On Plant Identification and CNPS-YB workshops with SFSU

Plant identification is a fundamental pursuit driven by our curiosity and fascination with the seemingly limitless variation that surrounds us all. Many of us regularly observe plants that we are unfamiliar with. Fortunately, there are methods to aid in the investigation of these unidentified organisms. These methods are well established, but generally require introductory training and guided practice that is difficult to attain. Beginning in 2013, the Yerba Buena Chapter of CNPS and San Francisco State University have collaborated in providing free plant identification workshops to the public. By providing these workshops, we hope to deliver the necessary skills that are needed to identify native vascular plants anywhere in California.

Each month during the school semester, we emphasize an individual plant family that is well represented in our diverse flora. We address major diagnostic features unique to each family and also discuss considerable aspects of its ecology, distribution, and evolutionary history. These lessons are accompanied by fresh plant material that is used to practice our identification skills with the assistance of dichotomous keys that are published in The Jepson Manual (1st and 2nd editions). Instructors elaborate on reliable ways to approach these keys and also demonstrate typical workflows for dealing with unknown species. Guests are encouraged to work at their own pace and to ask an assortment of questions that deal with botany and the California flora.

We encourage people of all backgrounds to attend and discover the rewards associated with the process of identifying plants. This process is a repeatable and enriching endeavor that yields a deep appreciation and knowledge of plants that occupy the landscape we all enjoy.

Steven Serkanic
28 June 2017