The multi-access key to flowering plant families of Victoria is a starting point to identify an unknown flowering plant to family level. From the family profile page, the user can check the general family description matches their plant, look through photos of a selection of species in that family, and then use more specific keys on that page to get to genus and then species rank. This multi-access key can be used for any of the c. 4,200 native or naturalised flowering plant species in Victoria. Due to their quite distinctive morphological features that are not found in flowering plants, and the relatively small number of species, non-flowering vascular plants (e.g. conifers and ferns) are not included in this key.
This key has been designed for people with limited botanical knowledge and as much as reasonably possible uses simple language, includes some readily observed characters (e.g. flower colour, petal number), and avoids highly technical features (e.g. ovule placentation, anther dehiscence etc.). Furthermore, where possible, it allows for commonly misinterpreted characters to be ‘incorrectly’ scored, meaning the correct family will not be discarded due to the selection of a technically incorrect character state. By lacking some of the more highly technical characters and the allowance of character misinterpretation this key has become less powerful, and it may be difficult to get down to a single family. However, for users that find traditional dichotomous keys daunting, the benefits of having a less powerful key is viewed as more desirable than having a more powerful key that will be prone to remove the correct answer due to the users technical misunderstanding. Likewise, users who have a specimen that lacks all features required to move through a dichotomous may find this useful to narrow down possible options. It is hoped that most users will find having half a dozen or so plant families to investigate after entering a few basic characters into this key to be a good starting point for finding their plant in this vast resource.
This multi-access key differs from the other (dichotomous) keys provided in VicFlora by giving the user the flexibility to choose from one of the 70 characters provided rather than the user having to commit to investigate the particular features being questioned in the dichotomous keys. This has the benefit of avoiding having to answer questions relating to a feature that may not be present in the sample when being identified, and potentially being able to identify a taxon without needing to include some of the most technical features. This key includes a range of features including detailed leaf, flower and fruit characters. As such this key may prove helpful in the identification of sterile or incomplete specimens.
To use the key the user selects a feature from the features in the top left Features Available panel and clicks on the state present in their specimen to be identified. Once selected this feature and state will show as being selected in the Features Chosen panel directly below the Features Available panel. To undo a selection, click on the box next to the state chosen in the Features Chosen panel to erase the tick in the box. Once a feature state is chosen all the taxa that do not possess the chosen feature state are discarded in the bottom right Entities Discarded panel and those that do possess the chosen are retained in the top right Entities Remaining panel. The user continues to choose further character states present in their specimen until identification is achieved. To restart the key when finished select the restart key icon represented by the two green arrows in the top left corner of the screen.Go to Key Player
General helpful hints
For the most effective use of this key the user is encouraged to read the help guides for each character and state before submitting an answer for that character and state. Help guides and photographs can be found by clicking on the page icons beside characters and states. This help will reduce the chance of misinterpretation of the character and state. Some information and definitions required for interpreting a state may be given under character so users are encouraged to read the help guide for the characters before the states. When taking measurements or assessing which state a character exists in for the taxon being identified a typical plant and plant part should be used. Typical is here interpreted as a close representation of the average plant in terms of size and stature in a population and a plant part that represents the average condition for that character (e.g. average length, the most frequently observed density of hairs etc. For some of the characters it is possible for some taxa to possess more than one character state for the character. In such cases either correct character state can be chosen.
To help identify the specimen to be identified as quickly as possible the best option can be used. This option highlights which charaters should be used first to discard the maximum number of taxa among the remaining taxa. To use the best option select the best icon given as a blue wand at the top of the screen. For some similar taxa such as closely related species or subspecies within a species it may become time consuming to keep using the key until one taxon remains. In such instances the user can use the dichotomous keys and profiles to help to distinguish between similar species.
General growth form of the plant. This character has eight states which are not always exclusive (e.g. scrambling plants may also be treated as herbs or shrubs).
Plant that are typically over 3 meters tall with woody stems (often only one main stem) and woody branches.
Perennial plant usually up to c. 5 m tall with woody stems and branches but usually lacking a single main trunk. The boundary between tree and shrub may not always be clear.
Plant with woody or herbaceous, flexible stems that climbs over other vegetation to support its growth, extending considerable heights into the tree canopy.
Plant with long stems that vertically grow through and often over other vegetation but usually does not extend to great heights into tree canopies.
Perennial plant usually with a single unbranched woody stem with palm- or fan-shaped leaves that are formed in a tuft at the top of the stem (e.g. Palm trees). Stems lack bark and are formed by persistent leaf bases. Only one family, Arecaceae.
Perennial or annual plant with a woody rootstock and partially woody stems but generally with herbaceous branches. Similar to but generally smaller than a shrub.
Perennial or annual plant that does not produce woody stems. These are often quite short plants that are soft in texture.
Annual or perennial plants with strap-like leaves, often formed in tufts (e.g. grasses, sedges, rushes. But expanded here to include some grass-like lilies and irises). When present, stems are generally non-woody and often prostrate, replaced by belowground rhizomes, or specialised into morphologically distinct stems that produce reproductive organs (i.e. scape).
