Native Plant Trust

Certificate Programs FAQ

Have Questions? You're Not Alone.

We've compiled answers to the most common questions about our Native Plant Certificate Programs.

Q: Where can I find more information about Native Plant Trust’s certificate programs?

A: Visit the Certificate Programs page. 

Q: Do I have to earn the Basic Certificate before pursuing one of the advanced certificates?

A: It is recommended that all students begin with the Basic Certificate before moving on to the Advanced Horticulture & Design Certificate and/or Advanced Botany & Conservation Certificate. Students may pursue more than one certificate at a time. If you have experience with native New England plants, through a combination of coursework, employment, or other experience that fulfills the Basic Certificate requirements it is possible to begin with an advanced certificate.

Q: How do I begin the Basic Certificate?

A: To pursue the Basic Certificate start by registering as a certificate student. There is one-time $30 (per certificate) registration fee. Then sign up for the required certificate courses. 

Q: What courses do I need to take to earn the Basic Certificate?

A: The Basic Certificate is made up of seven named courses, two electives (one botany and one horticulture), a field study, a landscape study, and 15 hours of native plant community service.

We highly recommend beginning with the Foundations courses, which introduce students to native plant vocabulary, morphology, physiology, ecological context, evolution, and relationships. This knowledge is applied to following courses. The other courses listed below do not need to be taken in a specific order.


Plant Form and Function

  • Plant Ecology
  • Plant Families

Plants and Their Habitats

  • Wildflowers of New England
  • Native New England Shrubs
  • Framework Trees of New England


  • Understanding and Managing Soils
  • One botany elective
  • One horticulture elective

(Note: Three webinars may count as one elective.)


  • One field study
  • One landscape study
  • Community service: 15 hours
  • Final portfolio

Q: What is the final portfolio?

A: The portfolio is a compilation of your best class work (field notes, garden planting plots, etc.) -- whatever you think shows your skills and could support you in your future plant-related goals. Most of these products will be things that students create during class time. This is not something that is reviewed, it is just for you.

Q: Where can I get more information about courses and register?

A: Visit the Classes & Field Studies page.

Q: How long do I have to earn my Basic Certificate?

A: Coursework up to ten years old can be applied towards a certificate however it is possible to earn your Basic Certificate in about six months if you are able to attend all the required courses at the time they are offered. 

Q: Can any of the certificates be earned online?

A: The Basic Certificate can be earned mostly online by taking the named seven courses (Plant Form and Function, Plant Ecology, Plant Families, Wildflowers of New England, Native New England Shrubs, Framework Trees of New England, Understanding and Managing Soils) online, as well as two electives (Botany elective and Horticulture elective). Students work with Public Programs staff to create two self-studies in their area to fulfill the field study and landscape study requirements. Native plant volunteer hours can also be done in the area the student lives.

Q: Where can I complete my native plant community service hours?

A: You may volunteer with Native Plant Trust or another native plant or plant conservation organization to fulfill the community service requirement. Keep a journal of the dates and times and what you worked on. Submit a brief writeup of your volunteer hours with your completed transcript template when you’re finished to 

Native Plant Trust Plant Conservation Volunteer (PCV) hours may be used as your native plant volunteer hours. We estimate each survey takes about 6-8 hours to complete (this includes researching the plant, coordinating and preparing for the site visit, conducting the site visit, and then returning and entering data). Based on this estimate, we ask students to complete at least three surveys. Keep a journal of the dates and times and what you did each day. Submit a brief writeup of your volunteer hours with your completed transcript template when you’re finished to

Q: How do I know what I have left to take?

A: Track your progress by filling in a transcript template as you take courses. When you have finished your coursework send your completed transcript template to with a brief write up of how you completed your native plant volunteer hours. 

Q: What is the cost of the Basic Certificate and are there any other expenses?

A: The total cost of the Basic Certificate is about $2,000 and will vary based on the electives, field study, and landscape study courses taken. There’s the one-time $30 certificate registration fee. Membership starts at $40 a year (allowing students to register for programs at the reduced member rate). There are less than six required texts that cost about $20 to $50 each. It's also good to have a 10X hand lens and an ID book or two. Some items that are nice to have when you’re out in the field are a clipboard, notebook, pens/pencils, water bottle, hat, backpack, sunblock and insect repellant, and comfortable sneakers or boots for walking.