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.

2019 courses

Basic Plant Identification Course

Saturday mornings from 10.00 until 1.00.
The dates are 6th April, 4th May, 1st June, 6th July, 3rd August, 7th 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, third edition, 2010.

Latin for Botany

23rd March, 10.00 am to 4.00 pm

Prof Stephen Harris, Druce Curator of the University Herbaria will come back to repeat his very successful course. He will look at the ways in which scientific names of plants can give clues to their origins or identification. Classification and nomenclature will be explained and the structure of botanical words examined. No set books are needed for this course but you may be interested to look at Plant Names Simplified, Johnson and Smith, Landsmans Bookshop and/or The Names of Plants, D Gledhill, Cambridge.


Saturdays 18th May and 29th June 10.00 am to 1.00 pm

This two-session course is being held for the fourth time. Its aim is to identify aquatic plants in the classroom and gain some insight into the ways in which they are adapted to their environment. The book used for this course in addition to Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles, is British Water Plants, Sylvia Haslam, Charles Sinker and Pat Wolseley, FSC. Microscopes will be used and hand lenses will be essential.


Saturday 13th July from 10.00 until 4.00

This course offers help with the whole of Cyperaceae, including sedges. 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 (3rd edition, 2010) and your hand lens. You might also consider buying the BSBI Handbook Sedges and/or Francis Rose Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns.

Herbarium Interactive

Saturday 9th November, 10.00 am to 4.00 pm
Prof Stephen Harris, Druce Curator of the University Herbaria, will show how a Herbarium is used and course participants will have the opportunity to use specimens from the Oxford Herbaria to make identifications of other dried material. You will need Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles (3rd edition, 2010) and your hand lens.


Date to be announced

We hope that Caroline Jackson-Houlston, a committee member of the Oxfordshire Fungus Survey will again lead her Introductory Fungus Identification Course. The topics she hopes to cover will be: parts of a fungus and simple terminology, different types of fungus, macro identification features, spore prints, use of a book to aid identification, some features of fungal ecology.

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.

Bespoke courses

We are now offering bespoke courses of two kinds. The first type is tailored to the particular habitat and also to the participants. The second type is one of our standard continuation courses but to a private group. If you have a plant ID need which you think we might be able to help with do get in touch by contacting us or phoning 01865 863660.

Our previous continuation courses:

  • Cyperaceae (Sedges) (four times)
  • Grasses (seven times)
  • Willows and Poplars (twice)
  • Chalk Grassland
  • Aquatics (twice)
  • 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 (four times)
  • Lichens
  • Botanical painting
  • Fungi (three times)
  • Apiaceae
  • Epilobiums
  • Polygonaceae
  • Epilobiums
  • Herbarium Interactive