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Duration (approx) 100 hours
Qualification Statement of Attainment

Deciduous Trees - Online Course 

Deciduous trees are important for amenity horticulture and forestry. The are widely planted particularly in temperate and cooler climates.

This course offers flexible self-paced study. Students are supported through assignment feedback and tutor interactions if they choose. ACS is a renowned online school with an established history in horticultural, environmental and agricultural studies. 

Join our learning community. 


What you will learn 

  • classification of major groups of trees 
  • selection 
  • propagation 
  • care and maintenance 
  • timber production
  • harvesting, fruiting trees


Who is this course for 

  • horticulturists
  • landscapers
  • council workers - grounds services
  • arborists
  • nursery workers
  • private gardeners and groundkeepers 
  • parks managers
  • countryside ranger 

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  • Develop your ability identify, grow, and maintain a wide selection of deciduous trees.
  • Learn about tree propagation.
  • Learn about using deciduous trees in the landscape.
  • Gain detailed knowledge of deciduous trees such as Acers, Birch, Ash, Oak, Prunus and more. 
  • Learn skills working in arboriculture, tree surgery, land rehabilitation or forestry. 




There are eight lessons in the course as follows:

Lesson 1. Introduction
  • Plant classification
  • Scope and nature of Deciduous Trees
  • Planting methods
  • Using trees - creating a mood with trees
  • Soils, nutrition, pruning
  • Propagation
Lesson 2. Maple - Acer
  • Scope and nature (approx. 200 species plus cultivars)
  • Cultural needs
  • Selected species and varieties
  • Propagating maples
  • Grafting, Seed, Cuttings
  • What makes foliage change colour
Lesson 3. Birch - Betula
  • Birch family characteristics
  • Birch cultural requirements
  • Species and cultivars
  • Propagating Betula ... cuttings, layering
  • Grafting, Budding techniques
Lesson 4. Ash - Fraxinus
  • Overview of Fraxinus
  • Sub genera (ornus and fraxinaster)
  • Cultural requirements
  • Understanding autumn colour variations
  • Selected popular species and cultivars
  • Less commonly grown species
  • Culture of Fraxinus; pest, disease, propagation, etc
Lesson 5. Oak - Quercus
  • Overview and cultural requirements
  • Botany
  • Cultivars
  • Propagation
Lesson 6. Prunus
  • Scope and nature of the genus
  • Culture
  • Selected species and cultivars
  • Plums
  • Peach and Nectarine
  • Cherry
  • Prunus propagation
Lesson 7. Other Deciduous Trees
  • Alnus
  • Cedrella
  • Lagerstroemia
  • Lireodendron
  • Liquidambar
  • Magnolia
  • Malus
  • Platanus
  • Populus
  • Pyrus
  • Salix
  • Sambacus
  • Syringia
  • Ulmus
Lesson 8. Special Project

A problem based learning project with the following aims:

  • Identify factors that will affect the successful culture of a specified group of deciduous trees in a specified locality.
  • Determine criteria for selecting cultivars of deciduous trees.
  • Select cultivars of deciduous trees appropriate for cultivation in a specified situation.
  • Choose plant establishment techniques appropriate to the cultivation of selected deciduous tree cultivars in a specified locality.
  • Determine a routine 12 month maintenance program for a selected collection of deciduous tree cultivars to be grown in a specified locality.




  • Review foundation knowledge in plant identification and culture as needed to properly build expertise specific to deciduous trees.
  • Develop knowledge in classification, identification and culture of plants, from the genus Acer, Betula, Fraxinus, Quercus, Prunus and more. 
  • Review a range of other significant deciduous tree genera not covered previously in this course.
  • Plan the establishment of a collection of different cultivars of deciduous trees suited to growing in a specified locality.



Deciduous plants lose leaves in autumn or early winter, and are fully or partially devoid of foliage over the colder months of the year. This is an adaptation that allows the plant to better survive unfavourable conditions (such as extreme cold). Prior to leaves dropping they undergo a period of senescence. Senescence is the period during which leaf cells progressively die.

Over this senescence period, tissue at the leaf base progressively dies, until finally a complete section of tissue between the leaf and the stem is dead (At this point there is nothing left to hold the leaf to the stem; so it detaches and drops to the ground).