Flowering plants are generally classified into monocots and dicots, that is, those that produce one (=monocot) or two (=dicot) cotyledon(s). With a cotyledon being the first leaf (or leaves when two are produced) from the seed. Aside from this rarely observed cotyledon feature, the two groups may generally be distinguished by a range of other features displayed in adult plants. These are outlined below. If unsure it is best to skip this character.
Plants generally have leaves that are strap-like or borne on very long stalks, leaves have parallel veins, flowers have parts (petals, sepals, anthers etc.) in 3’s or 6’s (rarely 2’s or 4’s), roots are fibrous, and the embryo has 1 cotyledon. Includes grasses, rushes, sedges, lilies, orchids, palms, and some vines.
Plants often have leaves with net-like veins, flowers usually have parts (petals, sepals, anthers etc.) in 4’s or 5’s (but rarely 3’s, 6’s or more), roots form a taproot (at least when young), and the embryo has 2 cotyledons. Includes herbs and most plants with secondary woody growth (trees, and shrubs).
The type of environment in which the plant is growing. This character has three states.
Terrestrial or aerial
Plants that occur on land or grow on other plants. This includes areas that are occasionally submerged in water (typically shallow pools etc.), but not permanently under water. It also includes plants that are attached to other plants, either as epiphytes or aerial parasites (to specify your plant is parasitic see Nutrient uptake below).
Plants which grow in water, and that are rooted in the ground below. Includes both marine and fresh-water environments. Leaves and flowers may be fully submerged, floating at the surface or emergent.
Plants that float in or on the water’s surface but are not attached to a substrate. Roots are either apparently lacking or left dangling in water.
The manner in which the plant obtains nutrients.
The means in which the plant obtains nutrients. Plants are here divided into two groups, those that produce their own nutrients (via photosynthesis) and those that derive nutrients from parasitising other sources (consumers).
Plants that produce their own nutrients (via photosynthesis). These are typically green plants with leaves.
Plants that derive nutrients from other sources, either through parasitising other plants or other lifeforms (see Parasitic plants below). These plants may also have the capacity to photosynthesize but supplement this through these other sources. Plants are often not green and, in many cases, produce very reduced or no leaves.
The method employed by a parasitic plant to obtain nutrition. This character has three states.
Plants that are attached to and draw nutrients from the stems or other aerial parts of another plant. Such plants will typically grow over the top of the host plant.
Plants that are attached to and draw nutrients from the roots of other plants. Such plants grow in close proximity to the host but are usually not joined to any of its above-ground parts.
Plants obtain nutrients by trapping and consuming living animals or microbes. These tend to occur in nutrient poor environments (e.g. boggy sites) and use this method to supplement nutrient derived from photosynthesis (rather than replacing it altogether). As such these are usually green plants, but usually have modified leaves that exude sticky substances or employ other methods to ‘trap’ prey.
The main root structures formed. This character has four states.
The most common root structure of most plants. These lack any specialised underground structures, other than the typical root network (ie. a main root (or few roots) from which smaller roots may then branch off from. These are sometimes fibrous, particularly in monocot species.
Plants with often long, usually lateral main roots from which new shoots emerge. These long stem-like roots may either be below ground (rhizomes) or run along the surface where they are often sheltered by surrounding vegetation or litter (stolons).
A storage structure usually held underground or near the surface formed by the stem, from the top of which new above-ground growth is derived (from buds). These are often swollen and spherical or ovoid.
A swollen below ground storage structure formed by a stem or root which either does not produce buds or produces buds from various points throughout the structure (e.g. a potato). These are often cylindrical or irregularly shaped.
Hair and other coverings occurring on stems and leaves. While all parts of a plant may possess indumentum, this character is here restricted to vegetative parts (stems and leaves) as these features are readily observed. This character has ten states.
Hairs that are unbranched or have glands or any other feature. These may be unicellular or multicellular, straight or curved, held erect or against the surface.
Hairs that stiff, ridged, hard or flexible, sometimes with a sharp point. These are often straight, but can be curved or have a bend.
Plants with a covering of warty outgrowths. These are often hardened and may be quite sharp or rough to touch.
Hairs or scales with a central stalk (sometimes this is very short) which is then branched into two arms or attached to the centre a flattened shield-like structure (peltate). When branches are long and flat, these may appear like hairs that are not attached to a surface. Likewise, peltate hairs may appear like scales sitting on top of a surface. These may sometimes be very dense and obscure the surface below. Hairs that are branched with multiple arms (>2) are classified as branched.
Hairs that have several branches or arms. These branches may all rise from a central point and spread outwards like a star (stellate) or involve multiple branches at various points along a main stem, a bit like a tree (dendritic). These may sometimes be very dense and obscure the surface below.
Surfaces with a dense covering of simple, often long, thick, wavy or curved hairs that largely obscure the surface below and give a scruffy, cottony, silky, cobwebbed or woolly appearance. Other character states forked/centifixed/peltate and branched may also obscure the surface but are comprised of more complex, branched hairs.
