Certificate Program

The South Carolina Botanical Garden (SCBG), in partnership with the South Carolina Native Plant Society (SCNPS), is excited to announce a Certificate in Native Plant Studies.

This program is based on South Carolina's rich botanical heritage. Through hands-on field-based classes, students learn about native plants and their vast diversity, plant communities and the habitats that define South Carolina from the mountains to the sea, all within the South Carolina Botanical Garden. Participants also learn about the significant benefits of native plants in ensuring biodiversity, and improving soil, water, and air quality, as well as discover the importance of sustainable and appropriate development, become aware of conservation issues facing native plants and plant communities, and become educated environmental stewards.

Where possible these classes take place in the field.

Students will also have the opportunity to travel to, and learn about, other ecosystems in South Carolina by taking elective classes.

Classes are all taught by qualified professionals. The certificate program is comprised of 88 hours of coursework (7 core classes @ $80 each plus 32 hours electives). Students are not required to pursue a Certificate in order to enroll.

This is a fieldwork-based course and classes can be physically demanding. Please ensure you are in good  health

10% discount applies to Garden Friends and SCNPS members.

Class size is limited! 

To register, go to the Events Calendar or click on the links below for a specific program.

To download a brochure, click here.

Please note that Basic Botany is a prerequisite for all other courses.

Contact Sue Watts at 864-656-2836 or watts9@clemson.edu for more details.

Core Classes

Saturday, September 8
In this introductory botany course develop a foundation of knowledge and a working vocabulary for all other courses in the Certificate of Native Plants. Through classroom lectures and fun hands-on activities explore the basics of plants — their classification, structure, functions, lifecycles, and reproductive strategies. Basic botany is required for all other courses.

Friday, September 21
In this introductory botany course develop a foundation of knowledge and a working vocabulary for all other courses in the Certificate of Native Plants. Through classroom lectures and fun hands-on activities explore the basics of plants — their classification, structure, functions, lifecycles, and reproductive strategies. Basic botany is required for all other courses.

Monday, October 1
In this field identification course, learn about the foliage and flowers of primarily herbaceous plants, although some shrubs will surely sneak in. Join Allison Kelly, Natural Heritage Trail Manager, and Trenton Miller, Collections Manager, as you explore the many habitats along the Natural Heritage Trail. Learn how to use a key to aid plant identification. For certification, both spring and fall classes are required. Pre-requisite: Basic Botany.

Saturday, October 6
Join expert naturalist, Tim Lee, to build your knowledge base of major conceptual issues and areas of current research in plant ecology. Explore the biotic and abiotic factors that affect the distribution and abundance of plant species in South Carolina. Explore the SCBG's Natural Heritage Trail to discover the basic ecology of diverse South Carolina habitats. Prerequisite: Basic Botany.

Saturday, October 27
Enter the forest to explore the giants of the plant world with Dan Whitten, President of the Upstate Chapter of the SCNPS. Become familiar with our native trees, shrubs and woody vines by learning to recognize their bark, leaves, twigs, fruit, and form. Deepen your knowledge through the use of a dichotomous key and by learning to recognize plant communities. Participants will also learn how woody plants are useful as tools, medicines, shelter, and as forage for humans and other animals. Prerequisite: Basic Botany

Saturday, November 10
Discover how and why native plants have the potential to transform traditional horticultural practices with Jon Fritz, owner of Bluestem Landscape Design. Subjects include what is native, the importance of soil, basics of plant health, methods of planting and maintaining native plants, and eco-friendly horticulture practices. Learn how to attract beneficial wildlife like birds, bees, and butterflies while balancing elements of design. Prerequisite: Basic Botany.

Not currently scheduled:

Join Rick Huffman, landscape architect, and founder and past president of the South Carolina Plant Society, to learn how native plants are the key to developing a sustainable landscape, and an important way to conserve natural resources. A sustainable landscape is in balance with the local climate, soil and plants and wildlife. Native plants enable you to potentially minimize the resource inputs into your garden, such as fertilizer, pesticides, gasoline, time and water. In this class, we put it all together: planning and design, site and plant selection, soil conditions, irrigation and water efficiency, and maintenance. Prerequisite: Basic Botany.

