THE INTRODUCTORY TREE IDENTIFICATION COURSE

Identification is important for anyone interested or concerned about trees. No one is going to give credibility to, say, a tree warden or parish councillor who cannot tell their ash from their elder!

Trees have an appeal for all kinds of people and this one-day Introductory Tree Identification Course has been designed for a minimum of five people (each making a donation usually around 15 - 20) which can be run by a small group or an individual to help people learn this skill at a minimum cost. The donation is necessary to show commitment on the students' part and to cover both the tutors' cost and to be used at their own discretion. Many, for example, will use any surplus money to plant trees. It is hoped, as the courses are being run locally, would-be tree enthusiasts will also find others with whom to share their interests within a reasonable vicinity.

The Aims of the Course

  1. Students will learn the characteristics of leaves' shapes, their margins, petioles, stipules and buds. Also, as the basis of tree identification, the different arrangements of buds and leaves and twigs of different species will be observed. Students will be introduced to often used botanical terms in books and learn how to use keys in books to identify species.
  2. The importance of flowers and fruit in classification will be explained and students will be shown examples of different types. This may be done from illustrations in books where necessary, as it is only essential for students to understand the principles.
  3. Students will look at one family in greater detail and examine two or more genera to appreciate similarities using selected samples and books.
  4. In the same way, students will look at two or more species of a genus to appreciate variations in that genus.
  5. An outline of evolution will help students understand the rise of families that include trees and their distribution around the world today.
  6. Students will be helped to make practical observations to identify species from twig samples.
  7. Weather permitting, students will put into practice the identification skills they have learnt and add to these some observation methods on bark and tree shape and so forth on trees in the garden, neighbourhood or local park.

Notes for Course Tutors

Tutors are advised to adhere to a minimum of five participants for safety reasons, and to ask for the donation which, after covering preparation costs, can be used for whatever group or purpose they choose. This will also ensure students are seriously interested and therefore unlikely to be disruptive. Labels showing the students' names should be provided for each of them to wear, which will help create a friendly atmosphere for a memorable day.

A suggested start time is 10.30am with coffee and biscuits, then a break for students to eat their packed lunches, and the aim is to finish the course around 3.30pm with a cup of tea. It should be an enjoyable day for everybody, and afterwards students will be able to identify a number of trees and will feel more confident to tackle those they don't, using the techniques they have been taught. Students are recommended to bring a magnifying glass or hand lens to aid study of details of samples.

Sample twigs should have been collected and labelled with a number before the start of the course to be used as examples, and also for the students to self-test themselves using their text books. The inclusion of the introduction to classification and evolution is to signpost the connections of native trees with exotic ones and to new genera that have been introduced to our streets, parks and gardens over the last 300 years.

Notes for Prospective Students

New tutors from among The Dendrologist subscribers are always being welcomed, and help and advice is available to them. Counties with volunteer tutors willing to run this Introductory Tree Identification Course for a minimum of five people at present are:

We hope to update this list as more tutors volunteer. However, even if there is not a tutor listed in your area, it is possible that one can be organised. In this case it may be helpful for a potential student to gather one or two like minded friends together and write to The Dendrologist (enclosing a stamped SAE).

Students are recommended to bring a magnifying glass or hand lens to aid study of details of samples, and to take along a packed lunch. Labels will be provided with students' names.

After the course, we would suggest students try to regard all the trees in their neighbourhood as their 'local arboretum' on which to practise their newly-acquired identification skills. A useful project, and one which will interest other people in their town, would be to record the best of each tree species that can be seen in the street or from other public places. An easy-to-use form can be downloaded from our website home page. The form is in Word, as most people have this on their computer, so the information can be easily shared and used.

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