Identification Services

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

Virtual Help Desk

Within our new normal, there are so many changes to the ways we go about our daily routines. One thing that hasn’t changed is our dedication to helping you with your gardening and landscaping questions, and that’s why we’re happy to share a new way for you to reach us through our Master Gardeners Virtual Help Desk

Simply email your questions to 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.

If you have a flock of backyard chickens or thinking about getting some, we can help! Submit you question to out help desk and our 4H technician can help find you an answer.

  1. Collecting a Sample
  2. Submitting a Sample

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.

Remember: with any samples that you submit, we would love to have photos along with the samples.