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Part of the Cascadilla Gorge Trail is now open

2 years 33 weeks ago

The Cascadilla Gorge Trail, between Lynn Street and Stewart Avenue, is now reopened after being closed for the winter.  The trail weathered the winter relatively well, having no major damage upon initial inspection.  Major repair work on upstream sections of the trail will commence in the next week or two, with contractors starting where they left off last year, rebuilding trail sections below the Stewart Avenue bridge. The current plan is to reopen the fully repaired trail by October of this year.


2 years 33 weeks ago
As wildflowers begin to bloom in the Mundy Wildflower Garden, visitors with a mobile phone can experience this garden in a whole new way. During the month of April, Emily Oliver, a graduate student in creative writing at Cornell University will pair several species of plants with poems – just in time for National Poetry Month. Visitors can take a self-guided audio tour of the Mundy Wildflower Garden (located off of Caldwell Road in Ithaca). As visitors explore the garden they will find signs next to many plants with a number, once called they will hear the scientific and common name of each plant, along with a poem read by the poem’s author.

Ms. Oliver spent the last few years traveling the U.S. to record poets reading their poems, creating the “Knox Writers House,” a ‘map of voices’ literary audio archive. She wanted to find an unusual way to make the recordings accessible to the public and approached Cornell Plantations with the idea of a Poetry Walk.

“I’ve been looking for new ways to repurpose these recordings,” stated Ms. Oliver. “I wanted to use these poems to create new ways for people to experience the art of poetry. As I learned about each flower, it just became clear which poem to choose... the detail of the natural description felt akin to an image or phrase in something I’ve recorded.”

April is National Poetry Month and is the time when early-spring wildflowers are prolific in the Mundy Wildflower Garden –  so pairing poems from the audio collection to blooming wildflowers became the perfect match! Ms. Oliver worked closely with Krissy Boys, who oversees the Mundy Wildflower Garden, to match poems to the essence of each spring wildflower.


View this short interivew with Emily Oliver about her project.


Gorge Safety: Read the latest article on the successes of Cornell's safety efforts

2 years 38 weeks ago

In the March/April issue of the Cornell Alumni Magazine, the article "Safety First" gives an in-depth report on Cornell's recent campaign for gorge safety. Click here to read the article.

On display: "Ceramics from the Garden"

2 years 38 weeks ago

Learn about a new exhibit by landscape architect, writer, and artist Marc Peter Keane on display at the Nevin Welcome Center and view a short video of the artist discussing his sculptures. Read more

Marc's works are made from substrates of leaves and meadows grasses,some of which were harvested at the Plantations itself. The works, which resemble nests and cocoons, are fired for 5 days in a traditional Japanese wood-kiln. The color patterns and textures of the surfaces are the result of the serendipitous effects of flame on raw clay. The exhibit also includes two ceramic pieces by Momoko Takeshita Keane, Marc’s wife and noted sculptor.

Marc has also designed a new East Asian garden for Plantations. Learn more here.


View this 7-minute video of Marc discussing his sculptures.

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Mr. Keane is a graduate of Cornell University; he lived and worked in Kyoto, Japan for 18 years, and has traveled extensively in Asia.  In addition to his work as a landscape architect, Keane has published several books on the design of Asian Gardens, and poetry.  His most recent garden, The Tiger Glen Garden, was completed in 2011 at the Johnson Museum of Art at Cornell University.  Ms. Takeshita Keane was raised in Kyoto, Japan.  She began studying as a potter in the famous kiln-town of Shigaraki.  She went on to study in the Kyoto Laboratory of Traditional Crafts, learning many aspects of traditional glazes and clay bodies.


Become a Volunteer Tour Guide

2 years 39 weeks ago

Cornell Plantations offers an annual spring training program for anyone interested in becoming a garden docent (tour guide) for the adult group tour program. Volunteer docents interpret the diverse plant collections,unique landscapes and compelling history of Cornell Plantations, and educate adult visitors about the importance and interdependence of plants, people and the natural world. Docents serve as ambassadors throughout the spring, summer and early fall.

Applicants are asked to commit to an eight-week training program, which will take place on Wednesday mornings from 10:00 am to 12 noon, at the Nevin Welcome Center, from March 20 through May 8. Additional monthly training sessions will be scheduled for the remainder of the season (June through October). Training is free and all materials will be provided.


