Identiplant does not follow a regular sequence like conventional courses. Units are released on alternate Fridays but the answer sheets do not have to be returned in numerical sequence. This is mainly because you are unlikely to be able to find all the required species immediately after the release of a unit. Short interruptions due to holidays, workload etc. are not a problem. However, it is essential to continue fairly steadily through the season or flowering times will be missed. This course cannot be completed in short ‘crash’ sessions. Students need to be continually on the lookout for the named species which then have to be examined in detail and described using proper terminology. It is this steady practice that enables the learning outcomes to be met.
This is essentially a practical course and the course team is not responsible for the weather! There are big climatic variations between different parts of the British Isles and Ireland so students in the north may be surrounded by snow whilst spring is well under way in the Channel Isles. This is frustrating but will not affect performance on the course because the tutors are all familiar with local conditions and the lists of required species include choices to allow for regional variations in the flora.
How much study time is required?
About 2 hours per week would be sufficient to study the units and write up the answers – more for the important unit on terminology. There are no submission deadlines on the individual question sheets so you have flexibility in working although no answer sheets can be accepted after the end of September each year.
The most time-consuming part of the course is finding the plants. You generally have 3 or 4 named species to find for each unit. They are all quite common and there is some choice – but plants never seem to turn up where you expect them. This can be difficult for beginners who have previously always been shown wild flowers but your tutor will give advice if necessary. Becoming observant is an essential part of the learning experience and the required species are found in all sorts of places, from car parks and pavement cracks to woods and grassland. Anyone who has not found all the plants and completed the course in their first year is entitled to a second year and you should plan for this if your time is restricted or you are unused to plant-hunting independently. It becomes much easier in year 2.
Note that answer sheets can only be submitted after the release date of the relevant unit, even in the second year, and the website closes between October and February.
If you enjoy plant hunting and can find time for it then this is the course for you. Some former students have said that it becomes obsessive!