Botanic Garden and Attenborough Arboretum

Introduction to Plant identification,

This course is intended for people who would like to begin or develop their plant identification skills. 

Classes take place in both the laboratory and the field, and involve hands-on experience with living plants. Microscopes are provided for lab sessions, but emphasis is on field identification. Discussion is encouraged throughout in order to help consolidate understanding of key concepts and terminology. As well as whole-class teaching, you will receive individual instruction and help.

The course begins with an overview of plants and the evolutionary relationships of the major groups. After this, the focus is on common species which are used to teach how to use the different types of identification key and to illustrate the diagnostic features of selected families, chosen to account for more than 85% of our native flora. The topic material is set in an evolutionary and ecological context, in order to help you develop an understanding of species relationships and habitat preferences.

The range of sites we visit on our nine field excursions provide you with all-important personal experience and practice.

Pre-requisites. None: come as you are!

Cost. £65 per class. Participants will gain the greatest skill and understanding in linking species with genera and families by attending the entire course. However, classes can be taken in any number and any combination. Discounts are available to anyone who books the whole course (£500) or to members of the Friends of the Garden or LRWT for individual classes (£60 per class).

Booking. Book online via the University Shop

Intended learning outcomes. By the end of all the classes, students should be able to:

  • be familiar with the 40 plant families which together account for c. 85% of the native species in our flora
  • identify important genera by sight and by the use of keys
  • identify at least 300 species by sight or key
  • prepare botanical specimens and make botanical records
  • know many of the plant species typical of a given habitat. 

Student work load. 9 x 5-hour classes. No compulsory homework but additional private study would make a huge difference in helping you develop and retain your ID skills.

Assessment scheme. None, although an optional lab and field-based exam held at the end of the course is under consideration.

Equipment. You will need:

  • a handlens for plant identification; x10 is fine for most purposes, and is an essential part of a botanist's kit, although a x20 lens can be handy sometimes, and some lenses now come with a built-in light which is useful. You can buy good quality lenses starting at around £5, via Amazon or Summerfield Books
  • at least one field guide to the British flora. Collins Flower Guide is well illustrated, has identification keys and is the most comprehensive of the books available. You may also find The Vegetative key to the British flora, 2nd ed. by J.Poland& E>Clement useful
  • clothing, footwear & refreshment suitable for outdoor study. 
 Class Date  10-12: AM  1-4: PM 
 1 Tues 22 March 2022 Introduction of plants Identification keys
 2 Thurs 31 March 2022  Lab  Lab 
 3 Thurs 7 April 2022  Lab  Excursion: Burbage Woods (woodland flora)
 4 Thurs 28 April 2022  Excursion: Croft Hill & Pasture (one of the most diverse sites in Leics.)  Excursion: Croft Hill & Pasture (one of the most diverse sites in Leics.)
 5 Thurs 5 May 2022  Excursion: Merry's Meadow (calcareous grassland) Excursion: Cribb's Meadow (calcareous grassland)
 6 Thurs 19 May 2022  Lab  Excursion: t.b.a. 
 7 Thurs 2 June 2022 Lab  Excursion: Claybrooke Marsh (ruderal flora)
 8 Thurs 16 June 2022  Excursion: Sutton Park (acid grassland) Excursion: Sutton Park (acid grassland)
 9 Thurs 30 June 2022  Excursion: Aylestone water meadows (aquatics & more!) Excursion: Aylestone water meadows (aquatics & more!)

Contact staff: Richard Gornall

Details of location and plant families and other groups highlighted in the course can be found in this printable pdf (924kb).

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