Dr M’s favourite and highly recommended books for plant identification include: The veg key – otherwise known as “The Vegetative Key to the British Flora”. An amazing and botanically life-changing volume by John Poland and Eric Clement and published in 2009. This is a new approach to identifying plants in the vegetative state i.e. without flowers, though it’s so good that once you get used to it you may also use it to ID plants with flowers! Poland and Clement build on literally years and years of careful and close examination of the vegetative parts of plants to provide a completely new approach to plant ID.
This is especially designed for the autumn, winter and early spring when most plants have no flowers or fruits – the usual stuff of conventional plant ID books. In the veg key, its the veg bits that are vital – so the leaves (including myriad types of hairs), stems and roots are described and used to identify plants of (almost) any size, state and condition. It does take some getting used to because it is a polychotomous key and it does not (for the most part) work family by family and most of us are used to the dichotomous keys working family by family such as in the book of Stace.
Dr M is planning a short users’ guide to the veg key (and who knows maybe a video?!) so keep your eyes on Dr M Goes Wild!