Identifying Trees & Shrubs


Identifying a plant (more simply, just giving it a name) is often the first step in knowing more about the plant . . . perhaps understanding how it relates to other similar plants, what it is used for or where it grows. Giving a name to the plant helps you talk to other people about it!

There are plenty of specialist identification publications, but often it is not easy to get over the initial hump of how to start, particularly when faced with a straggly specimen from the field.

The SAPS online identification guide aims to help you achieve success with plant material that you may encounter in your teaching and learning. These identification guides are suitable for using with a wide age range – from primary through to post-16 as well as adults.

The “Key for identification of British trees and shrubs” provides a route to the identification of 80 trees and shrubs, commonly found growing wild in Britain and Ireland. The key is based on the arrangement of leaves on a twig OR features of a winter twig without leaves. You are taken step by step through different stages, matching your specimen with simple line diagrams and with brief questions that give you choice to go to the next stage. Species descriptions are supported by a wealth of background information, photographs of living specimens and distribution maps. A full glossary gives explanations of the botanical terms used in the key.

Visit the Identifying British Trees and Shrubs website

You can find further useful help from the FSC (Field Studies Council) publications, including the AIDGAP series of identification guides. Mostly in the form of convenient fold out charts, with colour diagrams and supporting background information, these guides offer identification of lichens, grassland plants, salt marsh plants, plants common on sand dunes, plants common on moorlands and others. Go to for more information.

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