California Native Plant Society
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Registration closes June 21

Education Program - Workshops and Professional Training

Introduction to Plant Family Identification

With emphasis on Northern California species

Monday, July 6 through Wednesday, July 8, 2015
UC Berkeley Sagehen Field Station, Truckee, CA

Instructor: David L. Magney, Botanist/Certified Arborist

Download the print-friendly flyer for this workshop (pdf)

Target Audience: Anyone who wants or needs to improve their native plant identification knowledge and/or skills: professional and student botanists, biologists, arborists, and ecologists, native plant enthusiasts. Participants should have knowledge of basic plant terminology.

Description: This is an intensive introductory course on how to recognize plant families, focusing on the 25 dominant families of native plants found in California. Plant identification can be a challenge; however, if you know the basic leaf, flower, and fruit characters of the most common plant families, you will be able to significantly reduce the amount of time required to properly identify most plant species. The workshop is geared towards anyone who wants or needs to improve their knowledge and skills about identifying native and naturalized plants. Emphasis will be given to northern California species; however, information learned in this class will be readily applicable throughout California and elsewhere. The class will include classroom presentation and exercises, and nearly half the time will be spent in the field. Common and rare species will be covered, including riparian, chaparral, oak woodland, coastal sage scrub, meadow, grassland, and forest plants.

Participants will learn:

  • How to recognize at least 25 families of the most common/dominant/frequently encountered vascular plants found in California
  • How to identify many tree and shrub species, as well as herbaceous species, by sight and using written dichotomous keys, focusing on characteristics that define plant families
  • Tips to remembering the differences between similar plant families and species
  • How to use identification keys, focusing on the family keys in the Jepson Manual
  • Plant description terminology (Latin and Greek)
  • Tools available to help identify native plants

The following plant families will be covered, plus some others with similar characteristics:

Alliaceae Chenopodiaceae Juncaceae Plantaginaceae Rosaceae
Apiaceae Convolvulaceae Lamiaceae Poaceae Saxifragaceae
Asteraceae Cyperaceae Malvaceae Polemoniaceae  
Boraginaceae Ericaceae Onagraceae Polygonaceae  
Brassicaceae Euphorbiaceae Orobanchaceae Ranunculaceae  
Caryophyllaceae Fabaceae Phrymaceae Rhamnaceae  


Registration is now open! Last day to sign up is Sunday, June 21. Click here to sign up now.

Registration fees are discounted for CNPS members. If you are not a CNPS member, visit to join now and save!

Please note: class size is limited to 25 participants. Pre-registration is required.

  Date CNPS Members Non-members
Introduction to Plant Family Identification July 6-8 $335 $365
Optional Onsite Lodging (2 nights at $30/night) July 6-8 $60 $60

Cancellation Policy: The last day to cancel your registration and receive any refund is Monday, June 15, 2015. Refunds may be subject to processing fees. Please send cancellation requests by e-mail to Becky Reilly, Click here for more details on the cancellation policy for CNPS workshops.


Optional overnight lodging will be available at the Sagehen Field Station for an additional $30 per person, per night ($60 total). Participants who sign up for lodging will have the choice of camping on property, or staying in a cabin with up to 7 other participants of the same gender. Cabins are bunk-style, and restroom/shower facilities are located in a communal bath house. Those in cabins will need to bring their own bedding (fitted sheet, sleeping bag, and pillow recommended). Meals are NOT included or provided. Full kitchen facilities, including cooking equipment and food storage space, will be available for those staying overnight. Details are online at


