Wildflower identification is like anything else. The more you do it the easier it gets.
Start with the flowers you know. Then every time you go out, look for those flowers and repeat the names of those flowers to yourself.
Then pick one or two new wildflowers you don’t know the names of but like. Study the plant.
There are a number of technical characteristics that help botanists identify plants. I’ve tried to smooth over and combine some of the characteristics to make it easier to identify a given plant. Botanists call these characteristics keys. Here are the “keys” I use:
The color is the first characteristic most people notice when looking at a flower. I love color. But remember, color will only be one part of what helps you identify the plant. And to make it even more complex, some flowers have multiple colors (look at the Monument Plant). Some colors may represent subtle variations (Cutleaf Anemone screams magenta to me!) Some colors seem unique (Grand Collomia seems very peach colored).
So to try and capture the subtle variations (e.g. peach and magenta) and provide some common language (white and red) I’ve included most flowers under several colors. So you can find Wasatch Penstemon under both blue AND purple.
I find it helpful to look at the number of petals. The Diamond Clarkia would have been very easy to identify if I had been able to look for a 4 petal, purple flower. But remember, some flowers have a varying number of petals. Are all the flowers you see 5 petals? Or do some have 4?
Also, some flowers don’t have distinct petals. Instead they are “fused” together. The Bluebell Bellflower is a perfect example. Rather than try and be “technically correcty” I’ve said there are five petals.
Finally, some petals are technically not petals, but sepals. But again, don’t worry, to make it easy, I’m counting them all together.
I also am not counting petals above six. If you see more than six petals to search just choose “many”.
The shape of a leaf can be very helpful in identifying a plant. Yellow Toadflax is readily identifiable from Dalmatian Toadflax from the shape of the leaves. Leaf shape is explained more on this page.
Leaf arrangement refers to the ways the leaves are attached to the stem. Some leaves are attached across from each other (opposite) some leaves alternate from side to side of the stem. Leaf arrangement is explained on this page.