This practical, beginner course will explain how Botanical (Dichotomous) Keys work, how to find your way around them, and will guide you through their use and application – and their limitations.

“Keying out” is a daunting but essential skill for anyone interested in botany. Learning to name the species you find is an important step in understanding the environment around you.

The course will start in a clear and simple way, with an explanation of the principles behind a key, then some practical work using the Field Studies Council fold-out Tree Name Trail. It will be a gentle introduction to the world of botanical keys. Once everyone is feeling confident, we will move on to more in-depth botanical keys, working mainly from The Vegetative Key to the British Flora, and The Wildflower Key. You will learn the ID essentials and then work your way steadily through some different samples, appreciating the benefits and limitations of the key as you go.

Working in partnership with The Royal Parks, London to deliver education Bushy Park is located just north of Hampton Court Palace in Richmond upon Thames

PLEASE NOTE: there are no accommodation, lunch and or evening meal facilities at London: Bushy Park.

If you have ever struggled with a Botanical Key, this is the course for you!

Who Should Attend?

Nature enthusiasts, Students, Early career ecologists, Citizen scientists, Volunteer surveyors.

Knowledge Level

Beginner. Level descriptors can be found on the following webpage: Framework and Course Level Descriptors

Prior Knowledge

Prior knowledge of botanical terminology is useful but not essential.

Course Requirements

As part of this course, you will need to purchase the Field Studies Council publication – Tree Name Trail before you attend, as you will be using this throughout the course. This is a great tool to use both during and once you have completed the course allowing you to continue exploring and understanding this subject.
Purchase your copy here:

What will be covered during this course?

    • Introduction to Dichotomous Key
    • Importance of using scientific/Latin plant names
    • How a Crib/Table of Differences works, and how they can help us to identify plants and trees
    • Limitations and benefits of using reference materials, and the importance of personalising your own reference books.

By the end of the course, you will be able to:

    • Comfortably use a simple one such as the Tree Trail fold-out
    • Approach a proper Key with some confidence
    • Identify the importance of using scientific/Latin plant names
    • Use a Crib/Table of Differences works
    • Identify plants and trees using their description
    • Define the limitations and benefits of using reference materials
    • Identify familiar trees and plants and some unfamiliar species

The course gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a new subject and acquire novel skills. Our fantastic tutor will combine the use of classroom-led learning and outside learning opportunities to give individuals the skills and confidence to progress their learning.

    • See the ‘Example Timetable’ and ‘What’s Included’ sections below for more information about this course.
    • Upon booking you will need to provide individual details of all attendees
    • Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.

Group Bookings Made Easy

If you have a group of 10 or more individuals wanting to complete one of our courses, our team are available to discuss your options – from discounts to private team courses.

    • Discounted rates
    • Privately run courses for your group
    • Bespoke courses developed specifically for your needs

Click here for more information!

If we are unable reach viable numbers for this course, we will inform you of the course cancellation 14 days prior to the course run. We would recommend when purchasing accommodation and/or travel you should take out your own insurance.

Tutor: Rachel Cassidy

Rachel Cassidy is a Professional Gardener, Plantsmith, Field Botanist, Consultant Forensic Horticulturalist, gardening Journalist, and Author, having published over two dozen Botany and Gardening books, including introductions to identifying Conifers and Broadleaved Trees. In addition, she writes regularly about gardening on her website, 

With a style that has been variously described as “chatty and informal” and “appropriately bossy”, Rachel makes it her mission to demystify botany for beginners and improvers, aiming to simplify without dumbing down. 

Trees have been her passion for many years, and she loves to pass on her knowledge and enthusiasm for these gentle giants of the landscape! 

Book with Confidence

We understand the difficulties of making plans in the current situation when guidelines continue to change, and insurance conditions are being tightened. In response, we will continue to offer additional flexibility. Find out more here

Example Timetable

Example Timetable

This timetable is subject to change but should give a clear outline of what to expect

  • Please arrive in time for the course to start promptly at 9:30 am
  • The course will end at 4:00 pm.
9:00amArrive at Bushy Park Centre for registration, H&S lecture
9:30amTutor introduction, the fun begins: essential ID skills
10:30amBreak – refreshments not provided 
10:45amHow to key, with practical examples in the classroom
12:30pmLunch – not provided
1:00pmLatin is not your enemy! Short interactive lecture
1:30pmField trip to Bushy Park
3:30pmReturn to classroom, summary and final questions

Please note accommodation, refreshments and an evening meal are not included.

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition

The course has been carefully created by expert tutors and educators to help you build your knowledge and apply it within the field surrounded by like-minded individuals.

The course includes:

  • Classroom learning covering the theory of the species
  • Field excursions to apply new knowledge
  • Expert tuition for which the Field Studies Council is renowned

You can rest assured that the absolute best content from an expert in environmental education will be provided. In choosing a Field Studies Council course, you will be joining thousands of people who learn with us each year.

Before You Attend

Course Requirement

This course requires you to purchase an FSC publication – Tree Name Trail

Please ensure you have this before you attend the course.

What to bring:

  • Notepad and pencil
  • Lunch and refreshments
  • Sensible footwear and clothing for being outdoors

If you have them:

  • Hand lens
  • Your own reference book(s)

There will be a member of staff with first aid training and access to a first aid kit on site. If you have special medical or access requirements, please let us know as soon as possible so we can plan the course.

Working in partnership with The Royal Parks, London to deliver education in Bushy Park, Greenwich Park and The Regent’s Park. Bushy park is located just north of Hampton Court Palace in Richmond upon Thames