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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Learn about plant identification and classification.

Taxonomy is the science that underpins accurate plant classification and naming.

When you understand plant taxonomy better; you become more capable of accurately identifying plants.  Sadly many university and college courses have downgraded teaching taxonomy despite protests from professionals in horticulture, agriculture and environmental sciences.

ACS has developed this course because of it's massive importance to employers and professionals.

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Learn Plant Taxonomy

Taxonomy is not taught often enough today - a fact widely recognised by those who work with plants at all levels, from tradesmen to professionals - gardeners, landscapers, nurserymen, crop farmers, arborists and others - through to scientists, environmental managers and farmers.

This course fills a very important need, and for those who do it; provides a significant advantage over those who have not properly learned the basics of plant taxonomy.

Study Plant Taxonomy and -

  • Learn about identifying and classifying plants.
  • Understand about applying your knowledge to determine the types of plants that can be planted where - with the knowledge of environmental requirements, and avoiding planting potentially poisonous or harmful plants in the wrong locations.
  • Gain knowledge which can be applied to the development of new cultivars.


There are 10 lessons in this course:

Lesson 1: Introduction to Taxonomy 
  • Introduction to Plant Taxonomy
  • Scientific Vs. Vernacular Names
  • Linnaeus
  • Binomials
  • Uniformity
  • Protein Analysis
  • Ranks and Language
  • Ranks of Classification - KPCOFGS
  • Plant Phyla
  • Plant Families
  • Genus and Species
  • Latin Names
  • Gardener's Ranks
  • Hybrids
  • Subspecies
  • Varieties
  • Cultivars
  • International Code of Botanical Nomenclature
  • The Basic Ideas
  • 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
  • Trademarks & Patents
  • Plant Breeders Rights
  • The Rise of Molecular Data
  • The Impact of Molecular Data
Lesson 2: Describing Plant Parts
  • Habit
  • Stems
  • Hairs
  • Leaves
  • Compound and Simple Leaves
  • Leaf Shapes
  • Leaf Margins
  • Leaf Structure
  • Leaf Arrangements
  • Leaf Venation
  • Leaf Modifications
  • Roots
  • Root Modifications
  • Terminology
  • Flowers
  • The Inflorescence
  • Fruits
  • Dry Fruits
  • Fleshy Fruits
  • Compound Fruits
  • A Key to the Main Types of Fruits
  • Terminology
Lesson 3: Recording & Analysing Plant Descriptions
  • HERBARIA - Collecting and Preserving a Plant
  • Fresh Material
  • Arranging Plants for Pressing
  • Pressing Difficult Specimens
  • The Drying Process
  • Herbarium Specimens
  • Photographs
  • The Problem of Colour
  • The Law Relating to Plant Collecting
  • Describing a Plant on Paper
  • The Equipment You Need
  • Botanical illustration
  • Floral Diagrams
  • Floral Diagram Technique
  • Floral Formulae
  • DNA Barcoding
  • Process of Using DNA Barcoding for Plant Identification
  • Applications of DNA Barcoding
  • CHEMICAL ANALYSIS (Chemotaxonomy)
Lesson 4: Taxonomic Techniques 
  • The advantages of using keys and their limitations
  • Using a key
  • The rules when making a key
  • Lamiaceae (Simplified Key)
  • Rules When Writing Couplets
  • Best Practice Points
  • Making a key
  • Why botanical families are so useful when identifying plants
Lesson 5: Primitive Plants
  • The Bryophytes
  • Mosses
  • Liverworts
  • Hornworts
  • VASCULAR PLANTS or tracheophytes
  • Vascular Tissue and Why it is Important in Evolution of Life on Earth
  • A glossary to help you
  • The Lycopodiopsida (or Lycophytes)
  • Clubmosses - Plants in the family Lycopodiaceae
  • Quillworts - Plants in the Family Isoetaceae
  • Spike Mosses or Lesser Clubmosses – Plants in the Family Selaginellaceae
    the euphyllophytes – the seed plants, horsetails, and ferns
  • The Seed Plants
  • Horsetails
  • The Ferns
Lesson 6: Seed Plants
  • The gymnosperms
  • The cycads – 1 order, 3 families, 10 genera, 285 species
  • Ginkgo - 1 order, 1 families, 1 genus, 1 species
  • The Gnetidae - 3 orders, 3 families, 3 genera, 71 species
  • Welwitschiaceae - 1 Genus, 1 Species
  • Gnetaceae - 1 Genus, 30 Species
  • The conifers - 3 orders, 6 families, 69 genera, 591 species
  • The Conifers’ Life History
  • The Cycads, Ginkgo, and Gnetidae — How they Differ from the Conifers
  • The Six Families of Conifers
  • The Angiosperms
  • Flowers and Why they are Important in Evolution of Life on Earth
  • The Flowering Plant’s Life History
  • The Diversity of Angiosperms
  • Phylogeny of Land Plants
  • Introduction
  • Darwin’s Tree of Life Metaphor - The Hidden Bond of Descent
  • Why Use DNA Sequences for Classification?
  • The Principle of Monophyly
Lesson 7: The Phylogeny of Land Plants
  • The major changes in flowering plant taxonomy
  • The End of the Monocot-Dicot Split
  • Finally, Some Resolution Within the Monocots
  • Some Surprises
  • Name Changes Resulting from the Increase in Evidence
  • When Applying the Principle of Monophyly Results in Name Changes
  • What we can learn from phylogenies
Lesson 8: Monocotyledons
  • Summary of Important Families
  • Arecaceae
  • Aizoaceae (syn. Ficoidaceae)
  • Dioscoraceae
  • Liliaceae
  • Orchidaceae
  • Iridaceae
  • Amaryllidaceae
  • Asparagaceae
  • Arecaceae
  • Pontederiaceae
  • Musaceae
  • Bromeliaceae
  • Poaceae
  • Cyperaceae
  • Juncaceae
Lesson 9: Dicotyledons (Part I)
  • Important Dicot Families
  • Key to Selected Angiosperm Families
  • Lower-growing Soft-wooded Plants
  • Apiaceae
  • Asteraceae
  • Brasicaceae
  • Crassulaceae
  • Lamiaceae
  • Euphorbiaceae
  • Gesneriaceae
  • Ranunculaceae
Lesson 10: Dicotyledons (Part 2)
  • Fabaceae - Papilionoideae, Mimosoideae, Caesalpinoideae
  • Fagaceae
  • Ericaceae
  • Malvaceae
  • Myrtaceae
  • Ongaraceae
  • Rosaceae
  • Proteaceae
  • Rutaceae
  • Rubiaceae


