Cut Flower Exports of Africa    
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How to use this tool

Taxa covered

The cut flower trade is a very dynamic one. New cultivars are continually bred and introduced, and certain flowers and specific cultivars rise and fall in popularity. Growers respond to the market and may grow different flowers to adjust to demand and competition.

The flower taxa covered in this key* were chosen in an attempt to capture a snapshot of the flowers exported by African countries (not restricted to flowers exported to the U.S.) in the years 2004 and 2005. The flowers chosen are grown in Africa now or were grown in the recent past. Although the list may not be all-inclusive, if your cut flower specimen was grown in Africa, it is most likely one of the taxa in this key.

The 67 genera in the interactive key represent up to half of the total number of genera grown for cut flowers worldwide. Only cut flowers are included; cut foliage, pot flowers, or flowers used only in dried form are not covered.

Thirteen of the predominant, and to some people easily recognizable, African cut flower exports (such as Rosa and Dianthus) have not been included in the interactive identification key. These flowers do not have fact sheets, but are covered for reference in the Common Flowers image pages.

Interactive key requirements

Any modern web browser can be used, such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, or Safari. Javascript must be enabled.

This key to cut flowers was built using Lucid3. Lucid3 is software for creating and using interactive identification keys. Lucid is developed by Identic in Brisbane, Australia. Visit the Lucidcentral website for more information on Lucid and Lucid3.


Interactive key structure and format

The interactive key enables you to quickly identify unknown cut flowers from Africa. The identification process is facilitated by the many attached images, drawings, and information pages.

The features in Features Available are listed alongside icons for the feature pages attached to them. Measurement features, which have states that are numbers or number ranges, e.g. the features Flower - length and Perianth segments or lobes - number (single flowers only), have both a feature page and an illustration attached. Illustrations are indicated by icons or thumbnails, depending on the view options you choose. Feature states are listed underneath each feature, alongside icons (or thumbnail images) for the illustrations attached to them. The states for measurement features, however, do not have attached illustrations.

Asteraceae determination

When you first open the interactive key, only one feature is available - Asteraceae family determination. This is because Cut Flower Exports of Africa comprises two pathways -- one for the family Asteraceae, and one for all the other families. For this first feature, you are asked to determine if your cut stem is in the Asteraceae family or not. While some Asteraceae daisy-like heads are easy to recognize, others are not so obvious, and some that are not Asteraceae may be mistaken as belonging in this family. The Asteraceae family determination feature page contains information and illustrations to help you make this determination. Your state choice determines the availability of other features in the interactive key. If you choose genus in the Asteraceae, a set of features appears that pertain specifically to this family as well as other relevant features. If you choose genus not in the Asteraceae, a different set of features pertaining to the rest of the taxa appears.

Exercise caution if choosing both states

If you choose both states in Asteraceae family determination (although not recommended), both sets of features will appear. Because of the way Cut Flower Exports of Africa is structured, it is preferable to use the first feature to separate the Asteraceae taxa and features from the rest. The interactive key can be used with both sets of features if necessary, but you must be cautious in doing so. If you do this (perhaps if you are having trouble determining if your cut stem is in the Asteraceae or not), keep in mind several things:

Some of the "non-Asteraceae" features (those that are not children of the Asteraceae-specific features parent), may be ambiguous or confusing when applied to Asteraceae members (e.g. Perianth constitution). The feature Sepals or calyx lobes - number is not scored for Asteraceae at all. Skip features that do not make sense to you.

The features Flower - diameter, Flower - length, Corolla or perianth tube shape, Corolla tube formation, and Perianth tube formation, are scored for Asteraceae disc florets only, not ray florets.

The Asteraceae-specific features are not relevant to non-Asteraceae taxa and should be used only for Asteraceae members, even if the Best tool chooses one of them and your cut stem is not in the Asteraceae.

"Simplest" subset

Clicking on the show subsets icon will reveal the subset Simplest, which is a selection of features that may be easiest to determine. Choosing Simplest will show in Features Available only these features from all the Asteraceae and/or non-Asteraceae features (after choosing a state for the feature Asteraceae family determination).

Feature dependence

Several features in the non-Asteraceae interactive key only become available should you choose certain states. Two important instances are described below.

