Education Group

Education Group

The riches of the Herbaria. Photo by Geoff Moxon

We started our identification courses with a pilot basic course in 2002. Following on that success we have expanded our programme and hope to expand it more. We have found that there is a great demand for our special offering, a rigorous, scientific approach to species identification.

Some comments about previous years’ courses
  • “I was completely bowled over by the beauty and intricacy of nature; it changed my whole perception”
  • “Well-thought out and carefully planned; there was always a tutor around when needed”
  • “The course is great as it is; I cannot suggest any improvements!”
  • “To look back now and realise the breadth of information that has been passed during the course. Thank you for the excellent tuition”
  • “The tutors made the whole experience very enjoyable. The work was hard but the attitude happy and light-hearted”
  • “Thank you for an extremely enjoyable course. I have learnt a lot and it has given me a lot of confidence to practise my skills and develop my knowledge further”
  • “Being able to use Stace seems like a huge jump forward”
  • “I enjoyed the informality and the friendliness of the tutors”
  • “I can’t express how useful and informative the course has been. I loved the enthusiasm of all the tutors and I have learnt so much which is invaluable and interesting. Before the course I was seriously wondering whether I could give up 1/4 of my Saturday mornings for the summer but it has been well worth it! I looked forward to it each time.”

The basic course is open to all and our continuation courses are open to our alumni and those who have a similar level of experience. The majority of our courses are held near Oxford.

2020 courses

Basic Plant Identification Course

Saturday mornings from 10.00 until 1.00.
The dates are 4th April, 2nd May, 6th June, 4th July, 1st August, 5th September

The course aims to teach the function and use of a botanical dichotomous key, a knowledge of the technical terms used in keys and plant descriptions and a knowledge of some of the main families of vascular plants. The course will use a mixture of short lectures, and guided individual and group or paired practical sessions. Note that the emphasis is on identification rather than recognition.

We shall start, assuming no knowledge, with easier-to-identify families and we shall deal with more difficult families as the year progresses, including the grasses, the daisy, cabbage and carrot families.

The course book will be Stace, A New Flora of the British Isles, fourth edition, 2019.

Winter Twigs

Saturdays 14th December 2019 and 8th February 2020 10.00 am to 1.00 pm

John Poland has published a key to identification of Winter Twigs (The Field Key to Winter Twigs, published by the BSBI, 2018). We are offering a two-morning course on the use of this key. You will need the book and at least a x10 hand lens.


Saturdays 13th June and 11th July 10.00 am to 4.00 pm

We are repeating our grasses course, which is always in demand, and is now expanded to two days, including field sessions. We will use Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles to identify grasses using the floral structure and The Vegetative Key to the British Flora by Poland and Clement (BSBI) to identify grasses using vegetative characteristics. It is not necessary to buy Poland and Clement unless you want to. Bring your hand lenses. Indoors we will be using microscopes but in the field you may find a large-magnification (20x or 30x) lens useful.


Saturday 22nd August 10.00 am to 4.00 pm

This course will offer help with the whole of Asteraceae. It will be classroom-based to give intensive experience of fresh and dried specimens and to look at some of the problems and difficulties presented by this family. You will need Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles and your hand lens.


Date to be announced

We are hoping to arrange a repeat of our course on fungi in the autumn of 2020. Details cannot yet be finalised but will be forthcoming at a later date.

Contact us for information about this year’s courses.

We are always interested to hear suggestions for future courses so email us if you have a wish list.

Introduction to Wild Flower identification

Saturday 16th May 10.00 am to 1.00 pm

We are aware that there is a need for flower identification courses which are less challenging than our basic course. We are therefore offering a pilot course which we hope will address this need. It is intended to replace the bespoke courses in which we have visited sites of interest to the course participants. This course will be held indoors but there may be the option to visit your site at a later date. The set book for the course will be Harrap’s Wild Flowers by Simon Harrap, Bloomsbury Publishing and you will need a hand lens.

Our previous continuation courses:

  • Cyperaceae (Sedges) (five times)
  • Grasses (seven times)
  • Willows and Poplars (twice)
  • Chalk Grassland
  • Aquatics (three times)
  • Herbarium Skills
  • Digital Photography for Botanists
  • Ferns (four times)
  • Vegetative Identification (six times)
  • Asteraceae (Composites) (three times)
  • Charophytes
  • Conifers (twice)
  • How Plants Work (twice)
  • Woody Plant Families
  • Latin for Botany (five times)
  • Lichens
  • Botanical painting
  • Fungi (three times)
  • Apiaceae
  • Epilobiums
  • Polygonaceae
  • Herbarium Interactive (twice)