Getting serious about identifying plants – an Identiplant course

Nine years ago, two MKNHS members, Mary Sarre and Mike LeRoy, signed up to do an online plant identification course called Identiplant. It was a serious attempt to get a grounding in identifying British flowering plants.

Identiplant has 15 study units, for which course notes were available to download every two weeks. These were an information note, with plenty of line-drawings and diagrams, and a question sheet. Each unit had course work which needed to be completed and returned. You sent this back to your tutor who then provided specific, useful and encouraging comments and suggestions.

The first few units were about: Naming and Classification of Plants, Terminology, and Learning how to use Keys. After that, most units focused on one of the larger flowering plant families. Participants had to find some of the species in the wild in order to complete the Unit’s question sheet. You can view sample Units and Question Sheets here:

If you would seriously like to get over the step to become more confident about how to identify the plants you see, Identiplant is well worth considering. But make sure you will have enough time to complete the course. Mary Sarre completed it :Phil has commented that she found it ‘stretching but well worthwhile’. Mike LeRoy reached just short of the last two Units because of unavoidable other commitments. They both found the course was of a high quality and very useful.

After a few years in which Identiplant had stopped running, it has been restarted and is now led by the BSBI (the Botanical Society of Britain & Ireland) and a team of tutors. Every year that Identiplant has been run, more people apply than they have capacity for. Applications for the 2024 course will open in December 2023, but you will need to move fast if you want to be considered for next year’s course. If you are interested, why not make a note to check in early December for the application form?

The BSBI says about Identiplant: “Do you want to learn to identify plants from Britain and Ireland correctly, confidently and accurately, to learn how to use a Flora and to follow a botanical key? Identiplant could be the answer. Created to take near beginners to an intermediate level, Identiplant is for those who want to get started with serious botany.”

There is a fee: in 2023 this was £300, which is very good value for the quality and quantity of information provided and the support of your tutor: it is far less than the cost of a holiday. BSBI say: “Non-professionals may be able to obtain a grant or bursary, especially if they are volunteers with an organisation that records or conserves wild plants. The BSBI and the Wild Flower Society both award grants annually; check availability and eligibility.”

The standard Identification book used for the Identiplant course is ‘The Wild Flower Key’ by Francis Rose, revised and updated by Clare O’Reilly, 2006.

You can find more information about the Identiplant course at:

Mike LeRoy
October 2023