At Artemisia Academy, we have a fabulous plant identification course that we've been doing for several years now. Over the pandemic, we had the great opportunity to upgrade the class, record all of our plants up close and personal, and get to create an online version of the course for those who are either too busy to take it in person or for people who live far away.
Just because your life schedule is crazy doesn't mean you can't still learn about the plants that live in your own backyard. Our Plant ID course is structured so that every week you get really fabulous botany terms and Plant ID videos to watch.
But more importantly, you can't really learn plant identification on your own.
I mean, you can try it. I did for years before I took an herbal program. However, it's really helpful to have a mentor there to guide you through it and give you the confirmation that you need to make sure you are ACTUALLY looking at the right plant.
I remember when I was first starting off, I looked at plants and books. I'd watch ID videos on YouTube. And so often when I'd get back out into the field, I'd be like, "Okay. Is this it? Or is this not it? Is is this what I'm looking at? I'm not really sure."
One of the points of this class is to have a weekly accountability check-in with the whole group, including your teacher.
We have our students check-in every single week with a live office hour over Zoom, and we get to actually get feedback, check-in, share videos, share pictures of things that we've seen out in the field and confirm we've identified it correctly.
Every single week, we cover a different topic; leaves, flowers, trees, you name it. And we go through the different sections of herbs and get to see real examples.
All of our videos are gorgeously produced, up close in-person and in multiple different phases of the plant. That way you're not just looking at one part of the plant (like in a book), but you're looking at the bark of the tree, you're looking at the flowers, the seed pods, the flowers in different stages of bloom, and what it looks like when it's completely dead at the end of the season.
Learning Through The Seasons
I think it's so important that you learn the plants through the season. Ideally, you see it when it's flowering. But the reality is that in Southern California, we live in a drought. Most of our plants are deciduous in the summertime, so if you only learn it when it's flowering, you're missing what it looks like for the other half of the year.
For all of our students, we talk about learning the plant in all of its forms and learning to identify it, especially when it's dead. Then, the next year you already have your stands picked out when it's flowering and when it's in its full bloom.
It's important to learn your plants in all different seasons of the year and to be able to see what they look like in all of their different forms.
In the last part of our class, we also share our plant ID journals. Every single week as you're watching these videos, you're not just watching a video online, you're also creating your own visual documentary of these plants within your plant ID journals.
And then you also have the homework of going out in the field and trying to find those plants. That way, you're taking pictures and sharing with our group on Slack.
Plant Scavenger Hunt
During our last weeks of class, we share plant ID journals, and then we also have a group plant identification scavenger hunt. This is a really fun way to collaborate with other herbal enthusiasts. Everyone in your group gets to go out and do a little "eye spy" of plant families.
In the class, you learn about five edible plant families and five poisonous plant families. Then, over the last few weeks, you get to collect photos of all the plants you can find in those families. You can go to nurseries, gardens, botanical sanctuaries, and collect all the photos you can from those plant families.
At the very end, we have little competition in our groups to see who can find the most families in their area. So it's a ton of fun.
We love collaborating with people from all across the country now too, and it's so much fun that even though we live in different places, we still have some of the same plants across the whole country.
We talk about how to go hiking, where to go find safe places to go to, which can be really helpful. We've also had students buddy up together and find hiking groups together as well.
We like to make sure that all of our students are getting out in nature. The homework assignment every week is to make sure you're actually seeing the plants touching, feeling, smelling, interacting, and then you get to have your plant ID journal for years to come to look back at.
And the pictures don't have to be fancy, my plant drawings still look like stick figures. They're colored, and very pretty, but still pretty simple. But all of the times that I have drawn my plant ID notes, I've remembered that plant for years to come even if my drawing looks terrible.
You get to walk away with this great journal that you will be able to add to when you're out exploring plants for years to come.
Thanks for reading, I really hope to see you out in the field or in our online class coming up.