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Registration open until April 25

Education Program - Workshops and Professional Training

Intro to Plant Identification: Northern California

May 3-5, 2016 (Tuesday - Thursday)
Dye Creek Preserve, Los Molinos, CA (between Redding & Chico)

Instructor: Josie Crawford, Botanist

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

Target Audience: This workshop will be taught at a beginner level and is open to anyone interested in learning or improving their knowledge of plant terminology and the basic characteristics of dominant California plant families, and gaining field experience with common northern California plants. Those just entering the world of plant identification will benefit from this in-depth introduction to keying and identifying plants, while those with some prior experience will be able to refresh and hone their skills at a high level.

Description: This is a 2.5-day introductory workshop including classroom presentations/exercises and at least half of the time spent in the field. We will begin with basic plant structure terminology, then learn the terminology and characteristics of some of the most common California plant families, which will reduce the amount of time required to key most plants to genus and species. Participants will be introduced to using dichotomous keys, such as The Jepson Manual, and other resources available to identify plants. Scientific names will be used throughout the workshop. Common native and non-native species will be covered, including species in riparian, oak woodland, and grassland areas. Emphasis will be given to northern California species, however, information learned in this class will be readily applicable throughout California and the world. To earn a certificate of completion, participants will need to pass a test at the end of the workshop, where they will be expected to use the plant terminology covered, recognize plants learned, and identify the family in which they belong.

Participants will learn:

  • Plant structure terminology
  • How to recognize major families of vascular plants
  • How to identify some of the most common tree, shrub, and herbaceous species, by sight
  • Tips for remembering the differences between similar plant families and species
  • The basics of how to use dichotomous identification keys, with an introduction to the family keys in The Jepson Manual
  • Additional resources available to help identify plants

The following plant families will be covered: Apiaceae (parsley family), Asteraceae (sunflower family), Brassicaceae (mustard family), Fabaceae (pea family), Lamiaceae (mint family), Liliaceae (lily family), Onagraceae (evening primrose family), Poaceae (grass family), Plantaginaceae (plantain family), Rosaceae (rose family).


Registration is now open! Last day to register is April 25.

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 20 participants.

  Date CNPS Members Non-members
Introduction to Plant Identification (3-day course)
May 3-5 $375 $395

Cancellation Policy: The last day to cancel your registration and receive any refund is Tuesday, April 19, 2016. 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.


Day 1 - Tuesday, May 3
Meet in the classroom at Dye Creek. Coffee and bagels will be provided.

9:00 am Meet and greet; welcome and orientation
9:30 am Classroom Introduction to plant structure terminology and dominant California plant families
Noon Lunch break (please bring your own lunch and water)
1:00 pm Field study of plants at Dye Creek
4:30 pm Break for the day

Day 2 - Wednesday, May 4

8:30 am Indoor lab/classroom, continued plant family characteristics and intro to keying plants
Noon Lunch break (please bring your own lunch and water)
1:00 pm Field study of plants at Dye Creek
5:00 pm Break for the day

Day 3 - Thursday, May 5

8:30 am Review for test in the lab/classroom and field; Q&A
Noon Lunch break (please bring your own lunch and water)
1:00 pm Test on material for certificate of completion (70% score or better to pass); course evaluations
3:00 pm Workshop concludes


Venue: This workshop will be held at The Nature Conservancy's Dye Creek Preserve, halfway between Redding and Chico in Los Molinos. The preserve should be in bloom, providing a well-equipped and beautiful setting for this class. Maps, directions, and the gate code to access the preserve will be provided to registered participants about a week before the workshop.

Lodging: Registration fees include lodging at Dye Creek for the nights of May 3 and 4. Participants may choose to camp on property, or stay in the lodge in bunk-style rooms with up to 7 other participants of the same gender. Those staying in the lodge will need to bring a fitted sheet, sleeping bag, and pillow for the beds. Communal bathrooms and showers will be available. Space in the lodge may be limited - priority will be given by registration date.

Meals: Meals are NOT included in registration fees. Full kitchen facilities, including cooking equipment and food storage space, will be available - but we ask that you keep your meals simple, as there will be as many as 20 people preparing meals in the same kitchen. Please bring easy-to-prepare breakfasts for 2 days (we will provide coffee each morning), packable lunches, water, and snacks for 3 days, and something to contribute to 2 group dinners on Tuesday and Wednesday. We will prepare and share these 2 dinners together (optional of course - but it is a lot more fun to cook together!) - these will be meals that have components (like tacos) that you can assemble to fit your dietary preferences. We will send more details on the group dinners to registered participants before the workshop.

Materials Required: Please bring...

  • Hand lens
  • Clipboard
  • Field notebook, pencils, and scotch tape
  • Bags for collecting plant material
  • Metric ruler
  • Sturdy boots, hat & field clothing appropriate for the weather and conditions (e.g. protection from poison oak, rain, sun, heat/cold, insects, etc.)
  • The Jepson Manual, 2nd Edition (optional, but highly recommended)
  • Breakfasts for 2 days, packable lunches, water, and snacks for 3 days, something to contribute to 2 group dinners
  • If camping - all camping gear (tent, sleeping bag, tarps, etc.)
  • If staying in the lodge - fitted sheet, sleeping bag, pillow recommended for beds

Materials Provided: CNPS will provide handouts, dissecting microscopes, technical references, and online resources. We will send some advance materials on plant structure terminology.

Physical Requirements: Participants should be physically able to hike up to 4 miles over steep, uneven terrain and remain in the field for up to 4 hours at a time. This workshop will be held rain or shine. We will spend approximately 50% of the time in the field.

About the Instructor

Josie Crawford is an independent botanist as well as the former CNPS Education Program Director. She was the original creator of the CNPS workshop program, attending all but 2 workshops over a 10 year period. For over 20 years Josie has been teaching people about plants and natural history. This includes teaching Plant Taxonomy labs for 3 years as a graduate student at Humboldt State University, and her work as an Interpretive Specialist for Humboldt Redwoods and Hendy Woods State Parks, and Interpretive Aide at the Regional Parks Botanic Garden (native plant garden) in Berkeley. Josie is active with the Redbud Chapter of CNPS.


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 Plant Science Workshops


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