As senescence occurs, the amount of chlorophyll in the leaf (which gives it the normal green colour) reduces. Chlorophyll is actually only one of many pigments that generally occur in leaves; but it is usually the strongest pigment, and for that reason alone, most leaves usually appear green if the plant is healthy.

Other types of pigment chemicals commonly found in leaves include:

  • Anthocyanins –Reds, Blues and Purples
  • Carotenoids –Yellows and Oranges

Generally Carotenoids also decompose rapidly in Autumn, but Anthrocyanins break down much more slowly.

Often Anthrocyanins can still be at close to 100% normal levels when only 40% of normal chlorophyll and carotenoids remain.

Anthrocyanins are produced through chemical processes, from excess sugars in the leaves, particularly in the presence of bright light. In view of this fact; the level of anthrocyanins will be stronger if the plant has been actively photosynthesising (producing sugars) over summer, combined with lots of bright autumn days (if weather is frequently overcast and dull in late summer and autumn; the production of anthrocyanins is decreased).

Lower temperatures in autumn reduce the movement of sugar around the leaf, so if the weather changes from warm to cool fast, the leaf sugar remains high and anthrocyanins build up; otherwise the levels of these pigments might not be so high.

High levels of anthrocyanins will generally result in more vivid autumn foliage colours.



  • Gain specialist knowledge of deciduous trees.
  • Study by distance learning with the guidance and support of our expert tutors.
  • Study when and where you want to online.

If you have any questions about the course, or studying with ACS, please get in touch with our course advisors. They love to answer questions and discuss learner's goals.

Courses can be started anytime from anywhere in the world!

Meet some of our academics

Timothy WalkerB.A.(Botany), RHS.M. Hort., Post.Grad.Dip.Ed. Former Director, Oxford Botanic Gardens.
Maggi BrownMaggi is regarded as an expert in organic growing throughout the UK, having worked for two decades as Education Officer at the world renowned Henry Doubleday Research Association. She has been active in education, environmental management and horticulture across the UK for more than three decades. Some of Maggi's qualifications include RHS Cert. Hort. Cert. Ed. Member RHS Life Member Garden Organic (HDRA) .
Diana Cole (Horticulturist)Horticulturist, Permaculturist, Landscaper, Environmentalist. Holds a Diploma in Horticulture, degree in geography, permaculture certificate and various other qualifications. Between 1985 and 94, Diana was a task leader with the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers. Since 2001 she has been chairperson of the Friends of Mellor Park (with Stockport MDC). From 2005 she has worked exclusively in horticulture as proprietor of her own garden design and consultancy business in and around Derbyshire; and at the same time as part time manager of a small garden centre. Diana has been an enthusiastic and very knowledgeable tutor with ACS since 2008.
Yvonne Sharpe (Horticulturist)Started gardening in 1966, studied a series of horticulture qualifications throughout the 1980's and 90's, culminating in an RHS Master of Horticulture. Between 89 and 1994, she worked teaching in horticultural therapy. Founded the West Herts Garden Association in 1990 and exhibited at Chelsea Flower Show in 1991. In 1994, Yvonne joined the staff at Oaklands College, and between 1996 and 2000 was coordinator for all Amenity Horticulture courses at that college. Since leaving Oakland she has been active as a horticultural consultant, retail garden centre proprietor and sessional lecturer (across many colleges in southern England). In 2000, she also completed a Diploma in Management.

Check out our eBooks

Growing ConifersThe great thing about conifers is they look good all year round. Most of them are grown for foliage, and in general, foliage remains the same pretty well all year. Unlike other trees and shrubs, you do not have a month of attractive flowers, followed by an obscure plant the remainder of the year. A brilliant blue of gold foliage conifer will be blue or gold month in, month out.
Trees and ShrubsUseful for students, tradespeople already working in the field, or the home gardener who needs a quick reference when choosing plants for a garden.
Trees & Shrubs for Small GardensTurn even the smallest space into a great place. This e-book is an essential guide for any gardener who wants to make the most of a small garden, balcony, verandah or courtyard.
Trees and Shrubs for Warm PlacesA stunning book with around 300 colour photos! A comprehensive reference to thousands of tropical plant varieties (mostly different information to the Tropical Plants book) . An classic reference for nurserymen, landscapers, interior plantscapers, horticulturists and any tropical plant enthusiasts. 209 pages