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Key: Riparian Habitat


     The Identification key below is a dichotomous key (two alternative choices are always given from which you choose the appropriate plant characteristic)  Be sure to read both choices before making a decision.

     To use this key, you should have in hand a representative portion of the plant you wish to identify, including both leaves and flowers (not just the flowers or leaves alone).  When you gather samples, you should also make a note as to the plants relative size (is the plant a tall tree, medium sized bushy shrub, or a low matted shrub)  Always start with choice number 1 and move down the key until you have identified your sample.  (A glossary is available if you need help with the terminology in this key)

Important Note:  Many of the photos below (California Academy of Sciences) have been taken from the website ( http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/photos/ )  For further photos you can visit this site.  For use of any of these photos please notify cburroughs@CalAcademy.org. For commercial use, contact cburroughs@CalAcademy.org.

Key to Riparian Habitat or Ecosystem

 1. plants in water go to 2
1A. plants not in the water go to 8
2. plant leaves linear and long go to 3
2A. plant leaves not linear, but toothed, lobed, or not present go to 6
3. leaves over 3 ft. long with brown dense spongy rod-like flower CATTAILS cat tails.jpg (110721 bytes)

cat_tails_closeup.jpg (112255 bytes)

3A. leaves less than 3 ft. long go to 4
4. stems round go to 5
4A. stems triangular

Photo by Brother Alfred Brousseau, St. Mary's College 

5. leaves thin, pointed, slightly angled, with salt drops on, flower brown cluster

Photo by Gerald and Buff Corsi, California Academy of Sciences

5A. leaves mostly basal, thin, pointed, flower fluffy green

Photo by Gladys Lucille Smith, California Academy of Sciences

5B. leaves thick, jointed stem, yellow button-like flower

Photos by Albert P. Bekker, California Academy of Sciences and Brother Alfred Brousseau, St. Mary's College 


6. stems jointed, fat, no leaves, reddish green

Photo by Brother Alfred Brousseau, St. Mary's College.

6A. stems not jointed, but have thick veins go to 7
7. stems green, veins green, smells like celery WILD CELERY wild celery.jpg (106231 bytes)
7A. stems red, veins red, leaves thick with red edges

Photo by Charles Webber, California Academy of Sciences

8. plant a tree go to 9
8A. plant not a tree go to 10
9. leaves leather-like with yellow tubular flower TREE TOBACCO
9A. leaves linear with small teeth, white cluster flower

Photo by Brother Alfred Brousseau, St. Mary's College

9B. leaves linear, entire, gray on bottom green on top, flower catkin

Photos by Brother Alfred Brousseau, St. Mary's College and  Webber, California Academy of Sciences.


10. leaves pointed, thin, monocots go to 11
10A. leaves compound, grouped in leaflets of 3 go to 13
11. looks like a grass go to 12
11A. does not appear grass-like go to 14
12. tall 1-3 ft. high, flower looks like a birds beak

Photo by Brother Alfred Brousseau, St. Mary's College

12A. short, angled leaf, jointed stem, flower brown cluster, salty SALT GRASS
12B. tall 1-3 ft. high, leaf red-green, alternate, angled, red spike

Photo by credit Virginia Moore, California Academy of Sciences

13. leaves clover-like, pea-like flower, yellow or white SWEET CLOVER
13A. leaves triangular, white flower with yellow center reflexed petals with purple berries when ripe-POISONOUS

Photo by Charles Webber, California Academy of Sciences.

14. plant low growing, sprawling, grey-green leaves, tiny red fruit AUSTRALIAN SALTBUSH
14A. plant not low growing go to 15
15. plant sprawling shrub, grey-green triangular leaves SALTBUSH
15A. plant tall upright go to 16
16. tall plant with basal leaves deeply lobed, yellow flowers in terminal raceme cluster, fruit in thin pods WILD MUSTARD mustard.jpg (115795 bytes)
16A. tall plant, leaves not basal, not lobed go to 17
17. leaves woolly, purple-pink flower in umbel MARSH FLEABANE
17A. leaves non-woolly go to 18
18. large leaf, spiny fruit

Photo by Donald Myrick, California Academy of Sciences

18A. thin, linear leaves, fruit not spiny go to 19
19. leaves tiny teeth, bright yellow flowers in clusters, sticky

Photo by Dr. Robert Thomas and Margaret Orr, California Academy of Sciences.

19A. leaves sessile, axial, tiny pink-white flower, round fluffy fruit

Photo by Brother Alfred Brousseau, St. Mary's College.


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Website by Duncan Wilson

Page last updated January 07, 2012

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