Name that plant! Learning Plant ID skills at Kew
This week 16 participants from seven different countries arrived at Kew’s Herbarium for the annual Tropical Plant Identification course. Organised by myself and Tim Utteridge, the course is aimed at people such as botanists, ecologists and conservation workers, who need to identify tropical plants either in a herbarium or during fieldwork. This year we are teaching colleagues from other botanic gardens in Singapore and Canada, botanists from Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Madagascar and Namibia, as well as an ecologist and museum curators from the UK, and Kew staff.
Learning from specimens during the ID course
Over an intensive two weeks of lectures and practical sessions, 21 of Kew’s botanists will teach the key combinations of characters that will enable the course participants to identify c. 60 tropical plant families. That’s a lot of information to remember! We will use the dried specimens from Kew’s herbarium to practise spotting key characters, and arrange special ‘family sorts’ focused on plant families from different tropical regions of the world. And we will escape into the gardens where we will see whether what we have learnt using dried specimens works with living plants!
Looking for key characters for Annonaceae, Myristicaceae and Lauraceae using herbarium specimens
At the end of each week there will be an identification test – we’ll hide the name of each specimen, and each participant will have to name the plant family the specimen belongs to. This might sound mean, but this ‘botanical challenge’ is an informal way to make sure we know how well we have been teaching identification skills. Fingers crossed everyone gets 100% this year!
The Tropical Plant ID course is just one of many courses taught by Kew staff, for more information see the ‘Learn’ section of the website.
- Gemma -