshops and courses
Some local councils run workshops and courses to identify local native plants. Some APS District Groups also run workshops for members. Keep on eye on your local media.
Other links for plant identification