  • Explain how plants are classified, including both benefits of and contradictions within the scientific system as followed by horticulturists and botanical scientists across different parts of the world
  • Examine and describe parts of a plant, both sexual and asexual, at various stages of the plant’s life cycle.
  • Process descriptive information about a plant using taxonomic techniques that involve processing that data to create a better understanding and/or record of that information.
  • Explain a variety of tools used in taxonomic work.
  • Explain the taxonomy of land plants that do not produce seeds.
  • Explain taxonomy of a range of significant, seed producing plants, including gymnosperms.
  • Explain the relationship between different types of plants (i.e. phylogeny), and how molecular information impacts on this in taxonomic considerations.
  • Differentiate between at least 10 different families of monocotyledon plants, through inspection and identification of a range of commonly shared characteristics within that family.
  • Differentiate between at least 10 different families of dicotyledon plants which predominantly contain lower growing soft wooded plants or herbs; through inspection and identification of a range of commonly shared characteristics within that family.
  • Differentiate between at least 10 different families of dicotyledon plants which predominantly contain woody trees and shrubs; through inspection and identification of a range of commonly shared characteristics within that family.


  • For professional development
  • To improve employment or career prospects
  • To be more successful in business
  • Risk management
  • Heighten your ability to see and differentiate characteristics in plants
  • Identify plants more accurately
  • Identify plant names easier


Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., Post.Grad.Dip.Ed. Former Director, Oxford Botanic Gardens.
Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)A graduate of Burnley Horticultural College; Rosemary has over 30 years of experience in horticulture. Her training was extensive covering both amenity and production horticulture; developing pactical skills and a deep understanding of the sciences that underpin horticulture. She worked with the Agriculture Dept in Victoria as a consultant or advisor to both farmers and home gardeners. Over the years, her experience has been as broad as her training, working on radio with ABC radio, a garden editor (with several major publications) and as a teacher, writer, garden designer and consultant. Rosemary has led several garden tours to the UK and Europe. In 1999 Rosemary was BPW Bendigo Business Woman of the Year and is one of the founders and the Patron, of the Friends of the Bendigo Botanic gardens. She has written six gardening books and collaborated on many others. Rosemary brings a unique personality, knowledge base and passion to the school; an an infectious love of horticulture in support of our students. She holds a B.Sc Hort,, Dip.Hort.Sc., Dip. Advertising & Marketing and B.Ed.
John Mason (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Nurseryman, Landscaper, Garden Writer, Parks Manager and Consultant. Over 45 years experience; working in Australia and the UK. He is one of the most widely published garden writers in the world; author of more than 100 books and editor for 4 different gardening magazines. John has been recognised by his peers being made a fellow of the Institute of Horticulture in the UK, as well as by the Australian Institute of Horticulture.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

Check out our eBooks

Growing & Knowing GrassesThe Growing & Knowing Grasses ebook will provide you with everything that you need to know about grass. Get to all about the botany of grasses, how to identify them, how to cultivate grasses, the different uses for grasses and also includes a detailed illustrated encyclopedia of grasses and grass-like plants.
Growing and Using Perennial PlantsWhen designed and grown well, a perennial garden produces a blaze of colour for many months – starting in spring, flourishing through summer, and beyond into autumn.
Growing FernsA complete guide to growing Ferns in Australia, New Zealand and beyond. A great reference for professional and amateur gardeners, and fern enthusiasts from anywhere around the world.
Plant LanguageAn essential companion for any horticulture enthusiast, professional or student, this ebook will help you pronounce and understand plant names.