Glandular hairs/sessile glands
Hairs that end in a gland or surfaces that have glands. Glands usually appear as a spherical structure which is often coloured or clear. Sometimes surfaces become covered in a viscid liquid exuded from these glands, giving it an overall sticky texture.
Modified surface cells that are swollen and hollow, these are typically developed to accumulate salt. These eventually burst, giving the surface a mealy or silvery appearance. Particularly common in Chenopodiaceae and Aizoaceae.
Hairs filled with an irritant liquid that are painful to touch. Only found in some species of Urticaceae.
Surfaces without hairs or other coverings.
Hard rigid spines on a stem. Such spines are generally sharp and painful to touch. This character has two states.
The stem bears hard ridged spines that are generally sharp and painful to touch. These may occur along the stem or the stem may terminate in a hard spine.
The stem does not bear hard ridged spines.
Fluid inside the plant which is secreted when the stems or other organs are damaged or cut. In some species this has a very high latex content and appears ‘milky’. This character has two states.
Sap usually clear or occasionally coloured (often appearing green), but not white and milky.
Sap white and ‘milky’, often quite thick.
The general form of the leaf, including the presence/absence or specialised modification of leaves. This character has five states.
A leaf that is not divided into leaflets. This is the most commonly encountered leaf type, it consists of a single leaf blade, often with a stalk (petiole) or attached directly onto the stem. Simple leaves may be deeply dissected into lobes (pinnatisect) but are still regarded as simple as there is one continuous leaf blade (at least along the mid-vein). See leaf margins below to indicate dissection of the leaf blade.
A leaf that is divided into leaflets. These are often borne on a shared stalk (petiole) which has several small leaflets. Leaflets are often opposite or arise in groups of 3 or 5. In some species these may be divided 2 (bipinnate) or 3 (tripinnate) or more times. See leaflet number below to indicate the number of leaflets on your sample.
Leaves not produced. Stems are usually green and photosynthetic.
True leaves absent but replaced by laterally flattened photosynthetic (or sometimes terete) blade apparently derived from an expanded petiole and rachis. Present in some species of Fabaceae, especially Acacia.
Scales/spines/thallus/leaf sheath only
Leaves are reduced to scales, spines, leaf sheath or a thallus (small green structure not clearly defined into stem or leaf – e.g. Lemna).
When leaves are compound and consist of more than 2 leaflets the number present can be recorded here. For pinnae that are divided more than once (i.e. bipinnate or tripinnate), count the total number of pinnules. This character has eight states.
The general length of the leaf. This will generally vary considerably within a family, as such, this character has five very broad states to generally indicate if the leaf is very small, small, large, very large etc. To avoid confusion around leaves vs leaflets and petioles and attenuate leaf bases, lengths may be taken of entire leaves (e.g. the leaf blade/leaflets and petiole) or just the leaflet/leaf blade.
Leaf blade margin
The degree of dissection (eg. lobes/teeth etc.) along the leaf margin. This character has four states.
Leaves that are completely intact along the edge without any incisions or teeth. Margins may be somewhat wavy or undulating.
Leaves with sharp, rasping or cutting leaf margins due to the presence of numerous, small often barely visible teeth or sharp swellings (e.g. sward-grass).
Leaves with sharp or rounded teeth or lobes along the margins that are incised up to about half of the way to the mid-vein.
Leaves that have segments that are formed by an incision of at least half of the way to the mid-vein. Lobes may be formed along the entire leaf margin or all radiate from a central point near the leaf base (palmatisect).
How the leaves are arranged on the plant. This character has five states.
Leaves that are borne at slightly different levels along a stem.
Leaves that are borne in pairs directly opposite one another on the stem.
Leaves that are attached in clusters or tufts along a stem (i.e. many leaf bases attached at the same point of a stem). See basal/rosette for leaves that grow out of the ground in a tuft.
Three or more leaves that are borne at the same level in a circle around the stem.
Plants with all leaves clustered together at ground level at the base of any aerial stems.
Leaf upper surface indument
Covering(s) present on the on the upper leaf surface. This character has 4 states.
Upper surface glabrous
Without hairs or other coverings.
Upper surface glabrescent
With only very few hairs present, or becoming glabrous (without hair).
Upper surface viscid
Sticky surface due to the excretion of resin or oil etc. This can be evenly distributed across the surface or consist of scattered to numerous droplets (from glands). These oils may often turn black on drying.
Upper surface hairy
Surface with scattered to dense hairs.
Leaf upper surface colour
The colour of the upper surface of the leaf. This character has five states.
Leaf lower surface indument
Covering(s) present on the on the upper leaf surface. This character has three states.
Lower surface glabrous/glabrescent
Without hair or with only very sparse scattered hair (e.g. a few hairs restricted along veins).
Lower surface hairy
Surface with a moderate covering of hair, but not so dense as to obscure the surface.
Lower surface densely tomentose
Surface with a complete cover of dense hair, often will appear as woolly, felted or silky. In some cases the main vien(s) may be visible through the hair.
Leaf lower surface colour
The colour of the lower surface of the leaf. This will often be influenced by the colour of any hair covering the leaf surface. This character has three states.