A love of plants, gardens the natural world, and a desire to share that love with others is an essential qualification! Additionally, applicants should possess good oral and interpersonal communication skills, as well as a flexible schedule and availability to lead tours on weekdays, evenings, weekends, and/or holidays. General knowledge of or interest in plants, gardening, horticulture, botany, natural history and/or related areas is extremely helpful; public speaking, teaching or related experience with adult learners is desirable but not required.
If interested in signing up or learning more, please contact Kevin Moss, community outreach coordinator, at, or call (607) 254-7430.

Gift Shop sale this Saturday

2 years 40 weeks ago

On Saturday, February 16, come enjoy the beautiful winter landscape and stop by our gift shop to enjoy 15% off your entire purchase (members receive 30% off).

Become a Youth Wildflower Guide!

2 years 42 weeks ago
As part of Ithaca’s Kids Discover the Trail program, Cornell Plantations offers a spring program for all Ithaca 3rd graders. "Wildflower Exploration: Learning about Plants through Wildflowers" is designed with a school component that prepares the students for their field trip to the Mundy Wildflower Garden.

No experience is necessary just a love for kids and commitment to attend training sessions to learn about our local wildflowers.


If you are interested in delivering this program to children in area schools, contact Raylene Ludgate at (607) 255-2407 or

Training Sessions

The training sessions are held on Wednesdays starting February 13th from 10:30 to 12 noon and continue once per week until the end of April. The sessions are designed to prepare you for facilitating activities in the classroom and leading field trips through the Mundy Wildflower Garden at Cornell Plantations. You will also have the opportunity to shadow experienced guides.

School and Garden Visits

School and garden visits take place weekdays during school hours (8am to 2pm) starting May 1st. You pick the actual dates/times that work with your schedule.

After-holiday sale in the Garden Gift Shop

2 years 45 weeks ago
If you want to stock up on unique ornaments, decorations or other holiday items, all holiday-themed items in our gift shop are 30% off from now until the end of January. And, if you are a member, you will receive an additional 10% discount.

Please note: The gift shop and the Nevin Welcome Center are closed on weekends in January. It is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Starting in February, it will again be open on Saturdays.

On Display in the Nevin Welcome Center: "Trees of the Arboretum," photographs by Bo Lipari

2 years 46 weeks ago
For lovers of trees, the F.R. Newman Arboretum is an amazing and wonderful space rich in color, detail, shape and form. The tree collections present visitors with a cornucopia of species, varieties, shapes and colors that can be enjoyed throughout the year.

Bo Lipari, a local resident and volunteer Docent at Cornell Plantations, has taken pleasure in the beauty of the Arboretum for many years. In 2008 he began photographing Arboretum views, scenes and trees, trying to capture some of the brilliance and beauty he has found there. This exhibit focuses on the trees - the bark, branches, forms and foliage that capture the eyes and stir the primal connections that still reside within us.


Bo's photographs will be on display in the lobby of the Nevin Welcome Center from now through February.

F. R. Newman Arboretum closed for winter

2 years 49 weeks ago

The F. R. Newman Arboretum is closed to vehicle traffic until further notice. Pedestrians are welcome to explore the arboretum every day from dawn to dusk. Parking is available at the Mundy Wildflower Garden parking lot off of Caldwell Road directly across from the arboretum.

Cascadilla Gorge Trail closed for winter

2 years 49 weeks ago

The Cascadilla Gorge Trail from Downtown to Stewart Avenue is now closed for the Winter. Read more

The Cascadilla Gorge Trail from Downtown to Stewart Avenue is now closed for the Winter.  The trail is closed due to hazardous conditions from snow, ice, and falling rock that create unsafe conditions.  This section of trail will re-open in the spring when conditions allow.

Lead Gift Commitment for New Peony & Perennial Gardens

2 years 49 weeks ago

plan view of peony and perennial gardenDr. Peter B. Stifel ’58 has made the lead gift commitment for Cornell Plantations’ new Peony and Perennial Gardens, in honor of his daughter, Katherine Stifel ’87. Building on the success of the opening of the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center, Plantations is now moving forward in the next phase of an ambitious plan to reimagine the Botanical Garden. In the most significant horticultural development since the F. R. Newman Arboretum was created in 1981, the broad expanse of lawn in front of the Nevin Center will be transformed into a beautiful series of new perennial gardens, while the plateau on Comstock Knoll will become a dramatic East Asian garden.

