Plant Taxonomy

Course CodeSGH9
Fee CodeSG
Duration (approx)20 hours
QualificationCertificate of Completion


(i.e. the scientific identification of plants) has been increasingly sidelined and neglected in horticulture, agriculture, botany and science courses.

This is really something that EVERYONE who works with plants should study.

It covers things colleagues have complained about being neglected in most horticulture and agriculture courses for decades. These are things that used to be in most certificates, diplomas and degrees but no longer. This is knowledge that could be lost to the industry if younger generations don't make an effort to learn it.

Knowing what we teach here will help you make a lot more sense of plant names.

This short course is a great way to become proficient in understanding the essentials in plant taxonomy.

To the ill informed, it is a low priority for gardeners, environmentalists or farmers to identify obscure parts of a plant; or place plants into a high level scientific classification such as a family or class. For anyone who understands these industries well however, it can be critical to have that knowledge.  Taxonomy trains people to observe the finer details that separate one plant cultivar from another. It provides a framework that makes the process of identifying plants systemic.

This course will help you to identify what a plant is faster and with greater accuracy than would otherwise be possible.

Leading horticulturists and botanists all over the world are all too aware of a serious decline in taxonomic skills and awareness.

Anyone who works with plants needs to understand how critical plant taxonomy is.

Without this level of taxonomic knowledge though; you risk misidentifying plants. That can mean growing a less productive species; or even worse - growing a plant with higher levels of toxins and being unaware you are doing so.

Lesson Structure

There are 4 lessons in this course:

  1. INTRODUCTION - The Why and How of Plant Names
    • Why Name Plants?
    • Scientific vs. Vernacular Names
    • History
    • John Ray
    • Linnaeus
    • Ranks and Language
    • Ranks of Classification - KPCOFGS
    • Latin Names
    • Gardener’s Ranks
    • International Code of Botanical Nomenclature
    • Valid publication
    • The type method
    • Aim of the principle of priority
    • Exceptions to the principle of priority
    • Legitimate Naming
    • Recent Changes to the Code
    • International Code of Nomenclature for Cultivated Plants
    • Taxonomic Name Resolution Service
    • International Plant Names Index
    • The Rise of Molecular Data
    • The Impact of Molecular Data
  2. NAMING THE BITS - Plant Anatomy
    • Describing a Plant for the First Time, or “Naming the Bits”
    • Habit
    • Stems
    • Hairs
    • Flowers
    • Botanical Characteristics of Dianthus
    • Fruits
    • Indehiscent
    • Schizocarpic
    • Dehiscent
    • A Key to the Main Types of Fruits
    • Roots
    • Using Resources
    • Collecting and Preserving a Plant
    • Fresh Material
    • Herbarium Specimens
    • Photographs
    • The Problem of Colour
    • The Law Relating to Plant Collecting
    • Describing a Plant on Paper
    • The Equipment You Need
    • DNA Bar-coding
    • Floral Formulae
    • Floral Diagrams
    • Keys
    • Making a Key
    • Using a Key
    • When all this fails, what do you do?
    • Botanic Gardens
    • Nurseries
  4. PLANT FAMILIES - The Family Life of Plants
    • What Genera are in What Family?
    • Monocotyledons
    • Dicotyledons
    • Major Families
    • Anthophyta
    • Apiaceae (= Umbelliferae)
    • Araceae
    • Asteraceae (= Compositae)
    • Brassicaceae (= Crucifereae)
    • Bromeliaceae
    • Cucurbitaceae
    • Fabaceae (= Leguminosae or Papillionaceae)
    • Gesneriaceae
    • Lamiaceae (= Labiatae)
    • Liliaceae
    • Myrtaceae
    • Orchidaceae
    • Poaceae (= Graminae)
    • Other Significant Plant Phyla
    • Coniferophyta
    • Monilophyta

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