Botany Beginners 2020

Prairie in bloom

Exploring Iowa's Native Plants

At the Tallgrass Prairie Center, we identify plants in order to monitor and troubleshoot prairie plantings and evaluate the results of experiments. Also, we just love native plants! In recent years, we have trained undergraduate research students and AmeriCorps service members during a 3-week “Botany Boot Camp.” With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, we found it necessary to provide their initial training some other way. We thought that others across the region might also want an introductory plant ID course and the opportunity to practice with some expert guidance. We have tried to create a worthwhile learning experience for a broad audience, using a combination of remote teaching strategies.

Who should take this course? 

This course is designed for anyone who wants to learn how to identify native plants of the tallgrass prairie region, including a few common weeds and woodland species. This course is for beginners, and the emphasis is on learning how to learn the plants, and becoming more self-sufficient through guided practice. Once students can learn the names of the plants they are interested in, it can open up a whole new world to explore. Please join us!


Students studying plants

  • The course is free for private use and public education.
  • For information on using this course for professional training and continuing education, please contact Laura Jackson.
  • Required Textbook: Newcomb's Wildflower Guide (1989), available at bookstores and online for about $15.00.
  • To join the Facebook group, search for "Botany Beginners" and simply request to join the group. It's a place to share photos, questions and answers with instructors and fellow students.


Click below for a peek at the syllabus and for details about your instructors, six webinar topics, and four virtual field events. 

JuNe 8, 2020 
Lesson One

Paige Shafer, Instructor

JuNe 11, 2020 
Lesson Two

Laura Jackson, Instructor


JuNe 17, 2020 
Lesson Three

Laura Walter, Instructor

JuNe 24, 2020 
Lesson Four

Justin Meissen & Kristine Nemec, Instructors


July 8, 2020 
Lesson Five

Justin Meissen & Laura Walter, Instructors

July 8, 2020 
Lesson Six

Paige Shafer, Instructor

July 22, 2020 
Prairie Walk - Irvine Prairie 

Justin Meissen and Laura Walter, Hosts

July 24, 2020 
Native Plants at Snyder Heritage Farm

Ryan Schmidt, Host


July 29, 2020 
Prairie Walk - Bremer County

Kristine Nemec and David Lehman, Hosts

Homework #1 Google Form —

Homework #1 PDF 

Homework #1 Answer Key — download here 

Quiz #1 Google Form —

Homework #2 Google Form —

Homework #2 Answer Key — download here


Additional Resources 

For Laura Jackson's Webinar 2 plant answer key: click here 

For Laura Walter's Webinar 3 Mystery Plant answer key: click here

Lecture 3 Slides (pdf): click here

Lecture 2 — download here.

Lecture 3 — download here.

Lecture 4 — download here.

Lecture 5 — download here.

Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.