By Christopher Dunn, Ph.D., the E. N. Wilds Director
Having recently joined Cornell Plantations, I am immediately amazed by the quality of the staff, gardens, natural areas, and the unique and often sacred plants in our collections. Many trees that grace our botanical garden and arboretum have been providing beauty and shade since the earliest days of Plantations. Among those is the beautiful Magnolia macrophylla, the big-leafed magnolia nestled between the Nevin Welcome Center and the Lewis Education Building in the heart of the botanical garden. In this location, it is far from its normal range of the Southeastern United States. This magnificent tree, estimated to be over 50 years old, has been a key feature of the botanical garden since 1966. It has aged and elicited countless cries of wonder as visitors pass under its canopy and admire its huge and beautiful flowers. It is, unfortunately, reaching the end of its life. We have been tracking the health of this tree, noting various signs of decay and poor health, for many years. Our lead arborist recently said to me, “as with all living things, there comes a time when steps to preserve our trees and protect our visitors and staff are limited to only one option. This magnolia, sadly, has many serious structural and disease issues, which combined pose a significant risk of failure.”
And so it is with great regret that our treasured big-leafed magnolia will come down by the end of season. We invite you to say goodbye and marvel at its giant leaves and beautiful blooms one final time. Our horticulture staff has been growing a seedling of this tree, anticipating that this replacement will one day be needed. Once the seedling has been planted, we will have the pleasure of watching it grow and mature and enjoying another 50 years of splendor. Although we are sad, we take heart in this reminder from Aldo Leopold “There are two great acts, one is to harvest a tree because it involves faith that another will grow. The other is to plant a tree, because one must believe that it will grow.”
The video below features Lee Dean, Plantations' Lead Arborist, explaining his careful and thoughtful decision to remove this much beloved tree.
To read Lee Dean's interview with the Ithaca Journal about this tree, click here.
As part of our collaboration with Cornell’s American Indian Program, please join us this Saturday, July 12, in honoring the Haudenosaunee long-practiced peace-making tradition of planting a white pine at Cornell Plantations as an emblematic Tree of Peace in an effort to strengthen the message of peace and unity.
Date/time: Saturday, July 12; 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.
Location: Plantations Plant Production Facility, 397 Forest Home Drive, Ithaca
Speaker: John Block (Seneca Allegany) will lead a traditional Haudenosaunee opening and closing and will give a short talk on "The Significance of the Haudenosaunee tradition of planting white pine as a tree of peace."
Interactive performance: The Allegany River Indian Dancers will lead participants in a Round Dance and Haudenosaunee song, music and dance.
Peace Offerings: There will be an opportunity for participants to offer messages of peace.
View this event on our calendar here.
Click here for job descriptions.
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!
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."
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."
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.
Come celebrate National Public Gardens Day at Cornell Plantations, and
discover the region’s premier public garden with tours, sales, art, and
coffee!Come celebrate National Public Gardens Day at Cornell Plantations, and
discover the region’s premier public garden. Enjoy an early morning bird
walk in the Arboretum, a guided “highlights” tour of the botanical
garden, and a tour of our Sustainable Backyard demonstration garden;
stop by the Nevin Welcome Center to browse the art exhibition, take
advantage of the one-day gift shop sale and enjoy a free cup of Gimme!
The gardens and grounds are yours to explore on your own from dawn until
dusk. All activities except the morning bird walk will take place in
the botanical garden and Nevin Welcome Center, on Plantations Road. The
Welcome Center will be open from 9:30 to 5:00 p.m. Admission is free;
however, there is a fee for parking at the Welcome Center from 7:00 a.m.
until 5:00 p.m. (first hour is free).
Schedule of Activities:
* 8:00 a.m.: Morning Bird Walk – F.R. Newman Arboretum. (Meet by the Sculpture Garden. Free parking available.)
* 12:00 noon: Botanical Garden Highlights Tour
* 2:00 p.m.: Sustainable Backyard Tour
* 9:30 – 5:00 p.m.: Art exhibition - “Plant Portraits through the Season,” by Margaret Corbit.
* 9:30 – 5:00 p.m.: One-day only sale in the Gift Shop: members receive
30% off most items; non-members receive 15%. Free cup of Gimme! coffee.
Plantations' staff spend much effort working to curb the spread of invasive species like pale swallow-wort in many of our natural areas. Read morePlantations' staff spend much effort working to curb the spread of invasive species like pale swallow-wort in many of our natural areas. Learn about what is being done about the spread of pale swallowwort in the April 23 Cornell Chronicle article, "invasive vines swallow up New York's natural areas."
The F. R. Newman Arboretum is a place for the scientific study and public exhibition of a diversity of trees and shrubs. These plantings, all hardy to our area, help foster Plantations’ scientific, educational, and plant appreciation efforts. Here, visitors can learn about and enjoy native species, as well as species imported from similar climate zones around the world.
The arboretum’s collections—including nut trees, crabapples, oaks, maples, shrubs, and urban trees—comprise a 100-acre pastoral setting. Specialty gardens in the arboretum include the Zucker Shrub Collection and the Treman Woodland Walk. The rolling hills and valleys, or “bowls,” were carved out by Fall Creek following the retreat of the last glacier over 10,000 years ago. The arboretum’s overlooks and benches provide visitors with panoramic views.
The F. R.Newman Arboretum is open daily from dawn until dusk.