Click here to read more.

Holiday Sale at our Garden Gift Shop this Friday and Saturday

2 years 49 weeks ago

Join us on Friday, December 14 and Saturday, December 15 for another holiday sale!   Cornell Plantations members along with Cornell faculty, staff and students will receive 30% off their total purchase*.

Non-members will get 20% off their total purchase*.

*Discount excludes prints and other works of art, and Cornell Sheep Program blankets.

Nevin Welcome Center Holiday Hours

2 years 51 weeks ago

winter garden and nevin welcome centerThe Nevin Welcome Center will be closed from Saturday, December 22nd and reopen on Wednesday, January 2, 2013.

As always, the grounds are free and open to the public every day from dawn to dusk.

Enjoy the holiday season!

FEMA awards $880,000 grant to repair Cascadilla Gorge trail

2 years 52 weeks ago
FEMA recently awarded Cornell $880,000 repair the damage, an addition to the $2.7 million Cornell has already committed for capital improvements to improve safety for Cascadilla and Fall Creek gorges. The gorge trail between Stewart and College avenues was submerged under two feet of water moving so fast that it tore off staircase railings and peeled off whole sections of trail paved with mortar and stone. FEMA recently awarded Cornell $880,000 repair the damage, an addition to the $2.7 million Cornell has already committed for capital improvements to improve safety for Cascadilla and Fall Creek gorges.

Read more in the November 29 Cornell Chronicle online article, "FEMA awards $880,000 grant to repair gorge trail."

Plantations’ Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center Awarded LEED Gold

3 years 1 week ago

The Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center was completed in November 2010 and officially opened to the public on February 1, 2011. The Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center is an important part of modernization and infrastructural improvements made at Plantations over the last decade; it is referred to as the "grand finale" of a decade-long construction cycle that has seen new gardens, the redesign of office space, and multiple other projects. Built in the center of the Botanical Garden, at the confluence of existing walking paths, the building is tucked itself into the center of the gardens offering visitors a welcoming experience to Cornell Plantations.

Photo by Jon Reis

Among the notable green building features of the Nevin Welcome Center are wood louvers across the front of the building which serve to filter summer sunlight and admit winter sun for passive heating; rooftop solar tube collectors which generate winter heat; a motorized vent/skylight that provides natural ventilation, and a green roof which helps insulate and protect the roof while also treating stormwater. 

Green roof (photo by Toby Wolf)

Additional features include the extensive use of natural light, local and recycled materials; low-emitting healthy materials; and energy saving lighting fixtures and controls.  In addition to the building itself, the project received points for its construction management techniques, recycling up to 96% of the waste generated during construction.  Rounding out the project were significant landscape elements that contributed to the sustainable sites LEED category including a beautifully designed bioswale garden that cleanses water as it runs off the site and parking areas and the use of structural soil to allow for tree growth in a paved environment.
Buildings that receive LEED V.2 Gold designation from the U.S. Green Building Council must earn 39 to 51 points points distributed across five major credit categories: Cornell Plantations’ Nevin Welcome Center received 47 points, obtaining points across each category – Sustainable Sites (10), Water Efficiency (2), Energy and Atmosphere (11), Materials and Resources (5), Indoor Environmental Quality (14), and Innovation and Design (5).

Bioswale garden and parking lot (photo by Chris Kitchen)

In addition to being a welcome center for Plantations visitors, the building also serves as a teaching tool for many groups interested in learning more about green buildings,  “I direct many of the campus and student groups interested in green buildings to tour the Nevin Welcome Center.  Not only does the building have a connection with the natural world in both form and materials, but many of the technological and design aspects of green building are clearly visible and are easily described to and understood by visitors.” says Matt Kozlowski, environmental project coordinator at Cornell University.

The Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center is named for Brian C. Nevin ’50, at the request of the primary benefactor, C. Sherwood “Woody” Southwick Jr. The Nevin Welcome Center with its Gold LEED designation is a significant step forward in Plantations’ and Cornell’s commitment to sustainability.  Don Rakow, the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations states, “Cornell Plantations is committed to a sustainable future, as such we are thrilled to receive the USGBC's LEED Gold designation for the Nevin Welcome Center.  Plantations has long needed a single site where we can greet visitors, provide them with orientation and interpretation about our collections and meet their amenity needs.  This dream was fulfilled with the opening of the Center, which helps us achieve our sustainability and educational goals.”

