Blog & News

Species identification guide

Published on Saturday July 17, 2021
Authored by PEIISC

Positively identifying invasive species can be difficult.  Here are a few tips to consider when trying to ID a plant or insect.


Make note or photograph where the plant is growing.  Habitat can be a good clue.  Try to answer the following questions based on where the plant is growing:

Is your plant:

  • Shade tolerant or does it prefer full sun?
  • What type of soil moisture will it tolerate?
  • Is it near salt water?
  • Is it in an urban area, natural area, backyard etc.?
  • Is it associated with recreational activities?
  • Is anything eating it?

How is the plant growing?  Growth habit can tell you a lot about a plant.
Is it a tree, a shrub, or a vine?

What size is the plant?
Is it 15 feet tall like Giant Hogweed or a groundcover like Periwinkle?

How are the leaves arranged
Opposite, alternately or whorled?

What is the leaf shape?
Heart-shaped, oval, lobed, etc.?

What does the leaf margin look like?
Is it smooth or toothed?

What other leaf characteristics can you notice?
What colour are the leaf veins and how are they arranged?  Does the leaf have bristles or hairs?

What does the stem look like?
Is it smooth, square, blotched with colour, hollow, hairy, thorny, etc?

What does the flower look like?
How is it shaped and arranged?  What colour?

What do the plant’s reproductive parts looks like?
Describe the berries, seeds, seed pods, etc.

What are the roots like?
Are they tuberous, fibrous, or is there a taproot?


Like with plants, habitat can be a good clue.  What plant did you find the insect on?

Have a look around and see what life cycle stages may be present – adult, pupa, larva, egg.  This will differ depending on what season it is.

Record what kind of damage the insect is doing to the plant or tree you found it on, if any.  For example, the Japanese Beetle will skeletonize plants by eating only the green, leafy material and leaving behind only the leaf veins.

The more of these questions you answer, the more likely it is that you will be able to identify the species you’re looking at.  If you can’t ID it yourself, send along the details you have collected and a photo, if possible, to