Due to Covid-19 we have had to cancel courses from March to 1st August, we hope you will find an event later in the year that you can attend.

Grasses are considered to be one of the more difficult plant families to identify and are often avoided in field survey and monitoring programs. Their flowers are small and difficult to observe accurately in the field. However, they form an important component of many plant communities and are critical for many surveys, including Phase 1 and NVC. This course aims to dispel the myth surrounding grass identification by demonstrating that most species can be easily identified by careful observation of just a few diagnostic characteristics on non-flowering plants.

Using simplified dichotomous keys we will visit a range of habitats where participants will become familiar with the diagnostic features needed to accurately identify most species encountered. Formal keys will be introduced in evening lab sessions together with additional species from coastal habitats, not available around the field centre. By the end of the course participants should be able to identify most of the common species of acidic, neutral and calcareous grassland and woodland, and some of those of disturbed and maritime habitats.

Tutor: Hilary Wallace

Hilary Wallace is a freelance botanist with a special interest in plant community classification. With 30 years experience of using the NVC, Hilary is a regular tutor on NVC and plant identification courses.

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.

Friday evening:
Lab session The importance of good grass identification skills
Basic anatomy of the vegetative grass

Saturday Field excursion
Stapeley Hill Upland/acidic habitats
Lab session Observation of material collected and preparation of herbarium specimens

Sunday Field excursion
Mottey Meadows Lowland/neutral grasslands
Lab session Observation of material collected and preparation of herbarium specimens

Monday Field excursion
Around the centre Woodlands and wetlands
Lab session Coastal species herbarium specimens
Observation of material collected and preparation of herbarium specimens

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

  • Warm and waterproof clothing, good walking boots (wellingtons optional– these can be hired from the Centre).
  • A hand lens for field identification (x 15 or x 20); these can be obtained from the Centre Shop.
  • Clip board/weather writer
  • Note book/paper (A3 or A4), Scotch Magic tape and plastic packets for creating reference collection of specimens
  • Sandwich box and vacuum flask plus a small rucksack or bag

Recommneded Reading


  • Hubbard, J.C.E. (1982). Grasses. A guide to their structure, identification and uses, and distribution in the British Isles. 3rd edition. Penguin Books


  • Poland, J. and Clement, E. (2009). The vegetative key to the British Flora. BSBI.
  • Rose, F. (1989). Colour identification guide to the grasses, sedges, rushes and ferns of the British Isles and north-western Europe. Penguin, Viking.
  • Stace (2005). Field flora of the British Isles. CUP.

FSC Foldout Chart. Plant identification for Phase 1 habitat survey: grassland and marsh. Wallace and Duffell (2016)