Volunteer to be a Docent

Docent Program


Expand your knowledge of the Arboretum and share your passion for plants with others. As an Arnold Arboretum docent, you will be trained to lead tours for adults, both for the general public and special interest groups.

Staff Contact

For more information, contact Sheryl White, Visitor Engagement, at 617.384.5251 or fill out and submit the volunteer application.  We will contact you when the next available training program is scheduled.


The Arnold Arboretum, Boston, MA
Directions are available.

Responsibilities and Time Commitment

  • Attend five to seven training days, which cover Arboretum history and current activities, horticultural information about the living collections, natural history and botany, and interpretive techniques.
  • During the training, attend at least one free public tour, work outside of class hours on training assignments, and shadow at least one Interpreter shift.
  • Lead one or two adult group tours per month between April and November, especially during our peak seasons (May-June, September-October). Tours last approximately 90 minutes; docents commit to arriving at least 15 minutes before a tour to prepare. Tours occur on some weekdays and more often on weekends.
  • Commit to at least one year of volunteering, with the goal of making a multiyear investment.
  • After the training, continue to expand your knowledge of plants, Arboretum history, and interpretive techniques through independent study, periodic evaluation, and by attending special “refreshers,” lectures, and tours for volunteers.

Required Skills & Interests

  • Able to meet the responsibilities and time commitment above
  • Interest in learning more about the history and plants of the Arboretum
  • Interest in the environment and enthusiasm about the importance of plants
  • Excellent communication and interpersonal skills; ability to interact with people of all ages and backgrounds; fluency in English
  • Desire to continuously gain new knowledge and share it with others
  • Ability to walk outdoors in all types of weather and lead tours up to two hours in length
  • Dependability and punctuality
  • Knowledge of woody plants and the Arboretum landscape preferred but not required


  • Access to the resources of oldest public arboretum in North America.
  • Invitation to the annual Volunteer Appreciation Event.
  • Periodic free “refresher” classes, lectures, tours, and field trips on timely and interesting topics.
  • Free membership after 20 hours of service.
  • Gift certificates toward classes after 20 hours of service (restrictions apply).
  • Library borrowing privileges after successful completion of training (restrictions apply).
  • Training Notebook and access to volunteer-only sections of the website.

The docent program is a partnership: you provide your time, commitment, and enthusiasm and the Arnold Arboretum provides rich resources and experienced staff. It is a wonderful opportunity for self-growth and for reaching out to Arboretum visitors to communicate the importance of plants in our lives.