California Native Plant Society
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Registration closes April 28

Education Program - Workshops and Professional Training

Introduction to Plant Family Identification

With emphasis on Southern California species

Wednesday, May 6 & Thursday, May 7, 2015
International Center for Earth Concerns Pavilion, Taft Gardens, Ojai, CA

Instructor: David L. Magney, Botanist/Certified Arborist

Download the print-friendly flyer for this workshop (pdf)

Target Audience: Professional and student botanists, biologists, arborists, and ecologists. Participants should have knowledge of basic plant terminology.

Description: This is an intensive introductory course on how to recognize plant families, focusing on the 25 dominant families of native plants found in California. Plant identification can be a challenge; however, if you know the basic leaf, flower, and fruit characters of the most common plant families, you will be able to significantly reduce the amount of time required to properly identify most plant species. The workshop is geared towards anyone who wants or needs to improve their knowledge and skills about identifying native and naturalized plants. Emphasis will be given to southern California species; however, information learned in this class will be readily applicable throughout California and elsewhere. Common and rare species will be covered. The class will include classroom presentation and exercises, and field excursions, primarily into the Ojai Valley in Ventura County. We will spend at nearly half the time in the field. Riparian, chaparral, oak woodland, and coastal sage scrub plants will be covered.

Participants will learn:

  • How to recognize at least 25 families of the most common/dominant/frequently encountered vascular plants found in California
  • How to identify many tree and shrub species, as well as herbaceous species, by sight and using written dichotomous keys, focusing on characteristics that define plant families
  • Tips to remembering the differences between similar plant families and species
  • How to use identification keys, focusing on the family keys in the Jepson Manual
  • Plant description terminology (Latin and Greek)
  • Tools available to help identify native plants

The following 25 plant families will be covered, plus some others with similar characteristics:

Alliaceae Caryophyllaceae Fabaceae Orobanchaceae Polygonaceae
Apiaceae Chenopodiaceae Juncaceae Phrymaceae Ranunculaceae
Asteraceae Convolvulaceae Lamiaceae Plantaginaceae Rosaceae
Boraginaceae Cyperaceae Malvaceae Poaceae Rhamnaceae
Brassicaceae Euphorbiaceae Onagraceae Polemoniaceae Solanaceae


Registration is now open! Last day to sign up is Wednesday, April 28. Click here to sign up now.

Registration fees are discounted for CNPS members. If you are not a CNPS member, visit to join now and save!

Please note: class size is limited to 25 participants. Pre-registration is required.

  Date CNPS Members Non-members
Introduction to Plant Family Identification May 6-7 $315 $345

Cancellation Policy: The last day to cancel your registration and receive any refund is Wednesday, April 22, 2015. Refunds may be subject to processing fees. Please send cancellation requests by e-mail to Becky Reilly, Click here for more details on the cancellation policy for CNPS workshops.


Day 1 - Wednesday, May 6
Meet at Center for Earth Concerns pavilion
8:30 am Meet & Greet; coffee, tea, and snacks
Introductory Lecture
12:00 pm Break for lunch (there are restaurants 10-15 minutes away in Ojai, or bring your own lunch and water)
1:00 pm Santa Ana Creek/Center for Earth Concerns property field study. Plant identification of plant families in woodland and scrub habitats (e.g. Asteraceae, Poaceae, Fabaceae, Lamiaceae, Brassicaceae, Rhamnaceae, Juncaceae, Cyperaceae)
5:00 pm End of Day 1
Day 2 - Thursday, May 7
Meet at Center for Earth Concerns pavilion
8:30 am Coffee, tea, snacks
9:00 am Dominant upland plant families characteristics - what to look for in the field, what parts are needed
11:30 am Ojai Valley field study - plant identification in the field
12:00 pm Lunch in the field (please bring your own lunch and water)
1:00 pm Continued Field Study
3:00 pm Q&A; review
Test on material for Certificate of Completion (70% score or better to pass)
Course Evaluations
5:00 pm Workshop concludes


About the Instructor:
David L. Magney, President of David Magney Environmental Consulting (DMEC), is a biologist/botanist, Certified Arborist, and physical geographer with a thorough knowledge of the flora of California and over 30 years of field experience. Mr. Magney has worked on and managed a large variety of projects throughout the Pacific Southwest, including biological resource inventories, vegetation mapping and classification, wetland delineations and restoration, rare plant surveys and ecological studies, fisheries habitat assessment and mitigation design, fisheries monitoring, small mammal trapping and surveys, biological impact analysis and mitigation, and construction and mitigation monitoring. He formed DMEC in 1997 after spending 2 years with FugroWest, 6 years with Jones & Stokes Associates, and 3 years with Dames & Moore, as well as work with the Los Padres National Forest and UCSB Herbarium.

Mr. Magney earned a BA in Geography and Environmental Studies (emphasis in botany) from the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1985. He also holds an A.S. in Landscape Horticulture from Ventura College. Mr. Magney successfully completed training courses in wetland delineation (1989) and Federal wetland policy (1991) from the Wetlands Training Institute; training in the Corps of Engineers' Hydrogeomorphic Assessment Methods (HGM); and courses on hydric soils, wetland hydrology, CEQA and NEPA, Endangered Species Acts, and vernal pools. He has taught courses or given presentations on wetland impacts and mitigation, CEQA, Clean Water Act permitting, water quality, riparian and wetland plant identification, and wetland delineation methodology. Mr. Magney has authored two floras in California and presented numerous papers on vegetation and water quality, and has nearly completed a manual on the flora of Ventura County ( Mr. Magney serves on the Environmental Review Board for Los Angeles County Regional Planning, the City of Ojai's Tree Committee, and is very active in CNPS.

Mr. Magney will be assisted by Mr. Joe Broberg and Mr. David Torfeh, DMEC staff biologists.

Materials Required: Please bring:

  • Hand lens
  • Clipboard
  • Field notebook and pencils
  • Bags for collecting plant material
  • Water bottles
  • Lunches for two days (packable)
  • Backpack for all of the above
  • Sturdy boots
  • Hat & field clothing appropriate for the weather and conditions (e.g. protection from rain, sun, heat/cold, insects & other pests)
  • The Jepson Manual, 2nd Edition
  • Metric ruler

Materials Provided: CNPS will provide handouts, selected identification keys, and plant material, as well as technical references, dissecting scopes, and compound microscopes for in-lab use.

Physical Requirements: Participants should be physically able to hike two miles over uneven terrain and remain in the
field for up to six hours at a time.

Workshop will be held rain or shine. We will spend approximately 50% of the time in the field.

Map and Directions:
Detailed maps and directions will be provided by e-mail about a week before the workshop.

If you have questions about this or any other CNPS workshops, please contact Becky Reilly, CNPS Events Coordinator, at 916-447-2677 x207 or

View the complete schedule of CNPS 2015 Plant Science Workshops

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