In my previous blog I gave the observation checklist for linear growth pattern of angiosperms. Here is the checklist for segmented plants, the other large category of flowering plant structures. Let me know if this works for you.

SEGMENTED STRUCTURE: A segmented flowering plant has a stem that is segmented or jointed as it grows from ground level to tip of plant. It may appear perfectly straight or each segment may angle slightly. The joints are called nodes. Nodes provide a place for leaves to emerge, also flowers, fruit, nuts, or seeds, and branches. A flowering plant may have 4-5 or more nodes, sometimes with a smooth connection, sometimes very marked, depending on growth patterns. The leaves that grow from nodes can be single and spaced on alternate sides up the stem. Leaves can also be double in number and grow opposite each other on the stem. A row of double leaves lining the stem makes it a compound leaf. Find a plant to sketch that has a segmented basic pattern to its growth. Use my sketch, or raid the garden for a specimen. Caution: don’t pick the wildflowers; they need to germinate and come back next year.

Here’s the checklist:

Observe the segmented stem: Is it straight? curving? Angled? which way?

Stem: Is it smooth? Rough? Odd texture? Hairy? Woody? Round? Square? Other?

Observe the leaves: what shape? Oval? Elongated? Lobed? Triangular? Simple? Compound?

Leaves: Alternate? Opposite?

Leaves: Are they simple or compound? (more than one leaf coming from the stem or from a central base)

Leaves: Is the compound leaf pinnate? Or palmate? (Pinnate: leaflets on each side of a common axis (like a feather). Pinnate leaves may be simple or compound (twice pinnate, or 3 times pinnate). When compound, the principal axis (rachis) has an axillary bud where it attaches to the stem and no bud at the base of the leaflets. Palmate: compound palmate leaves (like a palm-of-the-hand shape or a fan palm) radiate out from a central point on their rachis (point of origin) (often 5 leaves radiating from one base).

Leaf Veins: Thick or thin? Linear? Branching? Parallel? Alternate? Opposite? Do veins start at the base of the leaf? Do they spread to specific points or lobes? Do they disappear towards the edges?

Leaf edges: smooth? Serrated? How many bumps? Lobed? Rounded? Stickers? How many points?

Leaf surface: smooth? Hairy? Healthy? Damaged? Dried areas? Flat? Curling? Marked in some way? Shiny? Dull?

Observe the blossoms: rounded? Pointed? Simple? Cluster? How many? Buds?

Blossom: describe colors. Basic hue? Variations? Pale color? Bold?

Blossom: How does the base connect to the petals? Cup-shaped? Like a belt? Thin line?

Blossom interior: simple pistil/stamen? Complex? Lots of little blossoms? Other?

Observe other features: are there berries? Nuts? Seeds? Other?

Next week I will give Tips on drawing and further information. Stay tuned.


Need a ready reference? For diagram of Flower and Leaf Types, see p. 296 in Wild Edible Plants of Western No. America by D. R. Kirk (illustrated by J. E. Kirk), Naturegraph: 1972.*

*Available at


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