Learn to identify plants using scientific classification system for plant naming. Understand the benefits of correct plant identification in horticulture.

Course Code: BHT102
Fee Code: S2
Duration (approx) Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment
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Know Your Plants - Learn to correctly identify Plants

Plant Knowledge is a skill that is always valued by employers

An integral for success in your own business; in virtually all fields of horticulture.

This course lays the foundation for building such knowledge, and as such gives you a skill which has been and always will be in high demand in this industry.

Horticulturists work with hundreds, if not thousands of different plants, throughout their careers.
The better more know and understand the differences between those plants, the better they will do their job; and the more successful they will be.

Lesson Structure

There are 11 lessons in this course:

  1. Plant Groupings ‑ setting a framework for the whole subject.
    • Plant Names
    • Common Names
    • Scientific Names
    • Hybrid, Variety, Cultivar
    • Botanical Keys
    • History of Organised Nomenclature
    • International Code, Ranks of Taxa
    • Principle of Priority
    • Choice, Construction and Spelling Names
    • Name Changes
    • Abbreviations
    • Colour Charts
    • Plant Breeders Rights
    • Review of Selected Families
    • Different ways of grouping or classifying plants
  2. Use of Plants
    • Plants for Landscaping
    • Choosing Plants
    • Pre purchase Considerations
    • Planting Techniques
    • Conservation Planting
    • Vandalism and Planting
    • Recycling spent wood
    • Soil restrictions on Plant Selection
  3. Australian Native Plants
    • Conditions needed by a particular species
    • General characteristics of Indigenous Plants
    • Selected Native Trees of Australia
    • Selected Native Trees of Great Britain
    • Selected European Native Trees
    • Selected American Native Trees
    • Selected Asian Natives
    • Selected North African Natives
    • Selected Middle East Natives
    • Street Trees - Review of a Survey/Report
    • Quick Reference Review of both Australian and UK Amenity Plant Genera
  4. Exotic Ornamental Plants
    • Rhododendrons
    • Azaleas
    • Roses
    • Conifers
    • Trees in the Landscape -Why plant trees, tree problems, Popular ornamental trees
    • Guide to Shrubs in the Landscape
    • Environmental Influences on Plant Selection
    • What Plant Where
    • Review of many Genera
  5. Indoor & Tropical Plants
    • Indoor Plants
    • Potting Indoor Plants
    • Ferns
    • Landscaping with Ferns
    • Recommended Ferns
  6. Bedding Plants
    • Bulbs
    • Chrysanthemums
    • Cut Flowers
  7. Vegetables
    • What Can be Grown
    • Crop Rotation
    • Varieties and Seed to grow
    • Mushrooms
  8. Fruits, Nuts & Berries
    • Apples
    • Apricots
    • Avocado
    • Banana
    • Cherries
    • Citrus
    • Fig
    • Grape
    • Mango
    • Olive
    • Passionfruit
    • Paw Paw
    • Pear
    • Peach
    • Plum
    • Berry Fruit
    • Walnut
    • Chestnut
    • Almond
    • Macadamia
    • Other Fruits and Nuts
  9. Herb Plants
    • Easier to Grow Herbs
    • Quick Reference Herb Chart
    • Companion Planting and Insect Deterrents
    • Herb Teas
    • Cultivation of Herbs
    • Harvesting Herbs
    • Making Pot Pourri
    • Mints
    • Herb Propagation
    • Landscaping with Herbs
    • Poisonous Plants
  10. Alternative Growing Techniques
    • Container Growing
    • Container Aesthetics
    • Preventing Moss and Algae
    • Potting Up Plants
    • Potting Mixes
    • Hydroponics
    • Bonsai
    • Greenhouse and Shade house Growing
    • Heating
    • Growing Epiphytes
    • Terrariums
    • Water Gardens
  11. Special Assignment -Focussed on a type of plant of your own choosing.


  • Identify plants from a wide range of taxonomic and cultural groups, using a range of different techniques.
  • Determine techniques for the growing of native shrubs and trees, including the selection, culture and use of different species.
  • Determine techniques for the growing of exotic ornamental shrubs and trees, including the selection, culture and use of different species.
  • Determine techniques for the growing of indoor plants, including selection, culture and use of different varieties.
  • Determine techniques for the growing of bedding plants, including selection, culture and use of different varieties.
  • Develop techniques for the growing of edible crop plants, including selection, culture and use of vegetables, fruit, berries and nuts.
  • Determine appropriate applications for a range of alternative growing methods.



Linnaeus (1707 1778) was a Swedish botanist largely responsible for stabilising the binomial system (ie. using two names or two words to name one plant). He was also responsible for stabilising some of the other basic principles of nomenclature. However it wasn't until 1867, at the first International Botanical Congress, that the first set of rules were officially adopted by the botanical world. Deficiencies in this code led to the establishment of a number of other sets of rules. A compromise between the existing codes was adopted in 1930 and published as the 3rd edition of the International Rules of Botanical Nomenclature. More recent editions are basically modifications of this code.
Today there are both Horticultural and Botanical Congresses in existence that continue to oversee the running of this original system; and scientists around the world largely follow the same system originally established by Linnaeus.
Like everything created by man, the system of plant classification is not 100% perfect; and there are occasional confusions created by some experts not accepting changes which other experts do accept; but this is by far the best way for us to name plants, and communicate with each other in the world of horticulture.

Extract from the book "Growing Conifers" by our Principal, and author of this course:

There are several ways of classifying plants. Different texts that you read will classify conifers in different manners, particularly in terms of the higher or uppermost levels. There appears to be much greater consistency between the different systems at the lower levels of classification (i.e. family, genus & species).

