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Microscopic Identification and Characterization of Botanicals and Plant Materials

To introduce the student to the terms, techniques, and literature used to identify unknown botanical material as a basis for further study.

During this course the student is expected to learn basic optical theory and to have enough practice that they become comfortable purchasing, maintaining, and using compound light microscopes, brightfield, and polarized light for the analysis of plant material. The student is expected to learn the value of voucher specimens, the diagnostic features of ground plant material and where to go in order to get information on botanical nomenclature, literature, botany, and plant anatomy.

This is an intensive five day course with an approximately equal mixture of lecture and hands on training. At the end of the course the student should be able to write a brief monograph identifying the different cell types present in the sample and use the web to gather additional information on plant taxonomy. Maximum class size is 12 with a teacher to student ratio of 1:6.

March 10-13, 2008, 8:00 am-4:30 pm and March 14, 8:00 am to noon.

Food and Drug Administration, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition
College Park, Maryland

This course has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. The participants are responsible for their own travel, lodging, and meals while attending the course. There is a $50 registration fee.

George C. Ziobro, Ph.D.
Stanley Cichowicz (FDA retired)

Contact Mr. Stanley Cichowicz at

Course Topics:
Brightfield and Polarized Light Microscopy:

Basic Optics
Purchasing a microscope
Adjusting -- Koehler illumination
Calibrating an ocular micrometer
Basic measurements

Botanical Nomenclature:

Common names
Latin binomials

Reference Specimens

Herbarium specimens:

Ground and chopped specimens
Making a plant collection
Cataloging a collection

Basic Botany:

Plant families
Plant Organs
Plant tissues

Reference Literature

Diagnostic Features of Ground Plant Material:

Laboratory techniques
Rehydrating and clearing dried material
Powdering, grinding, and chopping

Slide making techniques:

Particle handling
Chemistry on the microscope slide

Documentation of analytical results:

Value of images
Sample integrity