Cornell Plantations’ gardens, arboretum, and natural areas are places for discovery and wonder. But beyond our natural beauty and leadership in environmental conservation, education is at the heart of everything we do.
From Cornell students to local schoolchildren, visitors and lifelong learners, every year 14,000 people reconnect with nature through our tours, classes, and free public programs. This delightful short video shows the breadth and value of these programs and the
difference they make.
You can help people of all ages learn about plants and how essential they are to our lives and well-being. Please make a gift today.
Cornell University provides only 15% of our operating budget, so we rely on support from people like you who care about preserving the environment, and the importance of plants and nature in our lives.
Cornell Plantations -- the arboretum, botanical garden and natural areas of Cornell University -- welcomes all alumni and their families to Reunion Weekend, June 5-8,2014.
During Reunion our rhododendrons, irises, and magnolias should be blooming, and you may still find many spring wildflowers in the Mundy Wildflower Garden and natural areas. Take our shuttle van from Barton Hall, West Campus or North Campus, to the Nevin Welcome Center, where you can take a mini-tour, pick up a visitor map and explore on your own, browse the exhibits and gift shop, or just relax and enjoy the beauty and serenity of the gardens and grounds. Our staff and volunteers are available to answer your questions and help you find your way around.
Welcome back -- to Cornell Plantations!
A variety of tours and programs are planned for Reunion Weekend. Activities are free and are open to all Reunion attendees, the general public and members of the Ithaca community:
Nevin Welcome Center open from 9:30 to 5:00 p.m., Thursday through Sunday.
Shuttle service available from 12:00 to 5:00, Friday and Saturday. Stops at Barton Hall, West Campus and North Campus.
Beebe Lake Natural History Walk
Thursday, 3 p.m.- 4 p.m.
Stroll around the lake to discover the history, flora, and fauna of Cornell's favorite natural area.
Plantations Botanical Garden Highlights Tour
Nevin Welcome Center, Plantations Rd.,
Friday, 10 a.m.- 11a.m.
Guided one-hour tour through the numerous theme gardens in the Botanical Garden.
Plantations Garden Mini Tours
Nevin Welcome Center, Plantations, Rd.,
Friday, 1 p.m.- 4:30 p.m., Saturday, 1 p.m.- 4:30 p.m.
15-minute mini-tours highlighting significant plants and gardens, launching approximately every 20 minutes.
Plantations Mundy Wildflower Garden Tour
Mundy Wildflower Garden, Caldwell Road entrance,
Friday, 11 a.m.- 12 p.m.,
Explore this woodland wildflower garden and discover a rich variety of native flora.
Upper Cascadilla Gorge Hike
Meet at the Schwartz Center for the Performing Arts in Collegetown,
Friday, 2 p.m.- 3:30 p.m.
Hike through Upper Cascadilla Gorge and learn about the geology, natural
history, and beauty of this scenic greenway. Includes one moderately steep slope; please wear comfortable walking shoes.
Spring Plant Sale
Cornell Plantations Plant Production Facility, 397 Forest Home Drive;
Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Take home some of Plantations’ gardeners’ top picks for your own home landscape! This spring’s offerings will include some small shrubs, a wide variety of perennials, and some new additions to the horticulture trade.
Fall Creek Gorge Hike
Meet at the north end of the Triphammer Footbridge (by Beebe Lake Dam),
Saturday, 12:30 p.m.- 2 p.m.,
Discover the beauty, natural history and geology of Cornell’s iconic Fall Creek Gorge. Moderately strenuous hike over steep gravel trails, and up and down two staircases; please wear comfortable walking shoes.
“The Hangovers” - Allan Hosie Treman '21 Memorial Concert
Jackson Grove, F.R. Newman Arboretum, Saturday, 2:30 – 3:30 pm,
Relax in the shade and enjoy this performance by The Hangovers, the popular a capella subset of the Cornell Glee Club. Accessibility for disabled
persons is limited. Refreshments provided. Plantations shuttle vans will loop to the Arboretum before and after the concert.
Get inspired and take home some of our gardeners’ top picks for your own home landscape this Saturday, June 7, 9:00–4:00 at our Plant Production Facility. Discounted prices for Plantations members. If you’re not a member, you can join at the sale and receive the discount on the spot!
Through a partnership with faculty in Cornell’s Horticulture and Landscape Architecture departments, we recently installed a climate change demonstration garden in the Pounder Vegetable Garden. An unheated greenhouse known as a high tunnel creates a warmer environment allowing students and faculty to study the effects of higher temperatures on the plants growing inside and outside the high tunnel. The garden is also used to help visitors better understand climate change and the impacts it may have on our home gardens. Learn more here in the Cornell Chronicle article, “High tunnels at Plantations to simulate climate change.”
The Campus Gorges are the most spectacular parts of Cornell's natural areas, swimming in them is extremely unsafe and not permitted. Learn more about how you can enjoy Cornell's gorges and where you can access swimming areas in the Chronicle article, "Gorge safety is paramount in Cornell summers."
