Remember studying all these lab taxonomy classes, Being overwhelmed with all theses long Latin names and confusing etymology? Asking yourself am I ever going to use this in my life? How to use this thick flora volume that I can’t even carry?
Forestry graduates generally suffer from a gap between academic and practical skills for many reasons that we can address like:
1- Lack of field excursions.
2- Lab-based classes.
3- Using dried samples or green ones which are not representative of the whole tree.
4- Latin names are not practical in the field and students need to learn the common names to be able to communicate with the local communities and forest workers.
5- Heavy contents of the courses and overwhelming the students with big numbers of species in a short time which makes students focusing to know how to pass the course instead of learning.
So far everything looks frustrating …Should we pass through all of this? Does it worth the pain? Why should we even learn the names and identify the species? Why in Latin?
- Globally the Latin names are used in science generally to avoid confusion with common names that vary in each country and maybe in each zone! and the unity of names makes it easier for scientists to describe species or phenomena.
- In forestry we mainly focus on tree species as they form the structure of the forest ecosystems, Describing them is crucial for so many measures in the forest like Biodiversity measures, Inventories, designing management plans, genetic studies, and regenerating strategies.
SO, How can we develop our skills in Forest botany in an easy fun way?
I guess you have already chosen this path because you love nature and precisely you love trees, NO?
It’s a good start! Here are some useful tips to enhance your species identification skills :
1- Try to do some EXCURSIONS yourself, It can be to the nearby forest or the urban forest in your city (JUST GET OUT!).
2- FOCUS! Observe the trees very well, you need to observe the Trunk patterns, leaves type and flowers if presented are very important indicators in some species.
3- TAKE PHOTOS! You can make a flicker account or better make an Instagram account to store your photos, this step will help you to go back to your photos anytime and review the names, date, and location of the plants in case you wanted to go back to see the plants in situ.
4- LOOK FOR THE LATIN NAMES (using field guides like the one bellow), Link the names to the photos using hashtags, hashtags register your photos in Instagram so anyone can view them and learn with you.
5- DO NOT PANIC If you couldn’t remember the names in the beginning, the most important thing is getting familiar with the traits of the trees.
6- REMEMBER! You are learning a new language, you need to repeat the names, with the time you will get fluency.
7- MAKE IT SILLY! Try to relate the Latin names to familiar words from your language, I’m sure you will find some.
- Normally It’s harder and it takes a longer time to learn how to identify all trees species from countries with a higher number of biodiversity like tropical or Mediterranean countries for example, and it gets less difficult in nordic countries due to the lower numbers of trees species!
- Try to prioritize native species, start with trees and then move to shrubs, if you like to go further you can move to herbal plants.
- The most important thing that you should know that this learning process takes time, try to enjoy it and don’t put so much pressure on yourself.
- Don’t hesitate to share your experience with the Forest-Monitor team, we are opened to any questions or help and further information.