Landcare Research - Manaaki Whenua

Landcare-Research -Manaaki Whenua

Plant Identification and Information

Image - P Heenan

Image - P Heenan

The Plant Identification and Information Service is available to members of the public, commercial organisations, and government organisations. This service is provided by the systematists and utilises a range of resources including the Allan Herbarium and international literature. If you wish to submit material for identification, please read the guidelines provided on how to collect and send plants for identification.

Guidelines: Collecting Plants for Identification

Selecting specimens to send

The specimens should represent as many features of the plants as possible including flowering and/or fruiting parts; these are very important to the identification process. For small herbaceous species, send the whole plant. However, for larger bulky herbaceous plants, select material from the flowers, stems, leaves and, if possible, roots. For woody plants, please include basal shoot with juvenile leaves, sucker shoots, bark where applicable, and material of any other special feature present, e.g. spines or prickles. Plus, of course, flowering and fruiting shoots.

The more complete the specimens are, the easier and more accurate the identification is likely to be. It may not be possible to identify non-flowering or non-fruiting plants with certainty.

Information we need with the specimens

  1. The locality and habitat should be described as accurately as possible. New Zealand Map grid references are especially useful.
  2. Name of the collector and date of collection.
  3. Remarks: it is important to give any details of the plant that may not be obvious at the receiving end: e.g. size and shape (particularly of trees) is often diagnostic. Flowers and fruit often deteriorate quickly, sometimes changing colour, so mention colour and any fragrance. If, for some reason, the specimen sent is known to be atypical, this should be noted (typical material should also be sent for comparison). Notes about frost-hardiness and time of flowering may be useful.

If the specimen represents a very rare species, or is a new record for the area from which it is sent, detailed information is especially important for the Herbarium's records.

Sending the specimens

  1. Fresh specimens
    The aim is to have the specimen arrive in as near as possible to the  condition in which it was collected, so time of travelling and method of packing are important. Air transport is usually faster.

    Ensure that the plants are not in transit during the weekend (there is no post to Landcare Research at Lincoln on Saturday or Sunday). Fresh specimens can be either sent in a plastic bag or between moist sheets of paper inside a plastic bag. Plastic bags are generally ideal for up to about two days in transit. If the transit period could be three or more days, package the plant in moist sheets between sheets of cardboard in a box, not in a plastic bag. The moisture should not be excessive as it will often seep through the whole package.Generally,the wetter the specimen, the more it will decompose if there is any delay, particularly in warm weather. Aquatic plants often travel badly in jars or plastic bags especially if muddy root systems are enclosed.Put them between damp cloth or paper. Packed in dry newspaper, succulent plants and will often stay fresh for weeks. Some plants drop their leaves or flowers (especially) after a day or so when enclosed in plastic. So, if two or more similar plants are being sent, they should be put in separate bags to avoid confusion.

  2. Dried specimens
    Where the time between collection and despatch is likely to be considerable,e.g. weeks, the plants should be dried first. Specimens are best pressed and dried between sheets of newspaper or blotting paper before sending.Examine them from time to time, and if necessary change the papers to prevent mould. A warm dry atmosphere is best. Keep the specimen flat under pressure or weights. Wilted or shrivelled material should not be pressed unless absolutely unavoidable.

  3. Labelling and addressing
    If more than one specimen is sent, a number or lettering system should be used to facilitate the reply. A copy should be retained by thesender because the Plant Identification Service does not return specimens unless  specifically requested.

Address the package to:

Plant Identification Service
Landcare Research
Canterbury Agriculture & Science Centre
PO Box 69040
Lincoln 7640
New Zealand

Ph (03) 321 9999

Do not send the package to any particular person.

Costs of identification

General public

  • One-off plant identifications for the general public are free.

Commercial and agency users

Prices are excluding GST. Price per specimen unless indicated.

  • $250 per hour plus GST (minimum charge one hour).
  • Molecular sequences: $360, with each subsequent sample in the same test $200.
  • Additional costs may apply if the specimens need to be vouchered and accessioned.
  • An annual fixed fee is recommended if the service is used frequently.
  • Other quotations are supplied on request.