This course is fully booked.

Most of us know which tree is which in summer, but how about learning to do it in winter? Without their leaves and flowers, identifying deciduous trees in winter can be very challenging, but once you understand what to look for, it all becomes quite accessible. Course fee includes FSC AIDGAP: A guide to the identification of deciduous broad-leaved trees and shrubs in winter. If all the winter trees look the same to you, then come on this course, where we will look closely at features of buds and twigs, using a hand lens, in order to identify the more common species, even when they are winter-bare.

We will be working from the FSC’s own Winter Trees guide, a copy of which will be provided, and which is yours to keep (RRP £8.50). This is a practical, hands-on course which is suitable for complete beginners: dress warmly, as we will be working outside for part of the day, no matter what the weather!

As well as learning the more formal side of tree identification, we will learn, in passing, what is meant by chambered pith, how to find surprising clues on the ground, and how to Do It Like Sherlock.

Course objectives:

By the end of the day, delegates will be able to immediately recognise the leaf arrangements of winter-bare trees, will understand how to use a hand lens, and how to combine these skills to identify common broadleaf trees. Delegates will have a clear understanding of how to use a simple Botanical Key, and will be able to use the Winter Trees guide with confidence. In addition, you will have learned about the various clues which help with identification, and will be familiar with the MASHED and CHOKE acronyms which help to speed up the process. You will have learned how a Crib (Table of Differences) works, and how to create your own, which you can then use to make identification quicker, easier and more fun! Delegates will also understand the benefits and limitations of using various reference materials, and the importance of personalising your own reference books; and hopefully will have learned that Botany is not a hard science, and that although plants and trees “usually” fit their description, there are times when they may vary, so we will also have learned what to do when a tree defies identification. In addition, delegates will have been introduced to botanical nomenclature (“Latin Is Not Your Enemy”), which is more fun than it sounds.

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, .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!

Example Timetable

09.30 Registration
10.00 Welcome, health and safety and introduction
10.15 Morning session
13.00 Lunch
13.30 Afternoon session
15.50 Taking your interest further and course reviews
16.00 Course finishes

All timings are approximate. This is an outline programme and may be subject to change according to the weather, requirements of the group or access restrictions to field sites on the day of the course. Our courses include some classroom sessions but field visits may be a few hours long and involve walking over uneven ground.

What's Included

  • Expert Tuition
  • Full Board Accommodation
  • Hot and Cold Drinks

Before You Attend

What to bring

  • Sensible clothing for the weather
  • Appropriate footwear
  • Lunch and Drinks (refreshments are provided)


  • A hand lens
  • Tree ID guide(s)