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NC State Extension

Online Plant Identification and Use

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Longwood and NC State


Identifying plants begins by learning their language.

NCSU Department of Horticultural Science partnered with Longwood Gardens to provide a fully-online introduction to plant identification. These courses introduce you to the language of botany, plants with global popularity, a few special plants from breeding programs at top horticulture institutions, and cultivation information for key plant species. By learning the fundamental language of botany, testing it with games, and being exposed to a carefully curated cast of plants that exhibit key identification features, participants will be ready to deduce mystery plants anywhere in the world!

These self-study courses are offered asynchronously (completely self-paced with no live components). Students have access to materials for one year from the time they register.

The courses feature activities that are crafted to suit a range of learning types, including:

  • photo storiesPhoto story lectures
  • Online fact pages
  • Flashcards
  • Matching games
  • Vocabulary games
  • Hundreds of beautiful images
  • Links to educational resources
    Asclepias tuberosa characteristics
  • Illustrated vocabularies
  • Achievement badges

These are asynchronous, entirely online, self-paced, non-credit courses. You may participate anywhere that you have access to the internet. There are no required presentations or set times you will need to meet online.


  • Access to the internet
  • Access to a computer or tablet. While it is possible to complete much of the course on a mobile device, some of the course activities will function best using a full web browser on a computer. The course was not designed for use on a mobile phone or other devices with a small screen. A tablet or computer is required for an optimal experience.
  • Google Chrome is recommended for the best functionality.
  • Access to a digital camera (smartphone is fine)
  • Access to PowerPoint, Word, or other software that you can use to add labels to images.

Fees per Class

  • $99 – General public
  • $89 – Extension Master Gardener℠ volunteers, Extension Master Naturalist volunteers, and volunteers at the JC Raulston Arboretum. Contact your county extension agent or the volunteer director at the arboretum for the discount code. If they do not already have the code ask them to send a request from their work email account to Once you have the code, register for the class. The very last step before you pay is to apply a discount code. Enter the code in ALL CAPS


Understanding Plants


Improve your plant identification skills by studying leaves, stems, flowers, and fruits. Look at the methods and terminology used to describe plants throughout the seasons. Gain an understanding of the botanical system of plant names and how the plant kingdom is organized. This course covers important “groundwork” for anyone hoping to become a better gardener.

More Information


REGISTER for the Understanding Plants self-study course

Annuals, Perennials, Vines, and Groundcovers:
Identification and Use


Add a burst of color to your landscape with exciting textures and blooms by examining 45 plants that do well across the country. Learn to recognize and use these garden favorites to enhance your landscape.

More Information


REGISTER for the Annuals, Perennials, Vines, and Groundcovers Self-Study course

Houseplants, Succulents, and Cacti:
Identification and Use

Learn the fundamentals of plant ID and houseplant care by exploring 50 popular and fascinating houseplants, succulents, and cacti.

More Information


REGISTER for the Houseplants, Succulents, and Cacti self-study course

Trees, Shrubs, and Conifers:
Identification and Use


Explore the world of traditional woody plants, including flowering trees, shrubs, and conifers, by examining 45 plants that do well across the country. Learn cultural information about these structural plantings and their use in the landscape.

More Information


REGISTER for the Trees, Shrubs, and Conifers Self-Study course

Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts:

Identification and Use

Explore the edible side of the landscape with an introduction to vegetables, herbs, fruits, and nuts by examining 50 popular (and delicious) plants that do well across the country.

More Information


REGISTER for the Vegetables, Herbs, Fruits, and Nuts Self-Study course

Quotes from Students

“I want you to know how much my enjoyment of gardening has increased because I took both the Annuals and the Trees classes. I have so enjoyed entering the botany world. Now, when I attended other classes and seminars I realize I’m getting much more benefit from them because of that opportunity.”

“Thank you so much! Loved how this course opened my eyes to the natural world around me!”

“Perfect! Just what I was looking for as a Master Gardener volunteer.”

“The course construction was incredible! A great way to delve deeper into the species of particular/common plants. I love working at my own pace.”

Helpful Resources

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