In many texts, particularly older ones, conifers are classified in a plant division called the "Gymnospermae” which are more commonly called the Gymnosperms. This term means literally "naked seed' and these plants are seed producing plants where the seeds are not enclosed in an ovary. The most familiar sub-group of the gymnosperms are the conifers. This classification refers to the way in which conifer species produce ovules (which will become seeds once fertilized) as exposed immature cones or flowers. Other gymnosperms include cycads and the Gingko.
In more recent times the gymnosperms have commonly been split into four separate plant divisions as follows (although the general term gymnosperms is still commonly used as a collective for these four divisions):

KINGDOM PLANTAE (The Plant Kingdom)

 Bryophytes      Bryophyta (bryophytes)

 Vascular Plants
  Seedless vascular plants  Psilophyta (psilopods)
        Lycophyta (lycopods)
        Spenophyta (horsetails)
        Pterophyta (ferns)

  Seed Plants    Cycadophyta (cycads)
        Ginkophyta (gingko)
        Gnetophyta (gnetophytes)
        Anthophyta (angiosperms)
            Class Dicotyledones
            Class Monocotyledones

These are the cycads. Cycads have an appearance like palms, but unlike palms they do not flower. They have sluggish cambial growth, pinnately compound, palm like or fernlike leaves, and they produce a cone in the centre of their crown (not unlike a conifer cone). Cycads are mainly subtropical southern hemisphere plants, though there are some which come from other areas. There are about 10 genera and about 100 species.

Containing only one species (Gingko biloba), which has considerable cambial growth, fan-shaped leaves, ovules and seeds exposed, with the seed coats fleshy. This species is commonly included loosely as a conifer in many gardening texts.

This is an isolated group of plants of three genera: Gnetum, Ephedra and Welwitschia which contain about 70 species. They are not commonly grown.

These are the conifers. Most are trees, and most are from cooler climates, however there are also some tropical species. They have active cambial growth and simple leaves. There are about 50 genera and 550 species (plus thousands of cultivars).

Conifer Families and Genera

Evergreen trees & shrubs, from Sth Hemisphere, broad or needle-like foliage.
Two genera in this family: Agathis, Araucaria

Evergreen trees or shrubs with narrow, erect, evergreen leaves, similar to Taxus.
One genus in this family: Cephalotaxus

Usually heavily branching plants, trees or shrubs, upright or spreading, leaves in whorls or 3 (occasionally 4). Genera in this family include: Actinostrobus, Callitris, Calocedrus (Incense Cedar), Chamaecyparis, Cupressus, Diselma, Fitzroya, Fokienia, Juniperus, Libocedrus, Microbiota, Neocallitropsis, Papuacedrus, Sabina, Tetraclinis, Thuja, Thujopsis, Widdringtonia

Shrubs, twiggy growth with sparse foliage. One genus in this family: Ephedra

Mainly trees, occasionally shrubs, usually with needle like foliage, from Northern hemisphere. Genera in this family include: Abies, Cathaya, Cedrus, Keteleeria, Larix, Picea, Pinus, Pseudotsuga, Pseudolarix, Tsuga

Evergreen trees & shrubs; flattened, scale or needle-like foliage.
Genera in this family include: Acmopyle, Dacrydium, Microcachrys, Microstrobos, Phyllocladus, Podocarpus

Genera in this family include: Amentotaxus, Austrotaxus, Pseudotaxus, Taxus, Torreya

Tall trees, evergreen or deciduous, foliage usually arranged spirally around stems.
Genera in this family include: Athrotaxis, Cryptomeria, Cunninghamia, Glyptostrobus, Metasequoia, Sciadopitys, Taiwania, Sequoia, Sequoiadendron, Taxodium

Low growing plants with a short woody stem, long leathery strap-like leaves.
One genus in this family: Welwitschia

Many conifer species are very hardy, and can survive climatic conditions. Their softwood that is easily worked, and the fast growth of some species make some conifers very valuable for their timber. While many large conifer plantations exist solely for the production of softwood products, increasingly landowners are applying agroforestry concepts to their farming practices as the benefits of such versatility comes to be better understood.

In addition, there are a huge number of conifer cultivars in an amazing array of colours, sizes, and shapes for use as ornamentals.  



After this course, you will be able to look at any plant, growing anywhere in the world; and most of the time, notice things about that plant which will indicate the plants it is most likely related to; and the way in which that plant should probably be propagates, pruned, fertilised, watered, and treated in many other ways.
When you develop a 'systematic' understanding of how different plants are classified, you then have a foundation that enables you to make very important 'educated guesses' about what plants are and how to treat them.
You cannot learn these things by simply reading a book or listening to an hour or two of lectures. Knowing how to identify plants in the way that this course teaches you, is something that needs to be solidly embedded into your brain, and to do that takes time. The rewards though are extremely significant, and life long -not just in terms of what you can do, but also in terms of how you perceive and appreciate plants in a completely different way.
This is a course that EVERY aspiring horticulturist should take the time to do! 
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Course Contributors

The following academics were involved in the development and/or updating of this course.

Rosemary Davies (Horticulturist)

Rosemary trained in Horticulture at Melbourne Universities Burnley campus; studying all aspects of horticulture -vegetable and fruit production, landscaping, amenity, turf, aboriculture and the horticultural sciences.
Initially she worked with the Depart

Adriana Fraser (Horticulturist)

Adriana has worked in horticulture since the 1980's. She has lived what she preaches - developing large gardens and growing her own fruit, vegetables and herbs and making her own preserves.
In 1992 she formalised her training by graduating with a certif

Bob James (Horticulturist)

Bob has over 50 years of experience in horticulture across both production sectors (Crops and nursery) and amenity sectors of the industry.
He holds a Diploma in Agriculture and Degree in Horticulture from the University of Queensland; as well as a Maste

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