Day 1 - Monday, July 6
Meet at Sagehen Classroom
2:30 pm Meet & Greet
3:00 pm Welcome Presentation/Orientation with Jeff Brown, Station Manager (mandatory for all attending)
4:00 pm Introduction to 25 plant families covered during the workshop
5:00 pm End of Day 1
Day 2 - Tuesday, July 7
Meet at Sagehen Classroom
8:00 am Light breakfast and coffee
8:30 am Description of 25 Plant Families
12:00 pm Break for lunch (please bring your own lunch and water)
1:00 pm Sagehen field study. Plant identification of plant families in forest, scrub, and meador habitats (e.g. Asteraceae, Poaceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Brassicaceae, Rhamnaceae, Juncaceae, Cyperaceae)
5:00 pm End of Day 2
Day 3 - Wednesday, July 8
Meet at Sagehen Classroom
8:00 am Light breakfast and coffee
8:30 am Dominant plant families characteristics – what to look for in the field, what parts are needed
11:30 am Sagehen field study – plant identification in the field
12:00 pm Lunch in the field (please bring your own lunch and water)
1:00 pm Continued Field Study
3:00 pm Q&A; review Test on material for Certificate of Completion (70% score or better to pass) Course Evaluations
5:00 pm Workshop concludes


About the Instructor:
David L. Magney, President of David Magney Environmental Consulting (DMEC), is a biologist/botanist, Certified Arborist, and physical geographer with a thorough knowledge of the flora of California and over 30 years of field experience. Mr. Magney has worked on and managed a large variety of projects throughout the Pacific Southwest, including biological resource inventories, vegetation mapping and classification, wetland delineations and restoration, rare plant surveys and ecological studies, fisheries habitat assessment and mitigation design, fisheries monitoring, small mammal trapping and surveys, biological impact analysis and mitigation, and construction and mitigation monitoring. He formed DMEC in 1997 after spending 2 years with FugroWest, 6 years with Jones & Stokes Associates, and 3 years with Dames & Moore, as well as work with the Los Padres National Forest and UCSB Herbarium.

Mr. Magney earned a BA in Geography and Environmental Studies (emphasis in botany) from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1985. He also holds an A.S. in Landscape Horticulture from Ventura College. Mr. Magney successfully completed training courses in wetland delineation (1989) and Federal wetland policy (1991) from the Wetlands Training Institute; training in the Corps of Engineers' Hydrogeomorphic Assessment Methods (HGM); and courses on hydric soils, wetland hydrology, CEQA and NEPA, Endangered Species Acts, and vernal pools. He has taught courses or given presentations on wetland impacts and mitigation, CEQA, Clean Water Act permitting, water quality, riparian and wetland plant identification, and wetland delineation methodology. Mr. Magney has authored two floras in California and presented numerous papers on vegetation and water quality, and has nearly completed a manual on the flora of Ventura County ( Mr. Magney serves on the Environmental Review Board for Los Angeles County Regional Planning, the City of Ojai's Tree Committee, and is very active in CNPS, including serving as Conservation Committee Chairman for the Redbud Chapter.

Materials Required: Please bring:

  • Hand lens
  • Clipboard
  • Field notebook and pencils
  • Bags for collecting plant material
  • Water bottles
  • Packable lunches for two days
  • Snacks for all 3 days
  • Backpack for all of the above
  • Sturdy boots
  • Hat & field clothing appropriate for the weather and conditions (e.g. protection from rain, sun, heat/cold, insects & other pests)
  • The Jepson Manual, 2nd Edition (optional, but recommended)
  • Metric ruler (optional, but recommended)

If staying overnight at Sagehen, please bring...

  • Dinner for two days (you will have access to a communal kitchen for cooking/food storage)
  • Any additional breakfast items you'd like
  • If camping: all camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, tarps, etc.)
  • If cabins: bedding for bunks (fitted sheet, sleeping bag, and pillow recommended)

Materials Provided: CNPS will provide handouts, selected identification keys, plant material, and technical references.

Physical Requirements: Participants should be physically able to hike two miles over uneven terrain and remain in the
field for up to six hours at a time.

Workshop will be held rain or shine. We will spend approximately 50% of the time in the field.

Map and Directions:
This workshop will be held at the UC Berkeley Sagehen Field Station, 11616 Sagehen Rd, Truckee, CA 96160. Detailed maps and directions are available online at


If you have questions about this or any other CNPS workshops, please contact Becky Reilly, CNPS Events Coordinator, at 916-447-2677 x207 or

View the complete schedule of CNPS 2015 Plant Science Workshops

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