The overall texture of leaves. Includes three character states.
Swollen, juicy often soft and thick-textured leaves with a high moisture content. Particularly common in arid or saline environments.
Typical leaf, thin, soft to firm but flexible.
Thick, tough, hardened leaves, sometimes much reduced in size.
The manner in which the leaf is attached to the stem. This character has three states.
Leaves attached to the stem by a stalk (petiole) at the base of the leaf. In some cases the petiole may only be a few millimetres long.
Leaves attached directly to the stem without any connecting stalk (petiole), or with a minute stalk (c. <0.5 mm long). In some cases the leaf may clasp or even completely encircle the stem.
Leaves that are attached to the stem by a stalk (petiole) that is attached near the centre of the blade (rather than the margin).
Leaf blade base
The shape of the base of the leaf (or leaflet) blade. This character has three states.
Leaves with blades that taper, curve downward or are rounded at the base.
Leaves with blades that are flat at the base, or have very shallow ear-shaped lobes extending slightly below the point of attachment of the petiole.
Leaves with downward pointing lobes at the base (e.g. heart-shaped, kidney-shapped, or shaped like an arrow head).
The three-dimensional shape or curvature a mature leaf blade. This character has three states.
A typical, flat leaf. May be slightly curved along edges, or by raised or thickened at veins etc.
Leaf blade that is folded and V-shaped or pleated, or strongly recurved, revolute or involute and almost appearing like a hollow cylinder, or horseshoe- or m-shaped in section.
Leaf blade that is approximately as wide as high in section and appears almost round, or 3- or 4-angled.
Hard rigid spines on a leaf. Such spines are generally sharp and painful to touch. This character has two states.
Leaf that bears hard ridged spines that are generally sharp and painful to touch. These often occur at the tip of the leaf.
Leaves do not bear hard ridged spines.
Leaf base that forms a tubular sheath that encloses a length of stem below where the blade expands (e.g. in many grass species). This character has 2 states.
Leaf that does not sheath the stem.
Leaf that sheathes the stem.
The branching pattern of the veins of a leaf. This character has three states.
Leaf with a central prominent midvein with secondary (and sometimes tertiary) veins branching off from this central vein. Sometimes there may be more than one prominent vein, but these do not run parallel to one another.
Parallel to mid-vein
Leaf with two or more prominent veins that run parallel to each other for the length of the leaf.
Leaf without any clear venation except for a central midvein.
The smell produced by the leaf, often becoming pronounced when the leaf is crushed. This character has 2 states.
Leaves with a strong, often sweet, spicy or malodorous scent (e.g. tea tree).
Leaves that lack a strong odor.
Scale-like appendages at the base of the leaf stalk (petiole), usually occurring in pairs. Stipules may also be leafy or spinose. This character has four states.
Stipules not present.
These are typically only a few millimetres long. These may only be present on younger leaves (falling as leaves develop) or sometimes are appressed to the stem and difficult to see.
Stipules are green and ‘leafy’ sometimes appearing as a smaller version of the leaf they sit below.
Stipules that are modified into sharp, hardened spines. These usually occur as a pair of spines at the base of the leaf.
Stipules that are very small and often barely visible (e.g. a hand lens is needed to see them) or are shed by the plant very early on as the leaf develops, such that they are present but seldom seen.
A membranous outgrowth or ring of hairs where the leaf blade attaches to the leaf sheath. This character has two states.
Leaf with a membranous outgrowth or ring of hairs where it attaches to the stem.
Leaf lacks a membranous outgrowth or ring of hairs where it attaches to the stem.
Slender coiling structure (e.g. modified stem, leaf, leaflet, stipule) used in climbing plants to cling to an object. This character has four states.
Plants do not produce tendrils.
Tendrils are produced from the base of the leaf where it attaches to the stem (axil), these usually represent modified stipules. Axillary tendrils will often persist on stems after the leaf has fallen.
Tendrils terminal on branchlets
Tendrils are produced from the tips of branchlets or at the end of at inflorescence.
Tendrils formed on Leaves
The tip of leaves or leaflets are modified into a tendril. Sometimes the petiole or rachis of some species with compound leaves can become tendril-like.
The flower-bearing part of the plant, including flowers, bracts, and branches.
The pattern in which flowers are arranged on a flowering stem. This character has six states.
Flowers that are not grouped with others on a stalk. Often these occur singly in a leaf axil or at the end of a branchlet.
Flowers are in groups of 2 to 5, often in a leaf axil, but do not form any specific pattern. These may derive from a shared stalk (peduncle) or each have their own stalk (pedicel) that attaches to the axis. In some instances, these may equally be treated as a very small umbel.
An unbranched inflorescence with numerous flowers which are sessile on the flowering stem. These can be quite long and sometimes have very densely-packed flowers such that the stalk (axis) is hidden by the flowers (e.g. Arum lily).
A branched or unbranched inflorescence which has flowers on short stalks (pedicles) that are borne along a main (leafless) flowering stem.
