Course 10 | Botany & Plant Identification

Discover how plants live, grow, and thrive. Your ability to identify, cultivate, and understand the plant world will be greatly expanded.


Length: 2 hours

Instructor: Lindsay Hounslow | Medical Herbalist, Organic Master Gardener

This course is only available with the following program:

  • Community Herbalist Online

    Full Certificate Program

    view course

Meet your course instructor

Lindsay Hounslow | Medical Herbalist, Organic Master Gardener

Lindsay’s interest in plants was cultivated in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. During 10 years of work as a naturalist guide, Lindsay gained a deep appreciation for ecology and her clinical practice integrates her respect for the profound nature of connection within our web of life. She has a deep love for plants and a passion to increase the availability of safe, effective medicines in a form that nurtures our shared spiritual and ecological health. After studies in geography, nutrition, and yoga, and mentorship in energy work, shamanism, organic gardening, and herbal wildcrafting, she dedicated herself to herbal studies and was one of PRC’s first Diploma of Phytotherapy graduates. She is a professional member of the Canadian Herbalist Association of BC and is on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Council of Herbalist Associations. She practices herbalism in her home community of Fernwood, Victoria and is a happy gardener, yogi, and mother.

Course description

Once we have connected with herbs as medicines, it is natural to become increasingly more curious about plants in general. This course will help you gain a deeper appreciation for plants by exploring their anatomy and chemistry, and also how we categorize and name plants. Additionally, you will gain the practical skills needed for plant identification. 

In this course, we discuss plant evolution and categorization and illustrate how this applies to plant identification and some of the medicinal plants that we use. In our lesson on taxonomy and plant names, you will become confident and comfortable using Latin names, and we include numerous examples of plant names to help you understand Latin naming.

A key focus in this course is plant identification, and we cover all essential skills needed to properly identify plants so you can safely identify medicinal species in any setting before considering harvesting for medicinal use. Key skills discussed include observation skills, knowledge of plant anatomy, and the use of an identification key. The study of botany includes an in-depth discussion of plant parts and how we observe those parts when we are trying to identify a plant. You will become familiar with the language used in botany to understand formal botanical descriptions. We provide you access to detailed video demonstrations showing key plant structures and arrangements, as well as written and visual aids to help you apply your botanical knowledge when working with plants yourself. 

We look at 7 families of commonly used medicinal plants and review their key identifying features. Additionally, we give you an example of using a plant ID key and offer numerous tools that you can try to help you study plants in a way that deepens your connection and appreciation for the medicines you engage with. Finally, we review plant chemistry to help you understand that aspect of plant medicine and enhance your ability to observe plants both in their natural habitats and when you consume them as medicines. 

After this course, you will be familiar with the key concepts of botany and be ready to go out and develop your plant ID skills. You will also have a deeper understanding of plants and a whole new lens for studying medicinal herbs. 

By the end of this course, you will have the ability to:

  • Understand plant classification systems
  • Confidently use botanical nomenclature / Latin names of plants
  • Work with plant anatomy, including plant structures, anatomical arrangements, shapes, and plant parts used, to identify species
  • Read and understand a formal botanical descriptions
  • Use a plant ID key
  • Know common plant families
  • Understand the language and concepts of Phytochemistry

Lesson plan

Section I | Welcome

1. Introduction

2. Course outline

Section II | Introduction to botany

3. Definition of a plant – photosynthesis

4. Evolution and categories of plants

5. Introduction to gymnosperms

6. Introduction to angiosperms

7. Anatomy of a flower

8. Monocots vs. eudicots

9. Self-quiz

Section III | Plant classification & naming

10. Plant classification & naming

11. Plant taxonomy and Latin names

Section IV | Introduction to plant identification

12. Introduction to plant identification

13. Plant ID skill 1: observation

14. Plant ID skill 2: language of botany/plant anatomy continued

15. Key identifying features of common plant families

Section V | Introduction to plant chemistry

16. Intro to plant chemistry

Section VI | Plant identification

17. Plant identification: using a botanical key

Section VII | Conclusion

18. Course review

Section VIII | Plant constituent activity

Section IX | Plant identification activity