Richmond Tree Stewards Training Course Syllabus Fall 2023

Tuesdays, 6:30-8:30 pm
Sept. 12-Nov. 14

Westover Baptist Church
1000 Westover Hills Blvd
Richmond, VA 23225

Sunday Oct. 29 or Saturday, Nov. 4
8:30-10:00 am or 10:15-11:45 am
Locations TBD

Class Contacts:

Dana Marshall, Education Chair
[email protected]

Dave Pohlmann, President [email protected]

Louise Seals, Projects Chair
[email protected]

Course Objectives: Through classroom training and hands-on practice, students will be equipped with the scientific, technical, and operational knowledge to 1) spread awareness of and advocate for Richmond’s urban canopy and 2) become certified Tree Stewards actively engaged in our community.

Required Text: A Training Manual for Virginia Tree Stewards, 4th Edition, published by Trees Virginia, is available to download. This is an excellent publication with links to resources and review questions at the end of each unit. Assigned reading will be taken from units in this manual and should be read prior to class.

Attendance/Housekeeping: All attendees are required to sign in upon arrival. Room setup is theater-style and you may cluster or distance according to your comfort level. Masks are optional. We monitor public health guidelines and may adjust our protocols accordingly. Classes will include a break so feel free to bring a snack or drink.

Communications: We announce volunteer opportunities via email, registration through SignUp Genius You will need to create your own login. Bookmark this page on your browser to save time. The site is frequently updated, so check back regularly.

Website: Richmond Tree Stewards The Tree Steward Login, located at the bottom of the home page is password-protected. Username is TSRichmond and the password is PlantMoreTrees. Capital letters are required. This Tree Steward Login will take you to forms for reporting your hours, online educational seminars, and links to other resources.

Instagram: @richmondtreestewards

Facebook: Richmond Tree Stewards (official) or join our public group, also Richmond Tree Stewards

YouTube: Richmond Tree Stewards

Requirements for Tree Steward Certification:

  1. Attend all classes/pruning lab or complete make-up assignments.
  2. Complete 20 volunteer hours by Dec. 31, 2025. Ten of the 20 hours must be supervised pruning.
  3. Pass a one-on-one pruning exam.

Richmond Tree Stewards Training Course Syllabus Fall 2023


Introduction to Richmond Tree Stewards
Dave Pohlmann, President and Dana Marshall, Education Chair
Getting to know Richmond Tree Stewards -Class resources and requirements

Icebreaker Exercise
Peggy Siegel, Richmond Tree Steward, Kripalu Mindful Outdoor Guide


Tree Biology, Physiology and Environmental Factors
Peggy Singelmann, RVA Gardener LLC and Host, Virginia Homegrown on PBS/VPM
-What is a tree?
-How trees grow and function -Environmental factors affecting trees (Read Units 1, 2 and 3 pp 18-23)

Additional resources: Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources video gives a comprehensive look at Tree Biology and Physiology.


Tree ID: Characteristics and Subtle Clues

Suzette Lyon, Richmond Tree Stewards

-Leaves, Buds, Fruit and Bark

-Form (Read Unit 4)

Additional resources: Monumental Trees of Virginia; Virginia Department of Forestry’s Tree Identification, Acorn and Nut Identification, Tree ID Bark Types; a variety of plant- and tree ID mobile apps are available for free. Check out TrueTimber Arborist’s Instagram for “Tree ID Tuesday” posts; True Timber’s website offers a map of Richmond’s remarkable trees.


Pruning Theory and Concepts
Scott Morrison, Richmond Tree Stewards
-Why prune?
-Assessing a tree before you prune
-How pruning affects trees
(Read Unit 7)

Additional resources: Dr. Ed Gilman is professor emeritus of the Environmental Horticulture Department at the University of Florida and developed an Arboriculture Video Series. His videos on pruning are especially informative.


Right Tree, Right Place
Janine Lester, BCMA, Municipal Specialist
-Tree selection
-Site evaluation
(Read Unit 5)

Additional resources: See RVA’s Department of Urban Forestry page for canopy information, planting, pruning, tree removal and other required permits.


Practical Tree Pruning, Tools and Safety
John Grogan, Richmond Tree Stewards
-Getting ready
-How to make the cut

Additional resources: ISA Best Management Practices: Pruning (Third Edition) will be given to students who elect to take the pruning exam and complete Tree Steward certification.


Annual Tree Giveaway at Second Baptist Church

This is an optional event, a great opportunity to meet Tree Stewards and help distribute 2,000 native saplings to area homeowners. Check SignUp Genius for location and available shifts.


Planting, Tools and Safety
Dave Pohlmann, Richmond Tree Stewards
-Preparing the tree for planting
-Site preparation
-Planting and after care
(Read Unit 6)

Additional resources: USDA Forest Service Tree Owners Manual is a good general guide for tree planting and care.


Tree Planting in Westover Hills

Optional event. Help plant 20 street trees. Tools provided, check SignUp Genius for details.


Sunday Morning Pruning Lab (8:30-10:00 am or 10:15-11:45 am)

Mandatory, sign up for only one of four available time slots (over two weekends)
Veteran Tree Stewards
-Hands-on pruning instruction in small groups
-Tools will be provided
-Location TBA


Trees and the Watershed
Joseph Shelton, Restoration Field Manager, James River Association
-How water moves
-Water quality and stormwater management (Read Unit 3 pp 24-27)

Invasive Species
Catherine Farmer, Richmond Tree Stewards and James River Invasive Plant Task Force

-The problem with invasives
-Major invasive species
-Managing invasives
(Read Unit 9)

Additional resources: Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests; Plant Invaders of Mid-Atlantic Natural Areas; Mistaken Identity? Invasive Plants and their Native Look-Alikes; VDOF Insects and Disease.

Visit The James River Association for information about RVA’s watershed and actions to preserve and protect it.


Saturday Morning Pruning Lab (8:30-10 am or 10:15-11:45 am)
Mandatory, sign up for only one of four available time slots (over two weekends).
Veteran Tree Stewards
-Hands-on pruning instruction in small groups
-Tools will be provided
-Location TBA


Trees and People in the Community
Michael Smart, Engagement Coordinator, City of Richmond Office of Sustainability;
Qui Nguyen, Engagement Coordinator, City of Richmond Department of Parks and Recreation;
Sheri Shannon, Co-founder, Southside ReLeaf;
Louise Seals, Richmond Tree Stewards-Moderator;
Tree Steward Project Leaders

-Urban Heat Islands and Environmental Equity
-Working with the City of Richmond
-Tree Stewards in the community
-Read Unit 10 and read or watch one or more of the following:

How Decades of Racist Housing Policy Left Neighborhoods Sweltering, New York Times, Aug. 24, 2020

Richmond’s urban heat islands — Scott’s Addition, Jackson Ward, Manchester–put communities in danger, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 4, 2022

It gets hot but some areas of the city are heat islands, Richmond Times-Dispatch, July 15, 2022

Additional resources: Richmond 300: A Guide for Growth. Richmond will celebrate its 300th anniversary in 2037; see plans for a more equitable, sustainable and beautiful future for all.

RVAgreen 2050 is the City of Richmond’s equity-centered climate action and resilience planning initiative, spearheaded by the Office of Sustainability. The goals are to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 45% by 2030, achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and help the community adapt to Richmond’s climate impacts of extreme heat, precipitation, and flooding.

American Forests website includes a Tree Equity Score for 150,000 neighborhoods and 486 municipalities, including RVA.


Dana Marshall and Dave Pohlmann, Richmond Tree Stewards
-How to propose a project
-Course review
-Next steps