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Understanding Botany Herb Walk

Understanding Botany Herb Walk

For those who are not trained in scientific botany, using a field guide book to try and identify an unknown plant can be daunting. Scientific classification of plants is written in Latin – a dead language – and is based either on tiny features of the flower morphology (sometimes requiring a hand lens or magnification to get a good look at), or alternatively on genetic analysis, which requires a lab with a lot of specialized equipment. As an herbalist, I have always looked for simple methods of plant identification, that do not require any specialized equipment, and that can be done throughout most of the growing season, for instance when the plant is not in flower.

In this workshop, participants will learn various aspects of scientific classification of plants. We will learn the evolution of plants, from ancient spore bearers (pteridophytes and allies), cone bearing plants (gymnosperms), and how to easily distinguish the two main groups of flowering plants (angiosperms – split into the monocots and dicots).

We will learn how related plants are grouped into families, what plant families are common in the Kootenay area, and common features that can help you figure out which family a plant is in. We will also discuss the Genus species that allows us to get very specific with which plant we are dealing with, how these names are chosen, and gain some insight into what they mean.

The goal of this class is to demystify plant identification, making it easy and accessible for everyone. We will look closely at each plant we find, observing what can be seen with the naked eye. Any unique or interesting features of the medicinal plants we find will be shown, and we will pay special attention to the leaf morphology, as an identification method that can be used at almost all stages of plant growth. This class is open to everyone (including children) who are interested in identifying wild plants.