Despite having only three conifer species which are native to the British Isles we are fortunate to have a rich flora of exotic species from all over the world which have been introduced for use in forestry and horticulture. The Conwy Valley and surrounding areas are rich in conifer species, providing one of the best venues for learning to identify this sometimes tricky group of plants.

This course introduces the skills needed to identify the conifers which are commonly found in the British Isles; both in the forest environment and in parks and gardens. Over the weekend we will use classroom sessions to introduce key features of conifers which are crucial for successful identification, and then apply that knowledge and skills in the field. By the end of the course you will be able to identify the common conifers to species level with confidence.

Course objectives

  • See a large number of conifer species in the field and develop field identification skills.
  • Gain a greater understanding of the diverse coniferous tree species (both native and non-native) in the UK.

Tutor: Matt Parratt

Matt Parratt is a qualified biologist and has worked as a research scientist for the Forestry Commission for 18 years. During that time he has worked extensively on tree and shrub seed and seedling biology and ecology. His work on the conservation of rare and endangered trees from around the world has taken him as far afield as Vietnam where he worked on endangered endemic conifers in association with the UK National Pinetum at Bedgebury and Fauna and Flora International. He is an Associate Tutor for the FSC, as well as running other identification courses throughout the year.

Example Timetable

Course participants are requested to arrive on the first day at our reception for registration from 4.00 - 5.15pm. An introductory talk to the Centre is at 5.45pm. Dinner is at 6pm, followed by an introduction to your course. Departure is at about 4.00 pm on the final day.


4.00-5.15pm: Course Registration
5.45 pm: Centre Introduction
6.00 pm:  Dinner
After dinner there will be an illustrated talk introducing participants to the course, the biology of conifers and their history in the British Isles.


This will largely be a classroom-based day during which we will introduce the key features used in conifer identification. Using a wide range of specimens we will also introduce and get to grips with the botanical terminology used in identification keys. Through the day you will see examples of all UK conifer genera and many of the common species.
Weather permitting, we may also be able to make a short field trip to a nearby woodland.
During the evening there will be time to practise the skills gained during the day ready for a day in the field on Sunday. We will also look at the range of identification guides and keys available, and discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of each.


Today we will focus on consolidating your conifer ID skills with field visits to contrasting woodland sites. This will also be an opportunity to look at features such as bark and form which are not easily covered in classroom sessions.
Course ends at about 4.00 pm.

What's Included

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

Before You Attend

What to bring

  • Warm clothing is essential.
  • Hat
  • Waterproof jacket and waterproof trousers (can be borrowed from the Centre).
  • Outdoor footwear (walking boots and wellies can be borrowed from the Centre).
  • Day rucksack, warm hat and gloves (can be borrowed from the Centre).
  • Insect repellent if midges are a problem.
  • A torch, water bottle, thermos flask and lunch box.

Handouts and keys will be provided, but please do bring along your favourite tree ID guides.  A x10 hand lens will be very useful if you have one, but they will be available to borrow from the centre if not.

Sorry this course has ended