Inflorescence with all flower stalks (pedicles) arising from the same point on a common stalk (peduncle), and the flowers are displayed in an ‘umbrella shaped’ curved or flat-topped inflorescence.
Short dense inflorescence with flowers radiating from a central point and appearing like a globular, cone-shaped or flat-topped head. Similar to umbel, but the individual flowers lack a distinct stalk (pedicel). These inflorescences may superficially appear to be a single flower.
Stalk subtending each individual flower (pedicel). This character has two states.
Flowers are immediately subtended by a (sometimes short) stalk (pedicel).
Flowers are not stalked, but borne directly in the leaf axil or on the stem. In some cases 2–many flowers may be sessile at the end of a common peduncle.
Modified leaf associated with flowers or at the base of branches in an inflorescence. These differ in shape, size or colour from other leaves, often being small, green and herbaceous. This character has two states.
Bract(s) (i.e. modified leaf associated with flowers or at the base of branches in an inflorescence, differing in shape, size or colour from other leaves) present.
Bract(s) (modified leaf, differing in shape, size or colour from other leaves) absent.
Small bract borne singly or in pairs on the flower stalk (pedicel) or sepals (calyx). This character has 2 states.
Bracteole(s) present on the flower stalk (pedicel) or sepals (calyx).
The prominent structure or ‘showy’ part of the flower. This character has four states.
Flowers with distinct petals which are usually brightly coloured or white (but usually not green).
Flowers that lack or have highly reduced petals and the prominent structure is the (usually herbaceous and green or brown) sepals or outer perianth whorl.
Perianth minute or absent/bracteate
Flowers lacking petals and sepals or these parts much reduced, often with bracts becoming the prominent part of the flower in place of the perianth (e.g. grasses, paper daisies etc.).
Flowers that have reduced or absent petals and sepals and the prominent/attractive structure is the stamens or styles (e.g. eucalypt flowers).
The predominant colour of the flower (usually the colour of the petals). Where flowers are equally 2- (or more) coloured either colour may be entered. This character has eleven states.
The fertile reproductive organs present in a single flower. This character has two states.
Both fertile male and female reproductive organs are present in a flower.
Fertile male and female reproductive organs are borne on separate flowers, either with both sexes present on the same plant – but different flowers (monoecious) or different plants (dioecious). In both cases, male and female flowers will often look quite distinct from one another.
The relative size and shape of floral parts within each whorl of a flower and the number of planes of symmetry formed by these parts. This character has two states.
Flowers in which the perianth segments (petals and sepals) are alike within each whorl (e.g. petals are all the same size and shape), such that the flower has 2 or more planes of symmetry (actinomorphic or radially symmetrical).
Flowers in which the perianth segments (petals and sepals) within each whorl vary in size and shape (zygomorphic), such that the flower is only symmetric along a single plane (i.e. there is a clear top and bottom to the flower).
Formed by the basal part of a flower giving rise to the floral parts (i.e. the receptacle or floral axis) and sometimes incorporating the floral parts, this may be enlarged and cup-shaped (Hypanthium). This character has two states.
Flowers with an enlarged, often cup-shaped or tubular base formed by the receptacle and often surrounding the ovary or incorporating the perianth and stamens. Easily confused with flowers with tubular petals. Tubular petals are distinguished as petals because they may incorporate the stamens but do not include the receptacle. See petal/inner whorl fusion to indicate tubular petals.
Flowers that lack an enlarged cup-shaped or tubular base. These may have tubular petals, as long as the ’cup’ or ‘tube’ does not incorporate the receptacle. See petal/inner whorl fusion to indicate tubular petals.
Number of perianth whorls
The number of whorls of sepals and petals (perianth) present on a flower. This is typically 2 – a sepal whorl and a petal whorl. However, one or both of these may be absent or there may be more than one petaloid or sepaloid whorl. This character has three states.
Flowers with a single whorl of perianth that are similar in size, shape and colour (e.g. only petals or only sepals present).
2 or more whorls
Flowers with two or more whorls of perianth, these may be dissimilar in size, shape and colour (e.g. both petals and sepals present), or similar in size, shape and colour, but with a distinct inner and outer whorl (e.g. Asphodelaceae).
Flowers lack petals and sepals. Such flowers are often instead subtended and protected by bracts.
The sepals or outer whorl of non-fertile floral parts, these are often green and herbaceous, but also includes the outer whorl of flowers where all perianth whorls are colourful. These characters also relate to flowers with a single whorl of perianth that is green and sepal-like (i.e. lack colourful petals).
The number of sepals or perianth parts in the outer whorl. These may appear as lobes or teeth when the parts are fused. This character has twelve states.
The degree in which sepals or perianth parts in the outer whorl are fused together or free from one another. This character has three states.
Sepals (or outer perianth) free from one another, each individually attached to the receptacle.
Sepals (or outer perianth) fused to one another, includes parts that are fused only near the base to fused for the majority of their length.
Sepals forming calyptra
Sepals (or outer perianth) entirely fused (including at the top) into a cap which covers the whole flower and falls as a single unit when the flower opens (e.g. Eucalyptus flowers).