If your cut flower stem has leaves on it, you would choose leaves present in the feature Leaf presence. Four leaf features will then appear.

The feature Perianth constitution is an important one to address, first because it is a good discriminator among taxa, and secondly because depending on your state choice, several features will appear that concern tube formation and petal, sepal, or perianth segment number.

Morphological terms

Clarification on use of several terms in this key:

Cut stems

In the floral industry, the "stem" is the inflorescence unit. For example, a bunch of roses may consist of ten stems. In this key, the words "cut stem" and often "stem" are not botanical terms, but refer to that portion of the plant, after the flowering stem is cut by growers, that is marketed.

Perianth terms

The terms calyx, corolla, sepals, and petals are used here only if the calyx and corolla whorls are distinguishable (except for the Asteraceae; see below). A calyx whorl most often differs from the corolla in shape, size, or color. Flowers that are not resolvable into distinct calyx and corolla whorls are said in this key to have perianth parts, perianth segments, or a perianth whorl or whorls, or, as occurs in the monocots, two similar-looking whorls that are called tepals.

In the Asteraceae, there is no true calyx, but sometimes a modified calyx whorl called a pappus is present. The single floret whorl is called a corolla, regardless if there is a pappus or not.

Morphological determinations

You must make several other morphological determinations, in order to use some of the features:


Several of the features, such as Flower - symmetry, or Petals or corolla lobes - number (single flowers only), concern characteristics of flowers or flower parts. Be sure to use these features only when examining individual flowers, not heads or other inflorescence types. Some individual flowers may be very small.


Five features require you to use them only if you have "single" flowers (or a calyx in a single whorl). Single flowers have the normal, natural number of flower parts, while "double" flowers are those that have been bred to have more than the normal number, or extra whorls, of petals, corolla lobes, tepals, perianth segments, or petaloid sepals. Doubled flowers often do not have the normal number of stamens. Doubling does not mean twice the normal number. The five features apply only to single flowers because, for example, although the number of petals is normally a valuable morphological character, if the flower is double that number becomes meaningless.

Examples of double flowers

Single flower   Single Asteraceae head   Single flower

Single flower
(Gypsophila elegans)


Single Asteraceae head (Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer'


Single flower
(Delphinium hybrid)

Double flower with extra petals   Double Asteraceae head with extra ray florets   Double flower with extra petaloid sepals

Double flower with extra petals
(Gypsophila paniculata 'Million Stars')


Double Asteraceae head with extra ray florets
(Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherokee Sunset'


Double flower with extra petaloid sepals
(Delphinium hybrid)


Using the interactive key - best practice
Use illustrated feature notes

As you work through the list of Features Available, you may find some features or feature states that you do not understand. If so, review the feature page attached to each feature name. These pages contain explanatory notes, state illustrations, and recommendations for best use of the feature. In fact, it's a good idea to check the feature notes before using any feature the first time, and to become familiar with the notes for all the features. Note that the state illustrations are diagrammatic; a single drawing may represent a range in appearance for the state.

Tools you may need

A hand lens is often useful to see features such as finely toothed leaf margins. Some flowers are so small that a dissecting microscope would be required to see details such as stamens and style.

When one taxon remains

Because the flower taxa covered in Cut Flower Exports of Africa represent only a subset of all cut flower taxa (those exported by Africa), arriving at one taxon remaining does not necessarily mean that your cut stem is that one taxon. Rather it may indicate that your cut stem is similar to the taxon. You may then be able to continue your identification further by consulting references particular to that group.

Visit this Best Practices page for additional tips and strategies to optimize your identification experience.

For further assistance about how to use Lucid, consult Help from the Lucid interactive key matrix menu.


Fact Sheet content

The categories included in the fact sheets are listed below, along with explanations about their content.

Alternate trade names**

If a flower is known by its genus name in the cut flower trade, that name is not repeated here. The trade names given here are "alternate", because in most cases, the genus name is always or sometimes used. Any names listed are alternate names as used in this country, many of which are also used in other countries engaged in the cut flower trade.

Common names**

American common names are sometimes the same as the genus name or the alternate trade name(s), but often more and different common names are used, than are used in the trade.

