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Let's Identify Plants - Native and Non

Hi friends,

I've been hiking in and around Los Angeles for a few years now, and I recently realized I don't know the names of most of the plants I see. I'd love to be more educated.

What's the best book for identifying both native and non-native plants? I'd like to have a reference guide at home and maybe something I can even take into the field.

I'll also take recommendations on plant-identifying apps. In my experience, most apps don't work that great - especially if you're deep in the San Gabriels and don't have any cell service. That's why I prefer books but always happy to learn more!

9 Replies



I started by trying to use books to identify plants but have found that the species of a plant can have difference based on the location of where you are viewing the plant.   There are variences in the leaves from one geographical location to the next that the when I tried to identify the plant in a book I was uncertain.  Two years ago I joined the local Native Plant Society (SCNPS), started taking botany classes and it has made it much easier for me.  Good Luck with your identification process.

Tom (TBSS)


I get so much benefit from our Native Plant Society of Texas members where I live. There are native herbs not in commercial trade because they were once so common, and not in most guidebooks. Some might be in the Native Plant Information Network for North America ( ). But many plants on my yard were only identified by other NPSOT members. Even when I find a photo of one of them online, now that I know the scientific names, I would not recognize them. So many of the plants in Texas adapt to conditions so that a photo of the plant in a drought year looks completely different than a photo of the plant in a rate rainy year.

I've watched some of the CNPS videos on YouTube. Many plants are different, but so much of the information is relevant for those of us in Texas as well.


Hello to you!  I dont get out often.  Work and family obligations but I do prepping and survival and primitive skills.  Iam from western PA and as for books I would say to look for one of the Petersons field guides for you location I have the medicinal plant guide and wildflower guide for my area.  I also went to college for Horticulture so I do know my plants in this region.  Hope this helps Tom


I use an app called PlantNet that I really like. You take or upload a picture and the app's AI finds the best match. You can also post the picture/suggestion to the community for others to validate. I've found it to be accurate and the community is very robust with results from all over the world.  

They have both an Android or iOS version ( I don't think there's a way to store images for offline use, but you can take pictures on your hike and match them when you get cell service. 


HVe you tried setting up an INaturalist account and using the mobile app?


For the LA area, the Theodore Payne Foundation is an excellent resource for native plants.

Hello Lilsys3,

    If you really want to learn about all native and non-native plants. I would suggest taking a class with Christopher Nyerges. I call him the godfather of primitive skills and plant identification because everyone in that world has heard of him and go to him when they need any help. You can check out his website at There are plenty of his books in his store and check out his schedule for classes every Saturday and an afternoon class on Thurs. 

    There are two other important people that I have met hanging out with Christopher and their names are Dr. James Adams he's a teacher at USC and was taught by a Chumash medicine women Cecilia Garcia. You can look at his website 

     The other person that you might find very interesting is Pascal Baudar. His website is  He makes gourmet dishes using native and non-native plants grown in the wild. He also has classes/workshops that you can attend to as well. Some well renowned chefs take his classes for that extra edge in the culinary world. 

Have fun and let me know how it goes. 



California? I hear your state has the most awesome native plant group! I've saw that California Native Plant Society has been posting videos on YouTube for years. I wish CNPS would post them all.

But where I live not all the Native Plant Society of Texas chapters share theirs online. Out state NPSOT posts videos separately from the chapters. They are all great. I wish we had recordings from the last 40 years; so many unique presentations with information not available anywhere else.

That is a great thing about the many chapters. Texas has 12 EPA Level 3 ecoregions, and so the chapters provide information specific to their areas.

You have ecoregion diversity in California, too; and so the different affiliates of CNPS probably provide so much benefit.