CUGE-ECO-3002C Plant Diversity & Nomenclature Series - Discovering Acanthaceae, Bignoniaceae & Melastome

This two-day course is ideal for anyone interested in plant identification to the family level, based on family characters. It aims to provide learners with a basic background in Botany, with special emphasis on assisting them to develop their skills in proper plant identification based on family characters. Plant families covered will include ornamental and flowering members of Acanthaceae, Bignoniaceae and Melastomataceae.

Flowers of the Acanthus Family are often ornamental, made more so when combined with showy and colourful bracts. This versatile family includes many ornamental shrubs and vines popularly used in Singapore parks, gardens, and landscapes, such as Shrimp Plant, Skyflower Vine, and even includes our native Sea Holly. One of the intriguing features of the family is the presence of outgrowths in the fruit capsule called “retinacula”.

The Bignonia Family is known to many of us in the form of familiar garden plants, such as Cape Honeysuckle, Jacaranda, and even vines such as Garlic Vine. Like the Acanthus Family, the shape of the fruit and especially the winged seeds are defining characters of this large tropical family.

While the flowers of the Melastoma Family range from pretty to spectacular, the really bizarre parts of their anatomy are the bent and ornamented anthers. These weird appendages as well as the beautiful leaf veins are typical of this pantropical family that includes some native Singapore wildflowers such as the Sendudok."

Learning to identify plants based on taxonomic characters is important because mis-identifications very often lead to improper care or placement of plants in the landscape, resulting in poor health or even death of the plants. Knowing the correct scientific name of a plant is the key to researching its care and requirements, as well as other useful information about the plant.


  • Understand why flowers and fruits are essential for identifying plants
  • Use the correct terminology of plant parts (leaf arrangement, inflorescence types, bark, etc.) commonly utilized for proper identification of species.
  • Know the reasons why scientific names are used, and their importance in botany and horticulture
  • Know some basic nomenclatural rules about scientific names
  • Tell the difference between family, genus, species, and cultivar
  • Identify 10 common trees and plants in Singapore (and how to find resources to identify the less common ones)
  • Know the diagnostic characteristics of the families covered during the course
  • Understand why conservation of nature and natural resources are of vital importance to human life on earth


  • Introduction to Tropical Plant Diversity and Conservation
  • Naming of plants – basic nomenclature and taxonomy
  • Terminology of plant parts used in plant identification
  • Introduction to keys and how to use them in identifications
  • Introduction to 3 plant families/groups, i.e. Acanthaceae, Bignoniaceae, and Melastomataceae

On the first day, learners are required to bring in as many plant specimens as they wish for identification. All specimens must contain some leaves attached to the stem, and especially, flowers and/or fruit. Specimens may be fresh (kept in plastic bags) or if collected several days before the course, they should be pressed and dried in newspaper.


 Classroom facilitation sessions and field visits


  •  NParks Staff
  • Industry practitioners
  • Nature volunteers with little or no background in horticulture and botany


Bian Tan is a specialist in Botany, Taxonomy, Horticulture, Botanic Gardens, Plant Conservation and Environmental Education. He has served as the Programme Coordinator for South East Asia for Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI), where he implemented plant biodiversity conservation, education and capacity-building programmes. Prior to this, he was in the USA, working closely with the botanic gardens community on activities such as plant collection expeditions, training of volunteers and staff, and development of living collections, as well as working on many regional and international initiatives in areas such as the Convention on Biodiversity, nature conservation, and environmental education.

Bian holds an MSc in Botany specializing in Taxonomy & Systematics and a BSc in Horticulture with Honors and High Distinction. He has presented at numerous international congresses and conferences and has published articles in periodicals and journals.


*Course Fees (Inclusive of GST)

Full Fee


Fees include provision of training, assessment materials, tools and equipment and refreshment.
*Terms and conditions apply.


Professional Certification


ISA Certified Arborist


Certified Practicing Horticulturists




*May differ for different sessions


All information are correct as of posted date.

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