Woody Plant Identification Advanced Certificate Program

Learn to identify woody ornamentals while gaining an understanding of their cultural requirements as well as associated insect and disease problems.

Conifer training class in Erie County.

Conifer training class in Erie County.

The Master Gardener Advanced Certificate Program provides in-depth training in specialized areas of horticulture. This training prepares Master Gardeners to become more proficient in answering gardening questions. Master Gardeners are also encouraged to share the knowledge they have gained to educate the residents in their communities; however, no additional volunteer service hours are required for those earning advanced certification. All Advanced Certificate Program courses qualify as Master Gardener continuing education hours. In addition to the Woody Plant Identification course, future offerings being considered include Herbaceous Plants and Weeds and Invasive Plants.

Success in the landscape begins with a comprehensive knowledge of plant material available in the trade, matching site conditions with appropriate woody plants. The certificate program in woody plant identification will train Master Gardeners in the identification of woody ornamental plants. Site and cultural requirements as well as understanding of their cultural requirements as well as associated insect and disease problems. Classes cover both native and non-native species.


To enroll in this program, you must be an active, certified Penn State Master Gardener in good standing and affiliated with one of the county Penn State Extension Master Gardener programs.

Class Requirements

To receive a certificate of completion for the Master Gardener Woody Plant Identification Advanced Certificate, you must attend all of the required modules. For each of the plant material modules, you must take a pre-test and complete the post-test with a passing score.  After completing Module 1, the remaining modules can be taken in any sequence. 


Module 1: Part A. Taxonomy and Nomenclature

Pre-requisite, 2 hours
This core class provides the foundation for plant identification. You will become familiar with the terminology used to classify and name plants while gaining more confidence in using scientific nomenclature.

Module 1: Part B. Plant Morphology

Pre-requisite, 1.5 hours
Knowledge of the physical form of plants is necessary for plant identification and classification.  in this core class, you will study both reproductive and vegetative structures of plants as well as their growth habit.  

Module 1 is free and is offered on-line.  The link for the module is found on each county's VMS home page.  Handouts for the class are located in the documents folder on VMS.

Module 2: Broadleaf Evergreens

4 hours
Broadleaf evergreen shrubs add year-round structure, color, texture, and form to the landscape. Colorful flowers and fruits enhance the appeal of these garden stalwarts used as specimens and also in foundation, screening, and mixed border plantings. Fee: $35.

Module 3: Conifers

6 hours
Conifers provide the structural framework for many gardens, serving a variety of roles as specimens, focal points, screens, hedges and backdrops. They offer bold contrasts of foliage color and texture as well as distinctive growth habits. Fee: $50.

Module 4: Deciduous Shrubs

8 hours
Shrubs unify the landscape, connecting taller shade and flowering trees to ground level plantings. Deciduous shrubs provide food and nesting sites for birds, attractive flowers and fruits, and a variety of foliage textures and colors from spring to autumn. Fee: $60.

Module 5: Flowering Trees

6 hours
Flowering trees provide multiple seasons of interest to the landscape with flowers, fruits, foliage color, form and bark. Available selections in a range of sizes make these trees suitable for large rural landscapes as well as small urban spaces. Fee: $50.

Module 6: Shade Trees

6 hours
Shade trees are a long-lived investment. They provide a calm and peaceful environment while increasing the property value of your home. Shade trees attract birds and other wildlife, lower energy costs, improve water quality by reducing runoff and erosion. Fee:$50.