This course is for anyone with a recent or renewed interest in wild flowers, who would like to learn how to identify them correctly. By close examination and gaining an understanding of the floral structure of the major flower families that make up over three quarters of our British flora, you will gain huge strides forward in your confidence and competence as a budding field botanist. For those who begin to take more than a passing interest in our wild flowers, the seemingly infinite variety of colours and designs soon becomes an overwhelming obstacle. That original romantic attraction, for those who face the challenge, often turns into an irresistible, absorbing, life-long enthusiasm.

However, the many problems of recognising and naming plants, from the insignificant pearlworts to the flamboyant orchids, may still remain insurmountable for some time. This course is suitable for beginners; no previous knowledge will be assumed. Visits to local nature reserves and other flower-rich sites each day will be complemented by identification sessions in the evenings.

This will be a practical course with ample opportunity to study and identify plants in the field, based first on their family characteristics. The countryside around Flatford harbours a rich selection of habitats and, as a consequence, a wealth of plants. Wet weather will not stop play though we may spend more time working inside. Plenty of guidance will be available where required in analysing floral structure. Participants will be encouraged to make use of the low power microscope, not just as an aid to identification but in order to wonder and enquire at the intricacy of floral design.

Some learning objectives for this course include:

1. List the different divisions within the plant kingdom and differentiate flowering plants from all others.
2. Describe plant anatomy with botanical terms by using a specimen to examine key features of a flower and vegetative parts of a plant.
3. Explain the difference between monocots and dicots.
4. Identify different types of ovary by looking at them in more detail and describing them: inferior (epigynous) and superior (hypogynous and perigynous).
5. List the top 20 families of flowering plants in Britain through group discussion, and differentiate them from each other by distinguishing between key features.
6. Apply skills learned by looking closely at plant features in the field and in the classroom to distinguish important features for the top 20 families.
7. Increase confidence in using botanical keys (which refer to anatomical features covered in the classroom sessions of this course) by practicing species identification in the field using ‘The Wild Flower Key (revised edition)’ by Francis Rose revised and updated by Clare O’Reilly.

This course contributes to Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements and a Certificate of Attendance can be provided on request.

Tutor: Alanna Cooper

Alanna Cooper is a botanist and is principal ecologist at a local environmental and engineering consultancy. She has experience of botanical survey work and habitat management in both Canada and the UK for a diverse variety of habitats. She is actively involved in the Wildflower Society and BSBI and is convenor for the CIEEM East of England committee.

With the generous support of the Suffolk Biodiversity and Information Service, along with the Suffolk Naturalists Society, we are able to provide bursary funding for this course for those students who meet the criteria. For more information please go to Bursaries for Natural History Courses.


Bring a friend!

If you are attending a course at Flatford Mill at the sole occupancy price, we are offering a special rate for a friend or partner not enrolled on the course to also stay at £50 per night for dinner, bed and breakfast.

Please contact FSC Flatford Mill on 01206 297110 or [email protected] to book this offer


What's Included

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

Before You Attend

What to Bring

  • Hand lens (minimum x10 magnification), can also be purchased from the tutor at cost.
  • Outdoor gear for the field visits, including stout shoes or boots, waterproofs and wellies (just in case, but these may be hired from the centre), a small rucksack or bag, insect repellent, a lunchbox, flask.
  • There will be a lot of standing around outside keying out specimens. If you have a portable fold out chair/garden kneeling mat you would like to use (you will have to carry it yourself) please bring it along; fold out chairs can also be hired at the centre.
  • Less essential but handy: a dissection kit with good fine-nosed tweezers.

Recommended Reading 

We will be using ‘The Wild Flower Key (revised edition)’ by Francis Rose revised and updated by Clare O’Reilly, so please bring your copy if you own one. There will be copies available to borrow during the course.

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