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”

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.

2018 courses

Basic Plant Identification Course

Saturday mornings from 10.00 until 1.00.
The dates are 7th April, 5th May, 2nd June, 7th July, 4th August, 1st 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.

Vegetative Identification

Saturday 17th March from 10.00 until 4.00

The publication of The Vegetative Key of the British Flora by Poland and Clement started a new era in UK plant identification and it will be the set book for this course. The course will concentrate on the vegetative characters of plants as a route to their identification. We strongly recommend that you obtain a ×30 hand lens with a large field of view and will give a clear image of some of the characters you will need to observe.


Saturdays 16th June and 14th 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 15th September from 10.00 until 4.00

John Edgington will be joining the Education Group team for this course, following his previous three popular fern courses. The course will cover horsetails as well as ferns. The set book will be Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles (3rd edition, 2010).


Saturday 27th October from 10.00 until 4.00

Caroline Jackson-Houlston, a committee member of the Oxfordshire Fungus Survey will lead this 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 (six times)
  • Willows and Poplars (twice)
  • Chalk Grassland
  • Aquatics (twice)
  • Herbarium Skills
  • Digital Photography for Botanists
  • Ferns (three times)
  • Vegetative Identification (five times)
  • Asteraceae (Composites) (three times)
  • Charophytes
  • Conifers (twice)
  • How Plants Work (twice)
  • Woody Plant Families
  • Latin for Botany (four times)
  • Lichens
  • Botanical painting
  • Fungi (twice)
  • Apiaceae
  • Epilobiums
  • Polygonaceae
  • Epilobiums
  • Herbarium Interactive