Collect and Submit Samples for Identification
Whether you've found spots on your gardenia or insects in your pantry, Identification Services can help!
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:
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.
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.
Submitting a Physical Sample
View our how to submit samples video to lean more.
Where to Submit
Submit In-Person at the Cooperative Extension Office
Stop by our office with your sample please include problem diagnosis form for plants (PDF) or insects (PDF) with your sample. If possible, bring the sample directly to our office as it will be fresher and arrive in better condition for diagnosis.
We ask that you first to send in a picture of your plant/ID by emailing the virtual help desk. You must leave the sample with front desk and a lab specialist will look over your sample and inform you of their findings.
Submit by Mail
When mailing samples for insects, package your sample in a crush-proof container.
When sending your sample through the library, place it in a sealed, plastic Ziploc-type bag inside a brown paper grocery bag. Do not add any water to the sample. Staple your diagnosis form to the outside of the paper bag.
When mailing the sample for plants, do the following:
- Wrap the sample in a dry paper towel.
- Do not add any additional water.
- Place wrapped sample in a box with crumpled newspaper or similar material to stabilize the sample.
- Wrap root ball/soil separately from plant to avoid contamination of the plant tissue.
- Place your sample information/form in a separate, sealed plastic bag.
- Moisture from the sample can disintegrate paper and cause ink to run if packaged in direct contact with the plant tissue or soil.
Chesterfield County Cooperative Extension
P.O. Box 146
Chesterfield, VA 23832-0040
If mailing, mail early in the week to avoid sitting in the post office over the weekend. Use overnight services whenever possible.
Submit at a Library Drop-off
Include problem diagnosis form for plants (PDF) or insects (PDF) with your sample. Drop off at any Chesterfield County Public Library (CCPL) location.
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.