Wildflower Rummy



by Angie Tilaro

Angie is a former public school teacher. Her interest in plant identification grew during her four years as a sixth grade camp teacher. Her current interests include any outdoor sports and reading.

Instructional Objective To help learn Latin names, Genus/species, and descriptions of common wildflowers found in San Diego County.


Learners/Context High school or community college students in Botany or plant identification classes.


Rationale An excellent way to learn plant terminology is by repetitive exposure to the Latin and family names, reinforced by the visual image of flowers in that family. Card games are a fun and easy way to reinforce learning. This game does not take very long to play and can be played by only two players. A "rummy" card game is suitable for teaching classifications.


Rules The game can be played by 2-8 players, playing singly or with partners. For 5-8 players, two decks would be used. With only 2 players, each player receives 10 cards; with 3 or more players, each player receives 7 cards.

After being shuffled, cards are dealt one at a time. The remaining part of the deck becomes the "stack" (turned face-down). To start the discard pile, the top card of the stack is turned face-up next to the stack. As in Five Hundred Rum, when cards are played off onto the discard pile, they are laid down on top of each other in a running string so that all cards in the discard pile are visible.

A player may pick a card from the stack or may choose any card from the discard pile. As in Five Hundred Rum, if a player picks from the discard pile, all unused cards above that selected card become part of the player's hand.

Restriction In order to pick a card from the discard pile, that card must be used immediately. To accumulate points, each player lays down sets. Any player may lay down cards for other players' sets. All players keep their sets in front of their own area of the table. To lay down a set of cards, a player must have at least 3 of the 5 cards in that set. At any time, any player may "challenge" a set of cards laid down on the table.

There is no penalty for an incorrect challenge. A Master List of the deck would be used as a reference to verify challenges. If any card is incorrect (for example, the Description does not belong to the Common Name), the player loses that entire set of cards and those cards must be added to the discard pile. The player who loses the cards must draw an equal number of cards from the stack to put back into his hand. As soon as one player gets rid of all cards in his hand, that round is over and points are tallied.

Each player tallies his score according to the following:

* Cards laid down on the table are added to the player's score; cards remaining in the hand are subtracted from the player's score.

* Each Description or Location card is worth 2 points.

* Each Family Name, Genus/species, or Common Name card is worth 1 point.

* Any player who lays down an entire set (i.e., all 5 cards) earns a 2-point bonus.

The player to accumulate 100 points first is the winner.

Alternative Rules When first learning the wildflowers, to reduce the number of cards per set, the Description and Location cards could be removed. Instead of matching 3 out of 5 cards, players would have to match 2 out of 3 to lay down a set. Instead of having 10 different Families in one deck, the deck could be made up of 10 different wildflowers within one or two of the large Families (such as the Rose).

To make the learning more challenging for adults/high school students, once all the flowers are learned, several decks (e.g., 200+ cards) could be merged and a different game played. For instance, instead of Wildflower Rummy, a team of players could draw one of the cards and have to name all four of the other categories within one minute.


Card Design Each "set" consists of five cards: Family Name, Genus/species, Common Name (plus picture), Description, and Location. Each type of card could be a different color; or, since the Description and Location cards are higher in value than the other cards, they could each be a different color while the other three cards are the same color.

To allow for verifying challenges (see Rule #7) or separating decks or removing certain cards (see Alternative Rules #1 and #3), an identification number would be placed on the back of each card in extremely small print. This number would be placed in the middle of each card, oriented to the side, to discourage players from using the number to play the game.


Deck Design A deck of cards would consist of ten "sets" (50 cards). Each new deck of 50 cards would contain 10 different wildflowers. Since there are numerous wildflowers, the number of potential sets would be too large for a simple rummy game. Therefore, only the most basic wildflowers would be chosen for this game.


Design Process I tried to think of a topic with which I was familiar. I chose "wildflowers" because I like rummy-type games and because my classifications work with rummy. After looking at my plant collection, I decided on the five elements to include on the cards (Family, etc.). At first, my point system favored the Family Name and Genus/species. However, after playing a mock-up of the game, I discovered that Description and Location were the hardest categories, so they became the higher value cards.

Some type of numbering scheme was necessary to make it easier to verify Family groupings and to separate decks. (For instance, the first set would be numbered 1, 101, 201, 301, 401; the next would be 2, 102, 202, etc.) The big problem was deciding on placing the numbers on the cards. If the numbers were placed on the front of the card, the players would soon play by the numbers, so the number had to be placed on the back. I finally decided to turn the number sideways and put it in the middle of the back in extremely small print. That way, when a player held his cards, the only number visible to the other players would be his last card--not as likely to cause a problem.

The card design itself was quite easy. I decided to put the card category facing in all four directions so that the player could hold his cards and still see the information.

At first, I was excited about this game, but then I realized that the numerous wildflowers would make it too unwieldy for rummy. That's when I decided to limit each deck to only 10 plants. Also, since each card would be unique, development of an entire deck (or two or three) would be a tedious process.