Join Kim Morganello, Clemson Cooperative Extension Water Resources Agent, & Mary Martinich, Professional Landscape Architect with Thomas & Hutton, to learn how to design a sustainable landscape. This course will discuss key landscape features for consideration that work to incorporate native plants, manage water and provide habitat for wildlife. Participants will take a holistic approach to site planning and consider the needs of the resident balanced with an approach that is sensitive to local ecology and the environment. By creating a sustainable landscape, inputs can be minimized, potentially saving the resident time and money.  This class will cover a range of topics including water wise gardening practices, plant selection and healthy soils, while also providing an opportunity to take a closer look, & plan for implementing a sustainable landscape in your yard.  Prerequisite: Basic Botany.

In this field-identification course learn about the foliage and flowers of primarily herbaceous plants, although some shrubs will surely sneak in. Join Patrick McMillan as you explore the many habitats along the Natural Heritage Trail. Learn how to use a key to aid plant identification. For certification, both spring and fall classes are required. Pre-requisite: Basic Botany.


Saturday, September 22
SCNP CERTIFICATE ELECTIVE: Opening Your WOrld Through Nature Journaling with Gale McKinley
A nature journal is a place to record our observations of the natural world and to reflect on them. Sketching allows us to slow down enough to see nature in a whole new way, to improve our power of observation, and to stimulate curiosity. By improving our sketching skills with a few simple methods, you will become a more attentive naturalist and improve your ability to capture the living beauty of the seasons. Gale McKinley is a winner of the South Carolina Arts Commission Jean Laney Harris award for her split oak basket making and an artist by profession. She draws on her time in the natural world to inspire not only her paintings and drawings, but also her longtime hobbies as an herbalist, naturalist, split oak basket maker, and nature journal writer. Bring your favorite color pencils or water color supplies.  Basic Botany is a pre-requisite for this class. 

Tuesday, September 25
SCNP Elective Class: Native South Carolina Grasses with Bill Stringer
In this elective class, join Bill Stringer emeritus faculty of Clemson’s Department of Plant and Environment Sciences to learn more about South Carolina’s 326 species of native grasses.  Explore the structure of a typical grass shoot. Discover how grass plants develop and reproduce, and the differences between the vegetative and reproductive stages of grasses Explore the diversity of grasses: annual vs. perennial grasses and warm-season vs. cool-season grasses. Prerequisite: Basic Botany.


September 29
From Blue Vervain and Dandelion to Poke and Wild Lettuce, Nature provides us with an abundance of medicinal plants that are commonly looked upon as nuisance weeds. In this class, we will take a walkabout where you will learn to identify some of these native or naturalized green allies, and discover some of their traditional and current uses. Participants will learn proper harvesting methods then harvest plants and create a fresh plant tincture, create a tincture from dried plant material, a healing salve, and a moisturizing cream to take home. Bring your lunch, water, snacks, pen & notebook, camera, sunscreen and a natural bug repellent (optional). Dress for the weather and wear comfy walking shoes. Pre-requisite: Basic Botany.

Saturday, October 6
SCNPC Elective Class: Sandhills Exploration with Bruce Sorrie
Join eminent botanist Bruce Sorrie for a field trip to the Sandhills National Wildlife Refuge. Bruce spent many years inventorying and surveying habitats in North Carolina, predominantly within the longleaf pine ecosystem. He is the author of “A field guide to the wildflowers of the Sandhills Region: North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.” Prerequisite: Basic Botany.

Saturday, October 13
SCNP CERTIFICATE ELECTIVE: Making a Plan to Manage Invasive Plants
Colette DeGarady will begin the morning discussing common invasives in South Carolina including: identification, treatment, available resources, and management.   We’ll review how to make a management plan for any size yard or property. We’ll take a short walk through the Botanical Garden to id some common invasive plants before lunch. After lunch, we’ll travel to Nine Times Preserve (via carpool). We’ll hike the Trillium trail and discuss common vectors for invasive plants. Then we’ll put our classroom conversations into practice with some identification and discussion on treatment while reviewing a specific Invasive plant management plan for Nine Times Preserve. Basic Botany required.

Friday, October 26
Join us for a hands-on elective workshop for all those interested in rain garden design, installation, and native plant selection.  Rain gardens are landscaped depressions that collect water runoff and allow it to infiltrate, thereby reducing erosion and flooding.  These low maintenance native plant gardens can be constructed at nearly any home site.

The workshop will focus on these topics:

• Benefits of rain gardens

• Rain garden design, construction, and maintenance

• Native plant selection

The workshop will include the installation of a rain garden at the SC Botanical Garden, so be prepared to plant and get dirty!  We will also learn some bog gardening basics.  Taught by Dr. Sarah White, Clemson U., Kathy Bridges, SCBG, and Cathy Reas Foster, SCNPS. Basic botany required.


