Even experienced botanists tend to ignore and avoid Conifers, but what can seem like an initially challenging group can be broken down and identified. By a range of practical workshops and lectures and field visits, you will build confidence to accurately identify Conifers. By the end of the course you should be able to identify in the field and laboratory a range of the major genera of conifers, and have had practice looking for appropriate characters to confirm the species. Key identification features for genera and species will be taught, using a range of handouts, keys and visual presentations. Identification will focus on foliage and cones for the different groups within conifers (characters suited to both adult and juvenile material). We will look at some of the trickier species within the genera e.g. Abies, Picea, Pinus A special focus will be made of the ‘Leylandii’ types including Chamaecyparis, Cupressus and Thuja). Recent taxonomic changes and how these have affected current naming of Conifers will also be discussed.

The resources available to the surveyor will also be discussed, from identification guides and books, through to keys for conifers as a whole and for individual genera. Use will also be made of the excellent FSC Conifer Identikit. Please feel free to bring along any specimen that you would like help with identifying.

Tutor: Mark Duffell

Mark Duffell has had a lifetime interest in plants, gaining the RHS Diploma in Horticulture and completing an MSc in Biological Recording. He now runs Arvensis Ecology, splitting his time between conducting botanical surveys and teaching botanical identification and survey techniques to undergraduate and postgraduate students, consultancies and environmental organisations.
Casting lights on the dark art of practical conifer identification

Example Timetable

19:30 - Introduction to Conifers

09:30 - Vegetative features
13:00 - 14:00pm Lunch
14:00 - 16:00pm Field visit to Nesscliffe Woods
16:00 - 16:30pm Break
16:30 - 18:00pm Lab session (cones and other material)
18:00 - 19:30pm Break and then into evening meal
19:30 - 21:00pm Lab session.

09:30 - Visit to the Royal Forestry Society ‘Leighton Redwoods’
15:00 - Leave Leighton Redwoods and return to Preston Montford.
16:00pm - Course finishes.

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Full Board Accommodation
  • Hot and Cold Drinks
  • In Course Transport

Before You Attend

What to Bring

  • You should bring a x 20 hand lens (or at the very least a good quality x10 lens).
  • As you will be taking notes in the field, a weather-proof notebook or Weatherwriter is required and some sample bags (Ziplock freezer bags) are useful.
  • If you have a copy of Stace’s Field Guide this will be very useful although there may be some to borrow for the duration of the course.
  • A sandwich box, flask and/or water bottle and a bag to carry your kit.
  • Outdoor gear (stout boots, waterproofs and warm clothing)
  • Please bring along any Identification guides you regularly use.

If you have a copy please bring along: The New Flora of the British Isles. 2010. Stace, C.A. (3rd edition) or 2019 (4th edition).

Recommended Reading

  • Johnson, O. & More, D. 2006. Collins Tree Guide. Collins, London.
  • Rich T & Jermy A.C. 1998. Plant Crib 1998. Botanical Society of the British Isles (BSBI)
  • Stace, C.E. 2010. (3rd Edition). The New Flora of the British Isles. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Stace, C.E. 2019. (4th Edition). The New Flora of the British Isles.

*Copies of handlens may be available to purchase on the day, provided you pre-order by contacting FSC Preston Montford beforehand.