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.”
  • “Most of all, I’ve enjoyed learning from great teachers and with a very pleasant group of people.”
  • “I liked the hands-on identification of specimens.”
  • “It has been superb.”
  • “The course content was very good; it covered how to use the Stace key for a wide variety of plants and the direction given by all the trainers was excellent. The information about books each week was interesting and useful. The handouts were invaluable as there is a lot of technical language and the handouts highlighted the main vocabulary of each week.”
  • “The tutors – so lively, patient and entertaining.”
  • “I liked seeing how beautiful some of the tiny details are.”

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.

2023 courses

Basic Plant Identification Course

Saturday mornings from 10.00 until 1.00.
The dates are 1st April, 6th May, 3rd June, 1st July, 5th August, 2nd 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.


Saturdays 17th June and 15th 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.

Vegetative Identification

Saturday 18th March 10.00 am to 4.00 pm

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 (see under ‘Equipment’). These lenses have a large field of view and give a clear image of some of the characters you will need to observe.

Rushes and Lookalikes

Saturday 10th June 10.00 am to 1.00 pm

New this year, this course will look at the identification of the members of the Juncaceae and some plants which resemble them. The set book will be Stace’s New Flora of the British Isles (4th edition, 2019). Bring your hand lenses. We will be using microscopes and you will also find a large-magnification (20x or 30x) lens useful.

Our previous continuation courses:

  • Cyperaceae (Sedges) (six times)
  • Grasses (eight 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) (four times)
  • Charophytes
  • Conifers (twice)
  • How Plants Work (twice)
  • Woody Plant Families
  • Latin for Botany (five times)
  • Lichens
  • Botanical painting
  • Fungi (four times)
  • Apiaceae
  • Epilobiums
  • Polygonaceae
  • Herbarium Interactive (twice)
  • Winter Twigs
  • Introduction to Wild Flower identification