Baird Sampson Neuert Architects, the designers of the Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center at the Cornell Plantations, have received much recognition for their design of this ultra-green building.  The Nevin Welcome Center has won a “Award of Excellence” from the AIA New York Chapter, an “Honor Award” at the Tri-state AIA annual conference, a “Design Excellence” award from the Ontario Architects’ Association, and Canadian Architect magazine and online journal.  The building has been featured in several publications and most recently was featured in Greensource Magazine in May 2012.  The general contractor for the project was Welliver, landscape construction was provided by Cayuga Landscape, and the project was managed by the Cornell Facilities Services department formerly known as Planning Design and Construction.  On November 27, 2012, Cornell Plantations will receive its LEED Gold plaque from Tracie Hall, the Executive Director of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Upstate New York Chapter in a small ceremony.

Phase one of Fall Creek Gorge Trails renovation completed

3 years 3 weeks ago

In an effort to make trails in and around Fall Creek safer, approximately 2,200 feet of trails and staircases have been renovated, with 2,700 feet of new railings and fences installed on trails between the Stewart and Thurston Avenue bridges. This is just one part of the renovations that have been completed since May 2012.



Read more in the November 1 Cornell Chronicle online article, "Phase one of Fall Creek Gorge trails renovation completed."

Arboretum and Gorges are Now Open

3 years 4 weeks ago

Cornell Plantations F.R. Newman Arboretum and all Fall Creek and Cascadilla Gorge trails not previously under construction have been reopened to the public.

Families Logged 149 Miles at Cornell Plantations Let’s Move! Event

3 years 6 weeks ago

Cornell Plantations hosted their second annual Let’s Move! Family Hike on Saturday, September 15, with over 300 families in attendance. 

Visitors hiked through one of Plantations’ best-known natural areas – Beebe Lake.  This one-mile loop was a perfect spot for families to explore the beautiful flowers and trees along the path, and enjoy the spectacular views of the surrounding Cornell campus.  Along the way young hikers (and even their parents) had fun with a letter-boxing activity where they searched for hidden treasures, learning about the natural surroundings along with fun facts about the importance of physical activity. 

At the start of the hike, each child was given a pedometer to keep track of their steps.  On their return, hikers submitted their total number of steps; the total tally for the hike was 325,156 steps (the equivalent of 149 miles*)!

“As a mom, I find there is no shortage of things to do for busy families, and in the rush of our daily lives it’s easy to forget to stop and experience our surroundings.” states Sonja Skelly, director of education at Cornell Plantations,  “Plantations is one of the most stunning spots in Ithaca, NY and the region, the arboretum, gardens, and natural areas we manage are perfect places where families can come for a walk, a run, and some Vitamin N (Nature) to increase overall wellness, physical activity. I’m asked a lot about why we are part of the Let’s Move initiative, and the answer is simple – Take It Outside!  It’s become somewhat of a mantra here – Taking it Outside – going out in nature does a lot for people – relieves stress, provides a way to be physically active, and yet at the same time provides an enjoyable way to have fun in beautiful surroundings!”

Plantations has committed to participating in First Lady, Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative for three years.  In 2011, Plantations was the first organization in Ithaca, NY to offer a Let’s Move! program and plans to continue to offer additional programs that help to put children on the path to healthy futures.

*Miles calculated using stride of 2.5 on

About Let’s Move!                                                                                                 

Let’s Move! combines comprehensive strategies with common sense, and is about putting children on the path to a healthy future during their earliest months and years. Giving parents helpful information and fostering environments that support healthy choices and helping kids become more physically active are among a few of the goals of Let’s Move! For more information about Let’s Move! visit

Plantations Staff and Summer Interns Create Plans for New Gardens at the Harriet Tubman Home

3 years 6 weeks ago

A collaborative project involving Cornell Plantations and Cornell University landscape architecture students is focused on planting for the future while preserving the past.  Plantations staff and summer interns from Cornell have been creating plans for new gardens at the historic Harriet Tubman Home in Auburn, NY.

