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Classifying Ornamental Plants. Suppose you were walking through the woods and stumbled upon an unusual plant. What would you call it? Would you know how to classify it? Could you identify its characteristics? These are questions many taxonomists ponder when labeling a new plant. .

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Suppose you were walking through the woods and stumbled upon an unusual plant. What would you call it? Would you know how to classify it? Could you identify its characteristics? These are questions many taxonomists ponder when labeling a new plant.
Take a couple of minutes and list as many plants as you possibly can. Let’s classify them as deciduous (loose their leaves) or coniferous (remain as evergreens).
  • Now list as many animals as you can. Can you classify them as birds, reptiles, amphibians, insects, fish, or mammals?
  • Why do you know more about animals?
student learning objectives
Student Learning Objectives
  • 1. Describe the system used for naming and classifying plants
  • 2. Identify the major groups of plants
  • 3. Describe the differences between annuals, biennials and perennials
  • 4. Understand how this information is important to the Horticultural industry
terms to know



Binomial nomenclature















Terms to Know
how are plants named and classified
How Are Plants Named and Classified?
  • Plants are classified by the similarities of their characteristics.
    • Taxonomists compare flower patterns, stem and leaf structures, life cycles, genetic similarities and many other characteristics.
  • They are then grouped in specific categories, or taxas:



Kingdom Plantae

Phylum (Division) Magnoliophyta

Class Liliopsida

Order Cyperales

Family Poaceae



*Sample classification of bread wheat

Botanists call plants by their last two taxas – genus and species
    • This system is known as binomial nomenclature (two-word naming system)
    • Developed by Carl Linnaeus
    • Uses Latin for three reasons:
      • Universal (known by all scientists)
      • Very descriptive
      • Unchanged (contains no slang words)
    • Genus is capitalized; Species lower case
      • Ex. Triticum aestivum
  • In the Horticulture industry, we usually use cultivar names as well. Ex;
  • Malus domestica ‘Fuji’
  • Picea pungens ‘Procumbens'
what are some ways that we can put plants into groups
What Are Some Ways That We Can Put Plants Into Groups?
  • Plants live in a variety of climates and niches
  • The adaptations that plants have made to survive in different climates allows for them to be classified into one of four major groups:
    • Bryophytes, Ferns, Gymnosperms and Angiosperms
  • Belong to the phylum Bryophyta
  • Non-vascular plants
    • No conducting tissues
  • Live in damp places
  • Limited in size due to lack of conducting tissue
  • Ex. Mosses and liverworts



Courtesy of Wm. C. Brown Publishers


Ferns in the forest

  • Vascular plants
  • Reproduce by spores
  • Have no true leaves; 0nly fronds
  • Fronds produce food and spores
  • New fronds called fiddleheads


Spores on underside of frond

Courtesy of Wm. C. Brown Publishers

  • Reproduce with seeds found in cones
  • Also known as a conifer
  • Leaves reduced to scales or needles
  • Most are evergreen – hold on to their green color year round
    • Ex. Pines, spruce, cedar
  • Some can be deciduous- lose their leaves
    • Ex. Ginkgo, larch

Coniferous evergreen – Pinus contorta

Deciduous conifer –

Ginkgo biloba

Courtesy of Wm. C. Brown Publishers

  • Plants that reproduce by flowers
  • There are two types: monocotyledons (monocots) & dicotyledons (dicots)
  • A cotyledon is a food storage structure in the seed.
    • Monocots have a single cotyledon
      • Ex. Grasses, corn and lilies
    • Dicots have two cotyledons
      • Ex. Roses, petunias and geraniums, beans
angiosperms monocot
Angiosperms - Monocot
  • Have flower parts (sepals, petals, stamens, pistils) in multiples of three
    • 3, 6, 9…
  • Parallel venation within the leaves
  • Stems with scattered vascular bundles
  • Narrow leaves
  • Fibrous root system

Orchid – Paphiopedilum curtisii

Courtesy of Wm. C. Brown Publishers

angiosperms dicot
Angiosperms - Dicot
  • Flower parts are in multiples of 4’s or 5’s
    • 4,12,16 or 5, 10, 15
  • Netted veins
  • Vascular bundles are in rings around the stem
  • Have broad leaves
  • Taproot system

Hibiscus sp.

Courtesy of Wm. C. Brown Publishers

monocot vs dicot
Monocot vs. Dicot

Courtesy of Wm. C. Brown Publishers

what is the difference between annuals biennials and perennials
What Is the Difference Between Annuals, Biennials and Perennials?
  • Plants are often classified based on their life cycles
  • Even though gymnosperms and angiosperms reproduce by seed, there are different strategies for passing the seeds on to future generations

Corn – Zea mays

  • Plants grow from seed, flower, produce new seeds all in one season
  • It dies after producing new seeds
  • Have an herbaceous stem – green & fleshy
    • Ex. Impatiens, corn, snapdragons

See life cycle

Courtesy of Wm. C. Brown Publishers


Foxglove – Digitals purpurea

  • Plants that live for two years, then flower and die
  • Food is produced during the first year, flowers the second year
    • Ex. Foxglove, carrot, queen Anne’s lace

See life cycle

Courtesy ofWm. C. Brown Publishers

  • Plants that live for three or more years
  • Flower for a short time
  • Do not die after flowering
  • Can be herbaceous or woody – having thick stems made of wood
    • Ex. Tulips, Kentucky bluegrass, trees and shrubs

Bristlecone pine – Pinus longaeva

See life cycle


Back to Annuals


Back to Perennials

Germination---- Growth---Flowering----Dormancy

One or more flowering cycles

Back to Biennials


Season 1

Season 2

Courtesy of Interstate Publishing

  • What is the difference between an angiosperm and a gymnosperm?
  • How is a monocot different from a dicot?
  • Are evergreens herbaceous or woody plants?
  • How would you classify the grass found outside on the lawn?
summary cont
Summary Cont.
  • What makes up the scientific name of a plant?
  • Why are scientific names written in Latin?
  • In what group would you find mosses? Describe their habitat.
  • Describe the life cycle of a perennial.
  • Name all 7 taxas in the classification system.
summary cont1
Summary Cont.
  • Can I spray Weed-b-gon on a lawn?
  • Can I spray Grass-b-gon on day lilies?
  • Could I spray Weed-b-gon on my vegetable garden?
  • What is the downside to including biennials in a perennial flower garden?
  • What are some practical classifications I might want to give landscape plants?