Species cultivated**

Cultivation of cut flowers involves selective breeding and hybridization of natural species to produce named, patented cultivars. Mostly it is these cultivars that are grown for cut flower production, although naturally occurring species are also used. In some genera, such as Erica, most of the cut flowers are naturally occurring species. At the other extreme, hundreds of cultivars may be bred from just one species, as with Helianthus annuus. Sometimes a group of cultivars derived from a hybrid cross or group of hybrids is given a name, e.g., Dendranthema xgrandiflorum.

This category includes most or all of the species and hybrids within the genus that are used for cut flowers; the list is not restricted to species or hybrids that may be grown only in Africa. Sometimes comments about specific cultivars and series of cultivars are added. It was beyond the scope of this key to include the names of all the cut flower cultivars. "Possibly others" indicates a suspicion that the list may be incomplete.

Authorities are given for the species listed, although authorities are not supplied in much of the floricultural literature. The source for most of the authorities (those without a superscripted number) was The new Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. In fact, the species used for cut flowers are in many cases a subset of the species used horticulturally. Superscripted numbers following an authority designate the following: "1" refers to the Missouri Botanical Garden VAST nomenclatural database; "2" refers to the International Plant Names Index; and "3" refers to FloraBase. If no authority is shown, the species name is invalid but is nonetheless used in the trade.


Countries and regions are listed to give a general idea of the geographical origin of either species used for cut flowers within the genus, or the entire genus.

Brief characterization

This description uses selected characters to briefly characterize the entire genus, or only the cut flower species within the genus; it is not a complete diagnosis. The description does not contain all of the morphological data from the scored states in the interactive key, yet for some taxa, different and/or more specific characters are described.

The text describes flowers and inflorescences that are mature and opened, although cut flower stems are often shipped with some or all of the flowers unopened. Mention of the number of floral segments or parts, as in the number of petals or stamens, applies only to single flowers.

Cultivar and/or species variation

Whereas the Brief characterization category is restricted mostly to characters that are consistent within the genus or cultivars, this category describes the range of appearance shown in the characters that vary among the cultivars or species used for cut flowers within the genus.

May be confused with

Other similar-looking, often related flower genera that are key taxa are listed. The names listed are usually links to their fact sheets, or if they are common flowers, to their image pages. The flowers in this key may look similar to cut flowers not covered in the key.

Countries exporting**

African countries that currently or have in recent years exported the flower taxon are listed.


Images of the taxon are located to the right of the fact sheet text (usually just one image); more images are located beneath the text.

The images presented on most of the fact sheets illustrate two aspects of flower morphology; they show stem, inflorescence, and flower characters, including closeups of specific characters, and they illustrate the range of appearance of the different cultivars and/or species listed in Cultivar and/or species variation. It was not possible to achieve both these objectives for all the fact sheets, however, due to unavailability of specimens or images.

Many of the photographs depict cut stems, but in order to represent variation, some are images of cultivated or native plants growing outdoors or in pots. The specimens in the images are of various origins and are not necessarily from Africa.

In most cases, the images depict mature, open flowers and inflorescences, although often cut stems are shipped from growers with some or all flowers unopened.

The first image is usually one showing all or most of the cut stem, and can often serve as a reference to inflorescence or flower size, although stem lengths differ. Knowing the sizes of the specimens depicted is important, so in each fact sheet, there is at least one dimension or size range given in the text in either the Brief characterization and/or Cultivar and/or species variation categories. Additionally, some images in the key include a scale.

Note that colors vary among different monitors and browsers, so flower colors as seen in the images on a computer may not represent the actual colors.

In many of the image captions, the flower name is, e.g., Agapanthus sp. This "sp." designation, meaning species, is used because the specimen could not be identified with certainty beyond the genus level. It does not mean that the actual species or cultivar name is unknown.

*  The word "key" is often used in this tool to mean the entire tool (not just the interactive key), when it does not follow the word "interactive," The meaning should be clear from the context. Note that the menu choice Start key refers to the interactive key.

**  The lists of flower names in the categories Alternate trade names, Common names, and Species cultivated, and of countries in the category Countries exporting, may not be comprehensive.