Dichotomous Keys

Having very little experience with dichotomous keys and only a little experience with the proper names of plant pieces and parts, I struggled with this assignment and still am not sure what I’m doing. Though I’m familiar with some plant parts and use those for identification, the photos in the bins didn’t always have those parts. I was also confused by the sizes and other plants in the photos and even started keying out the compound leaves of the background plant in Bin 2 before I realized it wasn’t part of the specimen plant. This assignment took hours upon hours and included a 200 mile round-trip drive to get help from Rebecca, although much of the time I stared at the photos without a clue as to where to start. I’m still just stumbling around with the terminology – the struggle is real 😉 My first drafts of these dichotomous keys were using common words I could easily understand to describe the parts. Then I used the Harris & Harris book to find the correct (hopefully) terminology.

BIOL 195 – Dichotomous Key

EDIT: After learning from Steffi that the assignment was to use the Bins to make a simple dichotomous key:



  1. Thanks Rachel,
    you also went way into the depth of each bin, making a key for each bin and trying to arrive at what is contained in each bin, which was a lot of work. I really only wanted you to look at the four bins and figure out how each of them is different from the other three and make a dichotomous key to sort out the bins. No need to figure out what is actually in the bin. Just using the words that describe each of the bins, it was not required to use technical terms, just common terms like needles, leaves, cones, or flower color will suffice to construct a simple dichotomous key to the four bins.

    1. I can’t believe I didn’t just send a quick e-mail to you for clarification before delving into the assignment! Oh well, I had a good time in Lincoln with Rebecca practicing our new language skills.

  2. Jayme

    I totally went full tilt techy on this assignment too, thinking I had to find/create a specific key for each plant & ID it…its hard to have a past working knowledge of plant identification, etc. & not go full throttle right away. I was trained to find the closest ID possible & my mind just didn’t grasp that we were to explore the basics of keying a selection of plants for their similarities & differences instead of just shooting to the objective.

    1. Jayme, yes this assignment was a good reminder to keep it simple. It’s also a good lesson in “ask if you don’t know.” A quick e-mail to Steffi would have clarified everything. Live and learn! It was good practice, right?

      I edited the post and made a simple key.

  3. Rachel AE

    Hi Rachel, the edited attempt was spot on, very clear and easy.

    Honestly, your first drafts for each bin were probably fairly similar to the end result as far as wording, but you didn’t know to combine the key to encompass all the bins at first! Great job.

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