Course Name: 

Ecological Plant Knowledge I – Natives, Gaia College, Royal Roads University

Course Hours: 42      Credit Value: 3

Delivery Format: Online or Blended

Applicable Programs:

Diploma in Organic Land Care, Gaia College

Prerequisites: none

Co-requisites: none

Contribution to Program: Core

Approval Date:   January 2021


This course provides an overview of plant and ecosystem relationships, through a brief review of ecosystem ecology, botany and plant physiology as it relates to choosing and planting a variety of native plants.  The plant identification component emphasizes native landscape plants including annuals, perennials, shrubs, deciduous and evergreen trees which are commonly used in the ornamental landscape for the temperate and colder northern hemisphere. Topics include: interdependence within ecosystems, meaning of native, native ecosystems and plant communities, formation of specialized ecosystems of invasive plants, creating wildlife habitat with native plants. This course partially satisfies the Gaia College Diploma in Organic Land Care. Earn generous continuing education credits for landscape professionals to maintain industry certifications (ISA, CNLA, BCSLA, NALP, MGOI, IPM, NOFA, SOUL).


Course Learning Requirements

Knowledge and Skills

When you have earned credit for this course you will have demonstrated an ability to: 

1.Recognize what a biome and ecosystem are, and how plants have adapted to the growing conditions of their home environment.

1.1.Define what a native plant is.

1.2.Recognize communities of natural companion plants.

1.3.Recognize invasive plants and issues on gardening with non-natives.

2. Describe basic plant physiology as it relates to plant adaptation and plant identification.

2.1.Explain plant classifications.

2.2.Explain the differences between annuals, perennials and bulbs, deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs.

2.3.Explain the relationship between cells, tissues and organs of the flowering plants.

2.4.Explain the function of roots, stems, leaves and flowers.

3.Identify the plants on the study lists using morphological characteristics.

3.1.Using scientific and common plant names, identification keys, and databases, identify various evergreen, deciduous and herbaceous plants and their originating ecosystem.

3.2. Recognize culture and defining characteristics of: size; shape; foliage; bark; flowering time; flower colour; and fruit for various evergreen, deciduous and herbaceous plants.

4.Select plants for different landscape uses based on specific needs and ecological sustainability.

4.1.Discuss culture with respect to growing requirements for soil and fertility preferences, light, water, temperature, hardiness, wind, snow, seaside conditions and microclimates.

4.2.Identify uses for food, medicine and fiber of approximately 140 evergreen, deciduous and herbaceous plants.

4.3.Define and identify invasive plants.

4.4.Recognize issues that come from not using native plants in the landscape.

Learning Resources

Required: Bringing Nature Home. Douglas Tallamy. Timber Press, Inc., 2009 – ISBN 13-978-0-88192-992-8

Recommended (the definitive Plant Catalogue – maybe also available in local libraries): The Botanical Garden Volume I Trees and Shrubs. Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix. Firefly Books Canada, 2002 – ISBN 1-55297-591-6.

Recommended (the definitive Plant Catalogue – maybe also available in local libraries): The Botanical Garden Volume II Perennials and Annuals. Roger Phillips and Martyn Rix. Firefly Books Canada, 2002 – ISBN 1-55297-592-4.

Teaching/Learning Methods - During this course you are likely to experience:

Learning Activities and Assessment - Samples of learning activities include:

Evaluation/Earning Credit

A passing grade in this course requires a total of 100% for all tests (multiple attempts are encouraged) and a minimum of 75% for the total written assignments and a minimum of 75% for the discussion participation.  A certificate of completion will be awarded when the minimum passing grade or higher, has been achieved. Below passing grade constitutes a failing grade (F).