Botany Beginners is a series of introductory courses in plant identification. The courses are designed for anyone who wants to learn how to identify native plants of the tallgrass prairie, plus the undesirable plants that sometimes grow with them. These courses are for beginners who want to become independent in their plant ID skills.
Amazingly, it is now possible to look up the names of many common plants on a smartphone. This can be a good tool. However, easily acquired names are also easily forgotten. Names learned through close observation of key plant characteristics are more likely to stick. This is when botany skills become truly useful.
So how does online botany training work? For best results, take these courses as they were designed:
- Watch the webinars in sequence, either in real time, or within two weeks of the time they were originally offered (summer!)
- Practice at least twice a week, using the plant key that we have recommended with the plants that are blooming at the moment. Try your hand at the suggested homework activities.
- Keep a running list of plant species you can confidently identify, plus photos or drawings, and habitat notes
- If you are on Facebook, bring questions (with good photos) to the Botany Beginners Facebook Group for coaching from fellow students and occasionally TPC staff.
Which course is for you?
Botany Beginners 2020: Exploring Iowa's Native Plants
Covers native forbs (broadleaves or wildflowers, not grasses) found in prairies and woodlands. Many of these are also common to yards, roadsides, and conservation plantings. We use Newcomb’s Wildflower Guide, a simple key for beginners. A few advanced but accessible techniques are also covered.
Botany Beginners 2021: Grasses for the Masses
Learn to use Grasses, Sedges and Rushes: an identification guide by Lauren Brown and Ted Elliman. We cover early flowering (cool-season) and late-flowering (warm-season) grasses found in remnant prairies, CRP and roadside plantings, and a variety of weedy grasses found nearly everywhere, as long as they are in full sun. We share a few tips for recognizing grasses when they are not flowering.
Botany Beginners 2022: Managing Prairie Strips
Tailored to the needs of certified crop consultants, conservation professionals, farm managers, farmers, landowners, and others who manage prairie strips and other CRP utilizing native plants.
These courses are free. Financial support is provided by:
Iowa State University STRIPS Project / Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture / Practical Farmers of Iowa
And, a special thanks to the financial support of the Friends of the Tallgrass Prairie Center. If you would like to support Botany Beginners courses, click here to access this secure online giving form through the UNI Foundation, and select "Tallgrass Prairie Center."
You may also mail a check payable to the UNI Foundation, Attn: Friends of the Tallgrass Prairie Center, and addressed to UNI Foundation, 121 Commons, Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0239.