Rain forest plants are often difficult to identify. This is in part due to the fact that flowers or fruits are often not available, and therefore identification has to rely on the leaf and bark characters. Even with the availability of flowers or fruits, the vast number of species often make identification a daunting task.
Conventional botanical keys are difficult to use. The user has to work through a series of questions (couplets), where the characters to be used in the identification are pre-determined. These keys rely heavily on flower characters, and if a particular character is missing, then the identification cannot proceed.
The rain forest key, on the other hand, is a multiple-entry key, where the user can decide which characters to use in identification based on the specimen at hand. Thus if the specimen shows leaf and fruit characters, then identification can proceed using these characters only, with no need to attempt to use (guess) the flower characters.
Even with sterile specimens, lacking both flowers and fruits, it is often possible to identify a specimen, or at least reduce the number of possibilities down to a manageable size so that they can be checked against the additional information available in the key for all taxa.
This system is invaluable for a wide range of researches, palaeobotanists,
foresters, educators, students, land managers, conservationists, tourists
and naturalists interested in the biological diversity of the rain forest
For a detailed description on how to use the key visit La Trobe Universities
Department of Botany