The petals or inner whorl(s) of non-fertile floral parts, these usually showy and colourful. These characters also relate to flowers with a single whorl of perianth that is colourful and petal-like (i.e. lack green sepals).
The number of petals or perianth parts in the inner whorl. These may appear are lobes or teeth when parts are fused. This character has twelve states.
The degree in which petals or perianth parts in the inner whorl are fused together or free from one another. This character has six states.
Petals free or 1
Petals (or inner perianth) free from one another, each individually attached to the receptacle. Includes flowers with only 1 petal.
Petals fused at base
Petals (or inner perianth) fused to one another near the base or only for a short part of their length.
Petals (or inner perianth) fused for much of length, forming a tube or cup/urn shape, often with only short free lobes at the tips of petals.
Petals that are divided into two major parts, with an upper and lower lip each consisting of 1 to a few free or partially fused petals (labiate). Such petals are often fused below the lips.
Petals forming calyptra
Petals (or inner perianth) entirely fused (including at the top) into a cap which covers the whole flower and falls as a single unit when the flower opens (e.g. Eucalypt flowers).
Petals (or inner perianth) at least partially fused and the parts displayed on one side of the flower in a fan or strap shape (e.g. fan-flowers and the ligulate florets of daisies).
The shape of the tip of the petals. This character has four states.
Petal apex pointed
Tips of petals come to an acute point.
Petal apex rounded/flat
Tips of petals are curved, rounded or flattened (truncate)
Petal apex emarginate/lobed
Tips of at least some petals have a shallow notch in the middle, or have multiple shallow notches/lobes along the apex of the petal.
Petal apex bifid/deeply lobed
Tips of at least some petals are deeply divided into 2 or more lobes.
Coverings or markings present on the inner surface of petals. This character has four states.
The inner surface of petals lack coverings or markings. Veins may be slightly darker or differently coloured to the rest of the petal surface.
Petals with coloured markings
The inner surface of petals has coloured streaks, spots etc. This does not include petals with veins that are darker or differently coloured to the rest of the petal surface.
Petals with hairs
The inner surface of petals have hairs, often in small tufts or at the throat of a tubular flower.
Petals with scales/lumps
The inner surface of petals have raised lumps or scales that are the same or a different colour to the rest of the petal surface.
Types (if any) of ornamentation along the margins of petals. This character has five states.
Petal margins entire
Petal margins lack any ornamentation or lobing.
Petal margins winged
Petal margins have a thin flange of tissue (often similar in colour and only slightly thinner than the petal lamina) extending beyond the central petal lamina. This character state does not refer to the ‘wing’ petals of pea flowers.
Petal margins lobed/toothed
Margins of petals that are lobed or toothed.
Petal margins ciliate
Margins of petals with numerous fine, often short hairs.
Petal margins fringed
Margins of petals with a fringe of long often colourful hair or the margins somewhat lacinate and tassel-like.
The length of the petals (inner perianth whorls) relative to the sepals (outer perianth whorl). This character has two states.
Shorter to hardly exceeding sepals
Petals (inner perianth whorls) do not or only shortly exceed the sepals (outer perianth whorl).
Distinctly exceeding sepals
Petals (inner perianth whorls) are distinctly longer than the sepals (outer perianth whorl).
Large scales, long filaments or petal-like appendages attached to the petals, often attached at the junction of the floral tube and petal lobes. These sometimes are united to form a ring or ‘crown’ (corona) on the top of the flower (e.g. Daffodils). This character has two states.
Petals with large scales, long filaments or petal-like appendages, often present at the junction of the floral tube and petal lobes.
Petals without large scales or petal-like appendages, often present at the junction of the floral tube and petal lobes.
Male floral parts
The male reproductive organs of a flower i.e. stamens (androecium).
The number of fertile stamens present on a flower. This character has eleven states.
The way stamens are attached to the flower, they may individually attach to the receptacle (free) and be united to other stamens or other floral organs (or both). This character has five states.
Flowers with stamens not united together or to any other floral organs (e.g. petals).
Stamens fused together
Flowers with stamens fused together, often only the filaments are fused for part of their length, but the filaments may be entirely fused together to form a tube. Alternatively, the anthers may be fused together and the filaments free.
Stamens fused to perianth
Flowers with stamens fused to the petals or sepals (perianth). This may range from base of the stamen filament being fused to near the base of the perianth (and almost appearing free), to completely fused to the perianth with the anthers apparently borne directly on the perianth.
Stamens fused together and to perianth
Flowers with stamens both fused together and then fused to the perianth. This may involve the staminal filaments forming a tube and the stamen tube attaching to petals or the anthers forming a tube and the free filaments attached to the perianth.
Stamens fused to carpel
Flowers with the stamens (or stamen appendages) fused to the female reproductive structure (style or ovary) and often forming a column (e.g. Orchidaceae).
The arrangement of stamens relative to one another on the flower. This character has three states.
Stamens regular (or 1)
Flowers with stamens evenly spaced around the flower, or flowers with a single stamen.
Stamens grouped in clusters
Flowers with stamens grouped or fused into small clusters or bundles which are even spread around the flower (e.g. stamens in clusters of 3 opposite each petal).
