How To Use The Key

The interactive key was designed using Lucid3 software and is quite different from traditional dichotomous keys. The user is recommended to consult the Best Practices on occasion to pick up new tips and tricks for using the interactive key.

Dried Botanical Identification Tool is best viewed using the Mozilla Firefox web browser.


There are two options available for using the key: the key server or the java applet. Please consult the System Requirements page for full details on these two options.

Note also that web pages such as fact sheets attached to items in Lucid3 keys may be considered pop-ups by certain browsers (such as Internet Explorer) when clicked on by users. If your browser blocks these pop-ups, you should allow pop-ups for this Lucid tool in your browser's Internet settings. Additionally, Internet Explorer may block "active content" on web pages or interactive keys. To allow active content in Internet Explorer, under Tools, Internet Options, Advanced tab, Security category, the box next to the setting "Allow active content to run in files on My Computer" should be checked. Additionally, certain settings under Tools, Internet Options, Security, Custom level, ActiveX controls and plug-ins, may need to be changed.

Screen Windows

A Lucid key has four panels.

  • The upper left window Features Available lists the identification features and feature states to choose from.
  • The upper right window Entities Remaining lists the available taxa.
  • The lower left window Features Chosen lists which feature states are currently selected.
  • The lower right window Entities Discarded lists the taxa that have been discarded based on the selected features.
  • Features Available

    Since most dried botanicals are highly modified (ie dyed, sliced, scented, or modified in some other way), the features available in this key focus on attributes such as shape, size, and texture. One very helpful feature is the Plant Part feature. If you can tell what plant part you have, you will significantly reduce the number of Entities Remaining if you select the appropriate state. Note that there is a state for things that are so highly modified as to be unrecognizable. This is a useful state, but should be used fairly judiciously to avoid discarding the appropriate entity.

    This key includes a number of feature pages. It is highly recommended that you use these pages to ensure that you are using the features as they were intended to be used.

    Navigating the Key

    Due to the nature of dried botanicals, this key is quite different from most other Lucid keys. If you have used Lucid keys before, you will find this key may require more trial and error than other keys. Because of the variability and degree of modification of the material, you may have to play around with the key until you figure out how it works. Please, feel free to contact the corresponding author if you have any suggestions for improving this tool.

    All entities and some feature states are illustrated with drawings and/or photographs. The entity images are intended to be as useful as the features and states themselves in helping to reach an identification for a specimen. In most cases, you will only be able to get down to 5-10 entities using the key itself. Once you get down to a manageable number of entities (perhaps 5-15 entities), you should be able to rely on the images to reach an identification for the specimen. Clicking on the image thumbnail (or image icon if thumbnails are not displayed) brings up a larger size image and gives the user access to the full image gallery for the feature state or entity, if available. All entities are also linked to HTML pages containing fact sheets for the taxon. Clicking the small grey page icon next to the entity thumbnail will open the fact sheet in a new browser window. Note that the fact sheets include information for all dried botanical products from a particular taxon, so the fact sheet images may not all match your particular specimen.

    Lucid screen shot

    Because this key is image based, you may find it helpful to view the entities panel in the image mode rather than the trees or lists modes. This way, you can view all images within the key at the same time, and so have a better chance of seeing an image that resembles your specimen.

    In the key itself, common language terms are used to help support use of the key by inexperienced individuals. However, in order to maximize their value and validity, some specialized botanical terminology appears in the fact sheets. A glossary with links from the fact sheets is provided to assist the user in understanding such terms.

    Multiple states of a feature may be selected. For instance, if a specimen has a surface texture that is both wrinkled and fuzzy, both states may be chosen. If unsure of the correct state, it is often better to try a different feature before selecting a state you are unsure about. For more hints on navigating the key, see the Best Practices page.