Irene Lekstutis, landscape designer at Cornell Plantations and Landscape Architecture students from Cornell University who were interns at Plantations over the summer -- Daisy Chinburg ‘13, Robert Doerflinger ‘13, and Ethan Dropkin ‘13 –– met with Christine Carter of the Harriet Tubman Home several times this summer to discuss developing period appropriate planting plans, as well as creating a long-term master plan for future development of the property. It’s the desire of Ms. Carter and her colleagues to create gardens that Harriet Tubman would have grown during her life in Auburn, NY (1857 - 1913). 

“Engaging our summer interns who are majoring in Landscape Architecture in a ‘real –world’ project like this has been very gratifying,” stated Lekstutis.  “When Christine contacted Cornell Plantations about helping them improve the aesthetics of the Tubman Home landscape, we were thrilled. We all agreed it would be a great way to enhance the intern experience by providing these students with a project related to their particular field of study.” 

It has been a long-time commitment of Cornell Plantations to collaborate with gardens, and historic sites across the country.  This project, being so close to campus, makes it easy for these students and Plantations to continue with this collaboration.  Plantations’ summer intern program plays an important role at the University, by giving students real world experience.  For these students, they just didn’t gain experience from working with the professional staff at Plantations, but they were able to garner experience working with a client. They had to listen to the client’s needs, and had to deliver a plan that was relevant to the client’s budget and wish list.

While outside projects such as these are not typical of the internships at Plantations, Lekstutis saw the opportunity to further enhance the interns’ summer learning experience. Daisy Chinburg ’13 says, "We really lucked out this summer! It’s been great to have the opportunity to learn more about Harriet Tubman, while practicing landscape design skills. And working along side Plantations’ professional landscape designer was a bonus!”

During the course of the project, the interns spent time in Mann Library perusing old nursery catalogues and books on historic gardens to become familiar with herbaceous and woody plants commonly grown in gardens and landscapes of late 19th and early 20th centuries.  By the end of summer the interns completed a planting plan for the brick residence on the Tubman site.  

This fall Ms. Chinburg and Mr. Dropkin are continuing their involvement in the project through independent studies.  Their goal is to develop a contemporary planting design, using period appropriate plants for the house that served as the Tubman Home for the Aged.

Chinburg will carry the project work further by developing a long-term master plan for the site. She says that, “working on this project over the summer helped me to discover my interest in cultural landscapes.” Now, in addition to working with the team on the master plan, she is developing a cultural landscape report under the guidance of associate professor Sherene Baugher, landscape archeologist and preservationist at Cornell University. This report will describe the research and methodology of their investigation into this historic landscape and will serve to inform the development of what will eventually be a long term master plan for bringing the history of the site ‘to life’ for the general public.

“I am so pleased to have been included in this mulch-faceted design project and to get a chance to work on such a talented team with Irene,” stated Eric Dropkin ‘13. “The project provides a variety of unusual learning opportunities as it includes not only a design element but also research of historical landscapes and planting palettes which we undertook on site as well as in the Bailey Hortorium at Mann Library. Both the Harriet Tubman Home and more so the Bailey Hortorium are relatively local resources that I doubt many Cornell students are aware of, however they are immense reservoirs of historical data.”

As part of Dropkin’s independent study this semester he is mainly focused on completing the garden designs. He’s using a period appropriate plant palette we're striving to create gardens which evoke the period and provide multi-season interest for visitors and staff alike.

About Harriet Tubman:
Harriet Tubman (1822-1913) was an African-American abolitionist, humanitarian, and Union spy during the American Civil War. After escaping from slavery she rescued more than 70 slaves using the Underground Railroad.  After the Civil War, she retired to the family home in Auburn, where she cared for her aging parents. She became active in the women's suffrage movement in New York until complications from an illness made it impossible. Near the end of her life, she lived in a home for elderly African Americans that she had helped found years earlier.  Today the Harriet Tubman Home stands as part of the indomitable legacy of Harriet Tubman.  Ms. Tubman believed that no matter the odds you face, ‘keep going.’ She set goals and objectives that were always obtainable. Even if many around her thought the goals beyond reach, she always knew that they were indeed achievable.

About The Harriet Tubman Home:
The Harriet Tubman Home preserves the legacy of "The Moses of Her People" in the place where she lived and died in freedom. The site is located on 26 acres of land in Auburn, New York, and is owned and operated by the AME Zion Church. It includes four buildings, two of which were used by Harriet Tubman.