Flowers with stamens borne or displayed asymmetrically e.g. all on one side of the flower. In some cases the anthers may appear spread around the ovary but the filaments all attach on one side of it e.g. some Hibbertia species.
Hairs or appendages either associated with the anther or the filament. This character has two states.
Stamens with a vestiture of hairs or appendages either associated with the anther or the filament. These are often formed at the base of the anther or junction of the filament and anther. Such appendages or hairs commonly play a role in pollen transfer or release by pollinators.
Stamen vestiture absent
Stamens lack obvious hairs or appendages (glabrous) or the stamens have a vestiture of minute hair that is visible only under magnification.
Infertile male organs, often consisting only of a filament (with no or a highly reduced anther that does not produce pollen). These may occur on bisexual or unisexual (including female) flowers. This character has three states.
Flowers with staminodes that consist of a filament (or a structure resembling a filament) with or without a sterile anther.
Flowers with staminodes that are bright and colourful and petal-like, these may be quite distinct in size, shape and colour to the actual petals of the flower but do not look like the fertile stamens.
Flowers lack infertile stamens.
Female Floral parts
The female reproductive organs of a flower i.e. ovary, style, stigma (gynoecium).
The position of the ovary relative to other floral parts (i.e. sepals, petals, anthers, or if present the floral tube). This character has three states.
Ovary is borne above the level of attachment of the other floral parts, or above the base of the floral tube (that is free from the ovary and bears the perianth and stamens).
Ovary is partly above and partly below the level of attachment of the other floral parts (sepals, petals, stamens).
Ovary is entirely or almost entirely below the level of attachment of other floral parts (sepals, petals, stamens).
Ovary number and fusion
The number of ovaries present on a flower and the degree to which carpels are fused i.e. partially fused carpels appear as a lobed ovary. This character has three states.
>1 free ovaries
Flowers with two or more (sometimes numerous) free ovaries.
Ovary and carpels partially fused
Flowers with an ovary with two or more partially fused carpels, such that it appears that there is more than one ovary (when only fused near the base) or that the ovary is lobed. Each ovary lobe may each have a terminal style, or there may be a single style rising from between the lobes.
Flowers with a single ovary, containing one or multiple fused carpels.
Carpel number per ovary
The number of female reproductive units (carpels). This is usually evident by the number of chambers (locules) in the ovary. Flowers with more than one free ovary should only include the number of carpels in just one ovary. This character has eleven states.
The shape and specialised structures formed by the style. This character has five states.
Simple, unbranched style that consists of a stalk, or the style is much reduced or apparently lacking and the stigma is sessile on the ovary.
Cup-shaped (indusium/pollen presenter)
At least part of the style has been modified into a swollen, cup or saucer-shaped structure. This structure is generally used to hold and display pollen from the flower prior to the female structures becoming receptive (which occurs once the pollen has had a chance to disperse). Such structures are sometimes quite hairy.
Style which branches into 2 or more arms. This may occur anywhere along the length of the style, from towards the base of the style, giving the appearance of several styles (see style number per ovary below for multiple free styles), or near the tip with each stigma sitting on a short branch.
Style with a feathery appearance with multiple fine side branches.
Style relatively broad, thickened, herbaceous and colourful, appearing like a petal.
Style number per ovary
The number of styles on an ovary. This character has eleven states.
The type of structure that bears the seed(s). This character has ten states.
Dry fruit usually with several chambers, opening when ripe via pores, slits, teeth, or splitting into pieces. Occasionally somewhat fleshy and similar to Single fleshy fruit (Berry/Drupe/Pome). Also easily confused with Follicle or Schizocarp, sometimes Capsules splitting into mericarps or Follicles (that secondarily release the seed, e.g. Malvaceae).
Single fleshy fruit
Indehiscent fleshy fruit formed by a single ovary, often firm externally with fleshy pulp inside (e.g. Berry/Drupe/Pome). Possibly confused with fleshy forms of Capsule, but differentiated from Capsule by being indehiscent.
Aggregate of fused fleshy fruits
Indehiscent fleshy fruit composed of multiple ovaries either from a single flower or several flowers that have fused together to form a single fruiting body (e.g. blackberry).
Dry fruit consisting of 2 or more segments that break apart into 1-seeded units (mericarps). Easily confused with capsule before seeds have begun to break up, and nut when mericarps are hard and nut-like.
A woody structure composed of accessory sructures (e.g. inflorescence axis and swollen bracts or bracteoles) and several individual fruits (e.g. a Cone with Samaras in Casuarinaceae and a Cone composed of Follicles in Banksia).
Dry fruit sometimes woody (e.g. Proteaceae), with a single chamber, splitting along one side of the fruit. Often several developing from a single flower with multiple free or partially united ovaries (e.g Rutaceae and Crassulaceae). Easily confused with Pod/Legume/siliqua and capsule.
Dry fruit with a single chamber (or two ‘false’ chambers separated thin membranous layer of tissue), externally splitting open along two sides. Often long and skinny ‘pea pods’. Easily confused with Follicle.
