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PLANTS Interactive ID Keys: Introduction

Automated Key Data Available For Use and Testing

Draft interactive keys and plant character data sets for selected groups of U.S. plants are available for use and testing on-line or by downloading the specific PLANTS Identification application.

Unlike a traditional plant identification key that provides you with only two choices at each step (a dichotomous key), these keys let you select multiple characters simultaneously (polyclave key). This makes more character data available in the key and minimizes the number of steps it takes to identify a plant.

These data sets were developed cooperatively by the collaborators cited in the keys and the USDA NRCS National Plant Data Team. The automated plant keys run in SLIKS freeware written in JavaScript and let you identify specific groups of plants known to occur in the U.S. This freeware has limited functionality and is best view using Internet Explorer. The species list in the wetland monocot key is derived from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wetland Inventory National List of Vascular Plant Species That Occur in Wetlands: 1998 National List. Other keys are based on the species lists in PLANTS. These draft plant character data sets are for testing purposes only.

Data development for the grass and legume keys were partially funded by the USDA NRCS Agricultural Wildlife Conservation Center and the USDA NRCS Louisiana State Office contributed to grass key development. For more information, click on Instructions, Information, Disclaimers and Policies after the application is loaded.

We welcome your comments to improve this draft data set or the interactive key. Please email the USDA NRCS National Plant Data Center and include the name of the data set (e.g., PLANTS Identification-Wetland Monocots-Cyperaceae) in your subject line.


  • The versions of SLIKS used for these keys were specifically designed for Microsoft Internet Explorer but also run well in Mozilla Firefox if the IE Tab extension is installed and enabled.
  • Anti-virus software may hinder opening this application since it runs in JavaScript. You may need to turn off Script Blocking in your anti-virus software prior to running this application or agree to Allow Blocked Content when your browser opens and you are asked whether you want to run this application showing active content.
  • If you download the application, please recognize that some application links to external sites will not work unless your computer is connected to the Internet.
  • Remember that you must copy all downloaded files to a new folder in order to guarantee that they are fully unzipped. The key will not run if you simply click on the zip file, or any of the files within it, if you do not first copy the unzipped files to a new folder.