What is Identiplant?
Identiplant, supported by Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI), is a remote botanical identification course intended for near beginners with some knowledge of plants and a serious interest in botanical recording. The course enables students to gain familiarity with botanical terminology and develop those all-important skills in preparing plant specimens and using botanical keys to identify plants with confidence.
Following an overview of the basic theory required for plant identification, the course then introduces students to some of our most important plant families, from the Cabbage Family (Brassicaceae) to the Daisy Family (Asteraceae), structured around the peak flowering times of each. For most of the practical modules, students are required to get out in the field to look for certain species and identify them based on their diagnostic features. Although many of the required species are relatively common, this enjoyable hunt certainly puts students’ observational skills to the test!
More information about the course content and structure can be found here: https://www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/events/identiplant
I was fortunate enough to complete the Identiplant course in 2021, and I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it. In addition to giving me a much better appreciation for the botanical diversity present all around us (even in the most urban areas!), plus an excuse to spend much of my summer outdoors hunting for plants, the course really helped me gain confidence with plant identification. The knowledge and skills I’ve developed on this course have provided me with a great foundation to become more involved with botanical recording, and I know that they will come in handy throughout my career.
How Identiplant came to be…
First trialled in Hertfordshire in 2011, Identiplant was created by Dr Brenda Harold, Herts resident and local plant expert with a PhD in plant cytogenetics. Following an impressive career in academia, Brenda joined the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust (HMWT) Local Wildlife Sites Survey Team in 1997, where she volunteered actively for almost 20 years. Over this time, Brenda provided crucial botanical identification training to her fellow volunteer surveyors. It was this that led Brenda to realise that, for amateur botanists, not having been taught the foundational principles of plant biology and identification was a major barrier to increasing in proficiency, and thus Identiplant was developed.
Following its inception, Identiplant was hosted by the Field Studies Council (FSC) up until they stepped away from the course in 2020. It was run independently over 2021, but it was clear that an alternative long-term solution was needed.
… And how we have helped to keep it going!
This year, HERC have been working with Brenda, HMWT and BSBI to develop a new model for the delivery of Identiplant based on a network of regional hubs, to ensure the longevity of the course well into the future. We’re delighted to say that this has now been launched for its first year! Our local regional hub is being run by HMWT, allowing the Wildlife Trust to continue the legacy that Brenda started right here in Hertfordshire.
HMWT will be supporting the 2023 student cohort from Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire. As a regional hub, they will work to register students on the course and act as a liaison between students, their tutors, and the national hub (BSBI and the Identiplant Management Team).
How to sign up:
If you are based in Hertfordshire, Middlesex, Bedfordshire or Buckinghamshire, then you can sign up via the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust website here: https://www.hertswildlifetrust.org.uk/events/identiplant#Book
If you live elsewhere then you can apply through the BSBI website here: https://identiplant.bsbi.org/ (Note that applications will close on 31st December 2022).
All photos © Ellie Smith.