Dry, one-seeded indehiscent fruit with a winged seed wall. Easily confused with winged forms of Dry or spongy pericarp/utricle, but distinguished by the wing developing from the seed coat rather than the outer pericarp.
Dry one-seeded indehiscent fruit. Sometimes formed by flowers with multiple free ovaries, and hence appearing in dense heads (e.g. Acaena novae-zelandiae). Similar to Nut which has a very hard outer surface, and Samara which is winged.
Hard, dry one-seed indehiscent fruit (e.g. Acorn). Easily confused with Achene/cypsela/grain and Samara, which are similar but do not have a hard external coat, and Single fleshy fruit which often contain hard seeds ‘nuts’ within a fleshy fruit (e.g. Walnuts, Almonds etc.), but strictly speaking are drupes. Likewise some mericarps and Capsules can be very hard and sometimes incorrectly termed ‘nuts’ (e.g. Gumnuts).
Dry or spongy pericarp/utricle
Indehiscent, single seeded fruit concealed within a spongy, leafy or membranous outer layer. Sometimes this outer layer breaks apart or releases the seed. Easily confused with Single fleshy fruit (Berry/Drupe/Pome), but generally less fleshy. Also, the outer layer is composed of an enlarged pericarp (calyx, epicalyx or bracts) rather than the ovary tissue. May also be difficult to distinguish from nut when the outer coating is thin and closely attached to the seed coat (e.g. some species of Cyperaceae).
The colour of the fruiting body at maturity (ie. when ripe). Most fruit will initially be green, so this requires observation of mature fruit. This character has six states.
The shape of fruit in cross section. This character has two states.
Includes shapes that have no clear angles, edges or ‘sides’ (e.g. oval and regularly or irregularly ellipsoid shapes). They may sometimes be somewhat flattened on the side where they attach to the fruiting stem, or have ridges or lobes.
Shapes that have clear angles or ‘sides’ (e.g. triangle, quadrangle, rectangle, disc-shaped).
Partial division of fruits into segments or lobes. This character has two states.
Fruits that are laterally lobed or bulging (e.g. a fruit that is partially divided into individual portions that are either basally or centrally attached)
Fruit that are not segmented laterally. These may have terminal or basal lobes/lumps.
Ornamentation along the margin or edges of fruit. This character has two states.
Fruit not winged
Fruit lacking an extension beyond the normal outline of the fruit.
Fruit winged/strongly ridged
Fruit that have a thin flange, membranous expansion or thickened ridge extending beyond the normal outline of the fruit.
Hard rigid spines on the fruit. Such spines are generally sharp and painful to touch. This character has two states.
Fruit with covering of, or surrounded by stiff, hard or flexible, usually sharp spines.
Fruit lacking spines
Fruits without spines.
Ornamentation along the margin or edges of seed. This character has two states.
Seed that have a thin flange, membranous expansion extending beyond the normal outline of the seed.
Seed not winged
Seed lacking an extension beyond the normal outline of the seed, but may have minor ridges associated with the margins and faces.
An enlarged membranous or fleshy appendage formed where the seed attaches to the fruit, sometimes expanding and partially covering or surrounding the seed. Arils are often brightly coloured or a colour in strong contrast with the seed. This character has two states.
Seed with an aril.
Seeds lacking a conspicuous aril.
The presence of hair on seed surfaces (including non-shedding structures such as persistent mericarps). This does not include seeds with pappus – a row or rows of long hairs extending from the top of the seed, see ‘seed appendages’ below. This character has two states.
Seed with a covering or partial covering of hairs.
Seed lacking hair.
Texture or ornamentation on the seed surface. This character has 3 states.
Seed with a smooth, more or less flat or slightly wrinkled surface.
Seed with raised ridges (lines) that run either vertically or horizontally along the seed.
Seed with a lumpy surface due to the presence of raised wart-like protrusions or pitted (often circular) depressions.
The presence and placement of appendages such as awns, pappus, bristles or scales. These are structures usually associated with seed dispersal. These are distinguished from ‘seed hair’ which are usually covering or scattered across the seed surface. This character has four states.
Seed lacking an appendage.
Seed with appendages such as an awn or row of bristles/scales at the top of the seed.
Seed with appendages, usually an awn or awns attached to the side of the seed.
Seed with appendages, usually a ring of bristles or scales at the bottom of the seed (where the seed attaches to the fruit or fruiting receptacle).
Victoria has been divided into 16 natural regions. For this character the user determines which natural region the plant that is to be identified was found in to enter for this character. Whether a taxon is regarded as occurring in a particular natural region or not is dependent on whether the taxon has been previously documented as occurring in that natural region or not. There is a remote possible that a taxon occurs in a natural region but has not yet been documented in that natural region. In such a case the key will not recognise that taxon as occurring in that natural region which will result in a misidentification for the user. This issue may be particularly relevant to newly introduced species which may be still expanding their range through Victoria or for taxa that are under collected for herbaria. Due to these issues it is suggested that this character be one of the first characters investigated as a potential reason for misidentification.