Not currently scheduled:

Native plants are immensely important to a diversity of wildlife, especially our native birds. Audubon South Carolina (ASC) owns and manages over 22,000 acres in South Carolina for the benefit of birds, and part of this elective course will be an exploration of ASC’s best-known property – the Francis Beidler Forest. This sanctuary features 1,800 acres of virgin, cypress-tupelo swamp; while historically abundant, this habitat type is now restricted to only two locations in South Carolina. Identification of the dominant plant species in this ecosystem will be discussed. Audubon South Carolina is also working to restore native ecosystems, and attendees will have the opportunity to explore two demonstration sites as part of this course – a longleaf pine savannah and native warm-season grassland. In addition, Audubon instructors will cover a variety of other topics, including bird identification, birds and climate change, gardening for birds, and bird-friendly forestry.

Spend the day delving into the rich world of ferns ranging from the small Mosquito Fern to the large Royal Fern. Discover which species to expect where: mountains? coastal plain? moist woodland? dryish hillside? Join naturalist Tim Lee to learn about the basic ecology, natural history and identification of ferns through classroom lecture and time exploring the state's diverse habitats as illustrated on the Garden's Natural Heritage Trail. Course full. Prerequisite: Basic Botany.

SCNP Elective Class: Piedmont Plant Communities
The Piedmont physiographic region of South Carolina covers about a third of the state and is composed of rolling hills.  Natural habitats range from dry upland communities and granite outcrops through mesic slopes to seasonally wet floodplains.  Plant species present vary greatly with soil composition and moisture; thus, allowing for a high diversity of species. Visit key areas in the Piedmont region with experienced Newberry College educator Dr. Charles N. Horn. Piedmont Communities is an elective course. Prerequisite: Basic Botany.

SCNPC Elective Class: Natives at Home with Julie Hill of Southern Wild Landscape Design
Native plants aren't just for the wild! Spend the day exploring the use of native plants to create beautiful containers and garden beds for your home. Join garden designer, Julie Hill, in discovering the secrets to planting containers that will thrill your senses, fill your patios, and spill over with natural beauty. Learn how to design your own garden beds from start to finish with flowers for cutting and for attracting birds and butterflies. Learn economical ways to start your plants, optimal planting times, and cutting techniques. With walks through the Garden to inspire your designs, you'll leave this class eager to get started on your fall gardening projects! Prerequisite: Basic Botany.

SCNPC Elective Class: Coastal Ecology with Patrick McMillan
Visit carnivorous plants, orchids, and a myriad of wildflowers in their native habitats on this exciting new elective course for the native plant certification. In this two-day class, we will explore the ecosystem processes, composition, and management of major coastal habitats including salt marshes, maritime forest, marl forests, longleaf pine wetland savannas, flatwoods, blackwater swamp forests, pond cypress savannas, and pocosins. Our class will focus on natural areas in Georgetown, Charleston and Berkeley counties. (Some basic accommodations available at Baruch Institute for extra cost – contact Sue Watts for details). Prerequisite: Basic Botany. This counts as two electives.

In this workshop, explore the botanical world of plant propagation with staff members Allison Kelly, Natural Heritage Trail Manager, and Trenton Miller, Collections Manager. The adventure begins with classroom time pertaining to the many wonderful ways to multiply our beloved natives. We will cover the steps involved in propagation by seeds, cuttings, and divisions. The class will then participate in some hands-on experience practicing some of these techniques. The afternoon will be finished with a hike through the gardens, discussing which methods of propagation are appropriate for each of the wonderful natives we encounterPre-requisite: Basic Botany.

Learning to recognize mountain plant communities can increase your ability to spot their resident plant species. Plant communities tend to be found in similar habitats depending on the local and broader environmental conditions. Join naturalist Tim Lee to explore mountain plant communities in the Jocassee Gorges area and along Hwy 11 corridor to explore how factors like elevation, aspect, slope, rainfall and temperature affect the locations and types of mountain plant communities as well as identifying plants living within them. Pre-requisite: Basic Botany.


Future courses include:

Pests & Diseases

Invasives & Exotics

Propagation of Native Plants

Native Grasses

Rain Gardens

Soil Basics

Native Plant Container Gardens

Shoreline Buffers

Ferns and Fern Allies

Coastal Plain Plant Communities

Sandhills Plant Communities

Mountain Plant Communities

Piedmont Plant Communities