Identify trees, insects and plants

Do you have a question about your tree? Do you want to know what kind of plant is growing along your driveway? Are you concerned about what kind of insect has invaded your garden or your home? Follow the simple steps below to get an answer from Steve Okonek the Jackson & Trempealeau County Agricultural Educator.

Step 1. Take pictures. Use your camera phone if you have one.

  • I’m not a photographer. Tell me more.
    • Take LOTS of pictures. Err on the side of taking too many photos.  The more photos you send, the more likely I will see something that will lead to an accurate diagnosis.
  • Take a variety of pictures. These should include:
    • Landscape shots.  A landscape photo shows how your diseased plant/tree is situated in your yard relative to other plants/trees, buildings, driveways, sidewalks, etc.  This can often provide clues on environmental factors that may be contributing to the disease problem you are seeing.
    • Whole plant/tree shots. These photos will show the distribution of symptoms on the plant/tree.  Are the symptoms in just one area?  Are they scattered throughout the plant/tree?  Is the entire plant/tree affected?
    • Close up shots. Take pictures of affected leaves (both tops and bottoms), branches, roots, fruits or any other affected plant/tree part.  I need to look for symptoms (e.g., leaf spots, cankers, discolorations, growth distortions, etc.), as well as signs of pathogens (e.g., fungal sporulation) that can help me find out the problem.
    • Insects.  For insects please take multiple pictures of the whole insect – not smashed. I cannot identify smashed insects.
    • Take pictures of the top, bottom, side and legs of the insect. It helps if you put a size reference next to at least one shot of the insect. This could be a coin, ruler, or pencil.
    • Clear photos from farther away are better than blurry up-close photos since we can zoom in on our computer screens these days
    • Photos of damage to plants caused by the insect is helpful.
  • Take high quality pictures. This means:
    • High resolution photos. The higher the resolution, the better I will be able to increase the size of the picture and still see lots of detail.  The more detail I can see, the more likely I will be able to figure out what’s going on.
    • Crisp, non-fuzzy photos. If a picture is fuzzy, I won’t be able to see much or tell you much.

Step 2: Send your photos to the Agricultural Educator.

  • This is typically the easiest way to submit photos.  Use for emailing all questions and pictures.
  • Text message. If email is not an option for you, feel free to call or text me at (715) 538-5097.   

Step 3. Wait.  You can typically expect a response within 48 hours unless it is Friday. Then I will respond on Monday.

What can you expect from my answer?

  • The best diagnosis that I can provide. I have always maintained that looking at photos is not the best way to diagnose plant/tree diseases.  That said, I will provide you with my best interpretation of what may be happening to your plants/trees based on photos you provide.
  • The best identification that I can provide for the insect photos you send.
  • Management recommendations. Where possible, I will provide suggestions on how you can mitigate the problem you are seeing and prevent it from happening in the future.
  • Any follow-up you may need. My door (well, my email and phone at this point) is always open if you need additional help.

It is my commitment to provide you with the best possible service under our current circumstances.  Please do not hesitate to contact me at (715) 538-5097 or if you think I might be able to help you.


Be safe and stay healthy!