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Mission and History


A world in which the interdependence of biological and cultural diversity is respected, sustained, and celebrated.


Inspiring people – through cultivation, conservation, and education – to understand, appreciate, and nurture plants and the cultures they sustain.

Learn how we carry out our vision and mission our 2016 Annual Report:



How Cornell Botanic Gardens Came to Be

From Cornell University's beginning, there was a resolve to amplify and even expand upon the campus' rich natural treasures. At the university's opening ceremony in 1868, the eminent naturalist Louis Agassiz remarked that no other area could compete with Cornell's surroundings in the opportunities offered for the study of natural history. Cornell Botanic Gardens traces its roots to 1875, when Sage College was constructed to house women at Cornell, and an arboretum of rare specimen trees and a conservatory for teaching botany were integral parts of the early campus plan.

Cornell alumni from Brooklyn, New York, pressed for gorge preservation as early as 1909, while visionaries Robert H. Treman, Colonel Henry W. Sackett, Floyd R. Newman, Muriel B. Mundy, Richard M. Lewis, Audrey O'Connor, and others provided inspiration, guidance, and funding. Support, leadership and creativity came too, from committed faculty members such as A.N. Prentiss, Cornell's first botany professor; W.W. Rowlee, who served as both professor of botany and the university's grounds supervisor; and Liberty Hyde Bailey, professor of horticulture, director of the College of Agriculture and creator of the name "Plantations." All of these dedicated people and countless more helped lay the foundation for Cornell Botanic Gardens' current holdings of over 4,000 acres of natural and constructed landscape, and natural history collections.

Learn more about Cornell Botanic Gardens history from a video of the tour "A Place Where Things May Grow" led by summer intern Meredith Kueny.

View video here