California Native Plant Society

Education Program - Workshops and Professional Training

Introduction to Plant Identification
15 Common Plant Families of Southern California

Download the print-friendly flyer (pdf) for complete information about this training.

Dates: June 5-7, 2018 (Tuesday - Thursday)
Location: San Bernardino Mountains - Big Bear area, CA
Instructors: Sandy Namoff, Claremont Colleges Laboratory Coordinator; & Nick Jensen, CNPS Southern California Conservation Analyst
Registration: $395 CNPS Members / $415 Non-Members

Target Audience: This workshop will be taught at a beginner level and is open to anyone interested in learning about or improving their knowledge of plant terminology and the characteristics of common plant families, and becoming competent at plant keying using the Jepson Manual and online resources. Those just entering the world of plant identification will benefit from learning the diagnostic characteristics of the most important plant families in CA. Those with prior plant identification experience will be able to refresh their skills and increase their proficiency with more difficult groups such as the Poaceae (grasses) and Asteraceae (sunflowers). Emphasis will be placed on common groups of plants in Southern CA; however, information learned in this class will be readily applicable throughout CA and the world.

Description: This is a 3-day introductory workshop. We will begin by teaching basic plant morphology with a focus on the structures necessary for plant ID. Participants will learn the specialized terminology necessary to identify plants in 15 common CA plant families. These families contain more than 5000 taxa, which account for more than 70% of the plant diversity in CA. Learning the characteristics of these plant families will reduce the amount of time required to key many plants to genus and species. We will utilize live material and taxonomic keys to better understand morphology in each family. Scientific names, along with common names, will be used throughout the workshop. The class will include 2 days of classroom presentations and exercises and one full day in the field in the San Bernardino Mountains. Common native families, genera, and species will be covered, including species in conifer forest, oak woodland, montane chaparral, and meadows.
To earn a certificate of completion, participants must pass an optional quiz at the end of the workshop focusing on identifying common plant structures, sight ID of families covered, and effective use of taxonomic keys for plant ID.

Participants will learn:

  • Basic plant morphology terminology
  • How to recognize 15 families of vascular plants encompassing 70% of the plant diversity in California
  • How to identify some common tree, shrub, and herbaceous species by sight
  • Tips for remembering the differences between similar plant families and species
  • How to use dichotomous keys for plant identification including The Jepson Manual, 2nd Edition
  • Additional resources available to help identify plants

The following plant families will be covered: Apiaceae (parsley), Asteraceae (sunflower), Brassicaceae (mustard), Caryophyllaceae (pink), Cyperaceae (sedge), Ericaceae (heather), Fabaceae (pea), Lamiaceae (mint), Onagraceae (evening primrose), Orobanchaceae (broomrape), Poaceae (grass), Plantaginaceae (plantain), Polemoniaceae (phlox), Polygonaceae (buckwheat), Rosaceae (rose).




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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