Dates are being revised due to Covid-19

This course is for anyone who wants to be able to name wild flowers correctly but knows how difficult this can be. It’s a buttercup, but which buttercup? A cranesbill, but which cranesbill? And as for those little white things, the yellow dandelion-like things, and so on… The answers can be found in the flora, generally used in conjunction with an illustrated field guide.

The plant kingdom is hugely varied and it can be very difficult and daunting to start to identify specimens, especially for families and species that you have never seen before. Most botanists and ecologists start out identifying plants by comparing their specimens to photographs or illustrations in books. This course is aimed at professional and amateur botanists that want to progress from picture book identification onto proper ‘Floras’. By using simple techniques and field guides we aim to identify a wide range of plant families and species, without being put off by the terminology found within Floras.

Starting with a revision of the basic botanical structures and terminology, we will then concentrate on the key features for a range of garden and wildflower families. Detailed study will be made of individual species and their particular characteristics and how they fit into their families. During this course you will have the opportunity to practice your plant identification skills using a range of identification resources, particularly Stace’s New Flora (3rd / 4th editions). A great part of the course will therefore be spent working through keys, which involves looking closely at the intricate and often amazingly beautiful structure of plants.

This course is a good progression for those who have experience of botanical identification but want to make their identifications more robust and reliable; equally it will suit the complete beginner who has little or no practical experience (other than picture recognition). A systematic, flora-based approach will lead to greater success, accuracy and confidence.


This is one of a series of courses (Units) run jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University contributing to the MSc Biological Recording and Ecological Monitoring and the Postgraduate Certificate in Biological Recording. To gain university credits you must be registered for the programme in advance of this course. For further details please contact:

Department of Natural Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University, (Shrewsbury Office). E-mail: [email protected]  Phone: 01743 355137

The Unit will be assessed through, for example, identification tests, survey reports, field journals, production of keys, essays or other forms of assessment.

The course is also suitable for non-credit students and for those enrolling on the new certificate course with FSC. For further details on this course please contact FSC Head Office at [email protected]

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.
A Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia)

Example Timetable

Please arrive at the Centre between 15:00pm and 17:00pm on the first day of your course in good time for a welcome introduction and evening meal usually 18.30pm, after which the course commences with a short evening session.

Mornings and evenings will generally be spent in the classroom studying plant specimens with the aid of the Centre’s equipment, especially books and microscopes. Site visits will take place in the afternoons. None of the visits will involve much walking but we will see a wide range of habitats from neutral grassland to moorland, limestone rocks and fen, in the beautiful setting of the Shropshire hills.

Thursday evening and Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning sessions will cover botanical terminology and the features of the largest and most important British plant families. This will be done with fresh specimens as far as possible, supplemented by illustrated talks and lectures.

On Friday, Saturday and Sunday there will be field visits during which participants will practice keying and identifying the plants found, working in small groups with help and advice from the tutor.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening sessions will be more focused on the use of keys, often using material collected during the day. Participants will be able to make their own key using a set of pressed specimens.

Monday morning will begin with the test that is a requirement for those taking the course for credits. Non-credit participants will also join in because the test is quite informal and they will be given help (and told the answers) as they wish.

The course will conclude with a final site visit. Credit-students will complete a second assignment at home.

Accrediting Agency

Manchester Metropolitan University

What's Included

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

Before You Attend

What to Bring
There will be some excursions out into the grounds of FSC Preston Montford, so we do advise you to bring warm, waterproof outdoor clothing with you as well as stout walking shoes or boots but most of the course takes place indoors.

  • Packed lunches are provided every day, so do please remember to bring a sandwich box and vacuum flask
  • Stout walking shoes or boots
  • Outdoor clothing suitable for all potential weather conditions
  • Sandwich box, vacuum flask / drinks container
  • Small rucksack or bag
  • Field notebook and pencil
  • Dissecting kit (scalpel and forceps) – if you have a set
  • x10 or x20 hand lens if you possess one*

Recommended Reading

    • New Flora of the British Isles by Stace (3rd ed. 2010 or 4th edition 2019).
    • Field Flora of the British Isles by Stace, 1999.
    • The Wild Flower Key. Rose, F. and O'Reilly, C. 2006.
    • Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland, by Blamey, Fitter & Fitter, 2003.
    • Common Families of Flowering Plants, by Hickey & King, 1997.
    • Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms. 2000. Hickey, M. and King, C.
    • Describing Flowers – A Guide to the structure of flowers and to their identification features. 1996. Bebbington, A. & Bebbington, J. FSC Fold-out Guide*
    • Illustrated Glossary of Botanical Terms. 2000. Hickey, M. and King, C.

* hand lens and some books may be available to purchase, provided you pre-order by contacting Preston Montford Field Centre before-hand.