Keys to Nature
Welcome to the Keys to Nature Project!
  • This project will provide you with modern tools to identify plants, animals, and fungi in the Chicago Region.

  • It will also make it easy for you to share your knowledge of how to identify regional plants, animals, or fungi.
Keys to Nature Image
Our "keys" are electronic tools that guide you through a series of questions to help you identify a plant, animal, or fungus growing in the Chicago Region. At each step in the key, you will select one of two or three choices. Your choice will then lead you to another step, with more choices, and eventually to pictures and other information about a species or small group of species. At each step, text and images show characteristics that distinguish one set of species from another.

Click here for more information about how keys work.

Below is the list of our web-based identification keys for regional organisms. Try them out, and send your feedback to the authors. Please email us at if you have any questions. Please keep in mind that we are still in a test phase of the project, and some of the keys below are preliminary or incomplete.

If you have good photographs of species or characters for a particular group in one of these keys and are willing to share them, please contact the authors by the email address(es) given in their key.

If you are familiar with particular groups of plants or animals in the regions, please consider authoring your own keys to share with others. Click here to learn how. Thanks!

The keys now available for use and testing:

Ceanothus, Physocarpus, and Ribes Image
Ceanothus, Physocarpus, and Ribes (The New Jersey Tea, Ninebark, and Currant/Gooseberry genera)
Anacardiaceae Image
Anacardiaceae (The Cashew Family)
Araceae Image
Araceae (The Arum Family)
Eupatorium Image
Eupatorium (The Boneset Genus)
Onagraceae Image
Onagraceae (The Evening Primrose Family)
Trillium Image
Trillium (The Trillium Genus)