Identification Services

Collect and Submit Samples for Identification

Whether you've found spots on your gardenia or insects in your pantry, Identification Services can help!

Physical Samples

Learn how to best collect and submit physical plant and insect samples.

Collecting a Physical Sample

With any submitted physical samples, photos to accompany the samples is preferred.

General Tips for Collecting a Sample

  • Collect a fresh sample: Collect a sample on the day you are submitting it to our office or shipping it to our office. Don't leave samples in vehicles overnight. Intense heat or cold will destroy the sample. Place samples in bags.
  • Submit samples that are not in transition: Show symptoms of dying. Diagnosis is difficult to impossible with dead or dried plants.
  • Send in a sufficient sample: Whole plants, including roots, are more desirable than individual leaves or branches, whenever possible.
  • Submit a sample of the soil if possible: Keep soil off foliage by wrapping the root ball in plastic, aluminum foil, or submitting in a separate bag from the plant tissue.
  • Submit photos of the sample by emailing Chesterfield Cooperative Extension.

Trees and Shrubs

Collect a 12"-24" long branch with leaves attached. Samples should show transition from healthy to affected foliage.

For Weed/Plant Identification

A single leaf or grass blade is not sufficient. We would need a live and dead tissue sample if possible. This means we need good tissue next to the problem, going tissue that is undergoing the problem, and gone tissue that recently died. Include as many parts of the plant as possible, including:

  • Flowers
  • Fruits
  • Leaves
  • Plant
  • Roots
  • Twigs

Turf Samples

We would need a 4"x6" round disc or square of turf including a 2"-3" of root which shows transition from healthy to affected turf. Wrap the roots with aluminum foil to keep soil intact and prevent contaminating blades. and place in the appropriate size carton or shoebox.

Insect Identification

Include a dozen bugs, not just one, to ensure a good sample. Single specimens are not always complete. Insects are hard to identify when parts are missing. Larvae should be placed in 70% rubbing alcohol. Please have insect whole and not mushed. Must be in a bag or container. 

Foliage or Leaf

Please put foliage or leaves in a plastic bag or container, as this will help keep them fresh so we can identify them. Do not bring in paper bags, or dried or shriveled leaves. Boxwoods must be doubled bagged.

Virtual Samples - Master Gardeners Help Desk

Cooperative Extension is dedicated to helping you with your gardening and landscaping questions and provide a virtual option with the Master Gardeners Help Desk. 

Simply email your questions to Chesterfield Master Gardener Help Desk and we’ll assign a Master Gardener to assist you. If needed, you may attach photos or a short video to illustrate your question; review guidance on submitting your photo to the Plant Disease Clinic (PDF). Our Master Gardeners will respond either by calling (if you choose to provide a phone number) or by emailing you with our response.

Virtual Sample Guidelines

Although digital diagnosis is more difficult for disease samples than for insect or weed identification, we can often provide at least a preliminary diagnosis if we receive images of good quality. Smartphones generally take good images if you follow a few guidelines:

  • Submit only digital images that are clear and in focus. 
    • Images taken with smartphones will normally suffice. 
    • Image File Type: All images must be in GIF, JPG, PNG, or PDF. (GIF or JPG preferred.)
    • Image File Size: Please send images of a high enough quality, resolution and file size. Images that are approximately 2-5 MB and 1,000-2,000 pixels (width and height) are ideal.
  • Include three to seven well-focused images that show:
    • The pattern of the problem in the location (e.g. field, orchard, nursery, landscape, garden)
    • The overall symptoms on the whole plant
    • A close-up of the symptoms on an affected plant, including images of both leaf surfaces if there are symptoms on leaves
  • Try to avoid strong shadows on the sample; outdoor images taken on a cloudy day are best. When taking pictures indoors, try to illuminate the plant from both sides to eliminate shadows in the photo and place on a neutral background.
  • Please request new images from clients if the images are not of good quality and therefore not appropriate for diagnosing the problem.