This course is now fully booked.

This classroom-based course is for anyone who would like a relaxed introduction to the world of botany, and includes a combination of presentations and practical work.

We will look at the basic plant parts (roots, stems and leaves) and develop an understanding of their core functions, and how these can vary. An introduction to photosynthesis will be given, followed by a brief look at climate and soil types in Britain, and how these factors impact on plants. After a short break we will move on to floral structure, and participants will learn how to recognise the parts of a flower by carrying out a guided dissection. The process of pollination will be covered, and we will consider how choice of flower shape and colour influences the types of pollinators we attract to our gardens.  To round off the morning we will look at some of the plants growing at Mop End and relate what can be seen outside to what we have covered in the morning.

Following a lunch break we will investigate the anatomy of a range of fruits and seeds, with plenty of samples provided for dissection. We will look at the physiology of seed germination and examples of the biggest and smallest seeds in the plant world will be available to look at. The last session will be spent returning to flowers, and looking at the characteristics of a selected group of our most common plant families. We will have a good look at how flowers vary between families, with plenty of time to pull samples apart, using hand lenses and a dissecting microscope.

This is an informative, lively and informal course, with plenty of hands-on work and the opportunity for questions and discussions throughout.

Please bring a packed lunch with you.

Tutor: Karen Van Oostrum

Karen van Oostrum has a love of plants and the environment, underpinned by a solid understanding of plant adaptability, physiology and genetics. A Biology graduate of Oxford University with a Ph. D. in wheat genetics, Karen was Head of Education at Cambridge University Botanic Garden from 2006 – 2012 and has worked with people of many ages from diverse backgrounds. Karen now specialises in 2 key areas: running taster courses for adults in Botany, Microscopy, Genetics and Plant Breeding; and supporting the teaching of plant science in Primary Schools. She works part time at Shortenills Environmental Education Centre, is an active member of Prestwood Nature and knows the local area and its flora well.

Example Timetable

(Arrival from 9.30am for registration, tea and coffee)

10:00 – 10:10 - Welcome and Introductions, course outline, aims and objectives
10:10 – 11:10 - Leaves, stems and roots
11:10 – 11:30 - Plants in Britain – climate, flora, habitat and soils
11:30 – 11:45 - Break
11:45 – 12:30 - Flowers, pollination and fertilisation
12:30 – 13:00 - Plants at Mop End
13:00 – 13.45 - Lunch
13:45 – 14:30 - Fruits and seeds
14.30 – 15.45 - Flowers and their families
15:45 – 16:00 - Questions, resources, depart

What's Included

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

Before You Attend

What to bring

  • Notebook and pencil
  • Suitable outdoor clothing and footwear (this course is mostly indoors, with a little outdoor work)
  • Packed lunch
  • Optional if you have them: flowers field guide, hand lens x10 magnification

Recommended Reading

There are lots of good books available. None are required for this course, but if have them bring them along, and if you are looking to invest in something then any of these are worth considering:

  • Common Families of Flowering Plants M. Hickey and C. King, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
  • The Cambridge Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms M. Hickey and C. King, Cambridge University Press, 2010.
  • Kew Sheets
  • Collins Flower Guide D. Streeter, C. Hart-Davies, A. Hardcastle, F. Cole and L. Harper, HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.
  • The Wild Flower Key F. Rose, Warne Publishers, 2006.