We recently acquired a biologically significant 10-acre parcel at the headwaters of Cascadilla Creek, which is now part of the Ringwood Ponds Natural Area. The purchase was made possible through a bargain sale and gift from John Semmler, and with financial support from the Town of Dryden. With this acquisition, Plantations extended its protection to an area that has been long recognized for supporting locally and regionally important natural resources.
The Ringwood Ponds Natural Area is noted for its complex, rolling glacial topography, with steep slopes, kames, eskers, kettle hole ponds, and forested wetlands. The landscape is dominated by maple-beech forest, with smaller areas of oak-hickory, hemlock, and red maple swamp forest. A large part of the forests have not been logged for over 130 years, and are considered near old-growth.
Plantations’ conservation efforts at Ringwood Ponds began in 1934 with the gift of 114 acres by the Lloyd Library and Museum of Cincinnati, Ohio. Additional donations and acquisitions have now brought the total protected holdings to 230 acres. The new preserve addition was dedicated on May 24, 2014, and will be known as the Andrew Semmler Tract, named in memory of John Semmler’s son.
Andrew Semmler was a young man who enjoyed nature and spent many hours with his father exploring the woodlands around his home. When he passed away in December 2013, John Semmler wanted to honor his son’s memory and love of the outdoors by helping Plantations preserve the natural area.
“I believe that this addition to the Ringwood Ponds Natural Area creates a more well-defined boundary between this unique preserve and one of the privately-owned parcels it borders. More important for me, it permanently recognizes Andrew's love of nature in a way that would have been truly meaningful to him.”
“We are thankful for the generosity of Mr. Semmler, the Town of Dryden, and a number of Ringwood neighbors and Plantations donors, who contributed funds to protect this tract,” stated Todd Bittner, director of Natural Areas at Cornell Plantations. “This addition to our 3,400 acres of natural area holdings will expand the diversity of habitats and unique landscapes available for use as outdoor classrooms for Cornell and other educators. Plantations protects and manages a system of 44 preserves that facilitate world-class research in the natural sciences for hundreds of University students and faculty annually. We are grateful that Mr. Semmler’s gift will not only honor his son, but will benefit researchers and students for generations.”
The Andrew Semmler Tract and Ringwood Ponds Natural Area are approximately 7 miles east of Cornell University and are open to the public. Click here to learn more about this valuable natural area.
Cascadilla Gorge Trail is slated to be fully open in time for the students' return in late summer. Read more in the May 29 Ithaca Times article "Cornell Restores Cascadilla Gorge Trail."
Krissy Boys spends much of her time removing garlic mustard in the Mundy Wildflower Garden. Learn more about this invasive plant and advice from Krissy in the May 13 Ithaca Times article, "To Pull Or Not To Pull: Research Questions Garlic Mustard Control."
Cornell Plantations announces the retirement of the organization’s director of horticulture, Mary Hirshfeld. Her decision to retire will bring to a close an amazing career of 36 years of continuous dedication to Cornell Plantations.
Christopher Dunn, the new director of Cornell Plantations, remarked, “Although I have not been at Plantations very long, it is obvious to me, in every new discovery I make in our gardens and arboretum, that Mary’s hands have touched and molded these areas. She has helped Plantations to carry on Liberty Hyde Bailey’s dream of a ‘new type of botanical garden.’ On behalf of myself, our staff, and volunteers we are incredibly grateful to Mary for her 36 years of making Plantations a beautiful and inspirational place.”
During her tenure, Hirshfeld led the horticultural development of the botanical garden and F.R. Newman Arboretum. With a goal of having a rich and diverse pallet of plants, Hirshfeld helped create noted gardens such as the the Bowers Rhododendron Collection, the Mullestein Family Winter Garden, the Treman Woodland Walk and the Zucker Shrub Collection to name just a few. Hirshfeld also led the way for Plantations to become a member of the North American Plant Collections Consortium, which is a network of botanical gardens and arboreta to preserve key plant species and to promote high standards of plant collections management for its diverse collection of maples and oaks. Today, Plantations’ botanical gardens and the arboretum serve as models for exemplary horticulture, featuring 12,000 accessioned plants comprising over 50,000 individual plants, all of which were selected to showcase the value of plants in our lives.
Reflecting on her career at Plantations, Hirshfeld said "Over the past 36 years I have had the pleasure of watching and helping Cornell Plantations grow into a world-class Public Garden. I've seen transformation after transformation, and I'm grateful to my dedicated staff that has helped us achieve that world-class recognition. If it were not for them, we wouldn't be where we are today. I'm comfortable in the thought that my team will be able to continue the work that we've started together, and look forward to watching Cornell Plantations grow forward.”
Cornell Plantations will conduct a national search to choose Hirshfeld’s successor in the coming months.
Click here to watch a short interview with Mary on her last day.