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Out on the Trails: Explore Tompkins’ Trails with Ease

1 year 24 weeks ago
Searchable, GPS-enabled site makes local trails searchable and accessible

Cornell Botanic Gardens and partner organizations have launched a new website designed to help outdoor enthusiasts find and take the perfect walk, hike, bike, ski, or even horseback ride. Out on the Trails at is a GPS-enabled, mobile-optimized site that maps all of the trails in Tompkins County, and invites users to search by the experience they seek. Criteria include distance, difficulty, scenic views, wildlife viewing, or picnicking, and also access directions to trailheads and information on parking.

 “Our County boasts 240 miles of public trails, but since they span 15 different organizations, many residents and visitors find trail information in bits and pieces,” says Todd Bittner, Director of Natural Areas at the Cornell Botanic Gardens and one of the key grant managers. “The beauty of the new Out on the Trails website is that it provides comprehensive information on all the trails, regardless of ownership.”

The site links to each partner organization’s website for more information on the organization and its park or trail. With appealing descriptions, photographs, and a clean user-friendly layout, the site is designed to encourage users to explore the County's outdoor recreation offerings more deeply.

The Cornell Botanic Gardens maintains 32 miles of trails through its natural areas. The Cayuga Trail, which spans from Fall Creek Gorge eastward, then circumnavigates its Monkey Run Natural Area, is a 10 mile-trail, maintained in partnership with the Cayuga Trails Club. “The website also leads you to hikes in some of our lesser known natural areas such as Edwards Lake Cliffs, Fischer Old-growth Forest, and Ellis Hollow Wetlands.,” Bittner says.
The Cornell Botanic Gardens and its trail partners are offering hikes during the month of April to celebrate local trails and the launch of the new website. On April 23, the botanic gardens hosts an Earth Day Hike with the Cayuga Trails Club on the Cayuga Trail. And on April 29, Bittner will lead a hike in the Fischer Old-Growth Forest (registration required), the best of the few remaining examples of pre-European settlement forest in the region.
Additional April hikes by partner organizations include Roy H. Park PreserveCayuga Waterfront Trail; Black Diamond Trail; Stevenson Preserve;  and Jim Schug Trail. Details available at is a partnership of the Tompkins County Parks and Trails Network. Partner organizations include the Cornell Botanic Gardens, Town of Ulysses, Tompkins County Tourism Program, Tompkins County Department of Planning and Sustainability , Ithaca Tompkins County Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Finger Lakes Land Trust, NY State Parks, the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, Ithaca College Natural Lands, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, City of Ithaca, Town of Ithaca, Town of Lansing, Town of Dryden, Town of Danby, the Nature Conservancy, and user groups, including Bike Walk Tompkins, the Cayuga Trails Club, and Finger Lakes Trails Conference.

Mindful Botany: Free guided tours every Friday starting April 7

1 year 27 weeks ago
With the arrival of spring, plants are eager to transform stored energy into new leaves and flowers. Join Cornell Botanic Gardens staff to observe the beauty of spring unfurl on weekly spring walks. While following the same route each week, we will practice mindfulness by dedicating our attention to the present moment and fully observing the amazing transformations that take place during spring.

Dates/time: Six consecutive Fridays April 7 through May 12; noon – 1pm; attendance at each walk encouraged, but not required.
Cost: Free; no registration required.
Instructor: Cornell Botanic Garden staff
Location: Meet in front of the Nevin Welcome Center

Sustainable home gardening class starts April 3rd

1 year 27 weeks ago

Landscape For Life 5-part workshop

Dates/time: Five MOnday sessions, April 3- May 8; 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Cost:$150; $135 for Botanic Garden members
Location: Nevin Welcome Center
Register here.

Every home landscape has the potential to clean air and water, reduce flooding, cool your community, combat climate change and alleviate the pressures being placed on Earth’s ecosystems. Yet conventional gardening practices too often work against nature, damaging the environment’s ability to provide these natural benefits that support the health and well-being of you, your family, and your community. The 5-part Landscape For Life program, developed by the U.S. Botanical Garden and the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, shows you how to work with nature in your garden, no matter where you live, whether you garden on a city or suburban lot, a 20–acre farm, or the common area of your condominium. It's possible to create a great–looking sustainable landscape that's healthier for you, your family, your pets, and the environment --- and that saves you time and money!  Pre-registration is required. Participants who complete all course activities will receive a Certificate of Completion.

For more information about the Landscape for Life Program and the Sustainable Sites Initiative, please visit

Click here to register.

Cornell Botanic Gardens one of 26 best hidden gems in New York

1 year 28 weeks ago

Cornell Botanic Gardens joined the ranks of Lucifer Falls in Treman State Park and Stonecrop Gardens in the Hudson Valley as one of 26 lesser-known tourist attractions around New York State on The Crazy Tourist website. Click here for the full list.

Spring Wildflowers: A Third Grade Art Show

1 year 28 weeks ago
Spring Wildflowers: A Third Grade Art Show 
A “Picturing Writing” project from Ms. Tesoriero’s 3rd grade class, Northeast Elementary School, Ithaca, NY.

Meet the artists at an opening reception on Saturday, March 11 from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

All third grade students in Ithaca and Trumansburg Elementary schools participate in our Wildflower Explorations Program. This is part of the Kids Discover the Trail collaboration, which provides curriculum-based fieldtrips to the eight Discovery Trail sites. Volunteers of Cornell Botanic Gardens guide students through three wildflower activities in the classroom. Then each student is assigned a “detective mission” to learn about a specific native plant.

At school, students work on their wildflower detective mission learning clues for identifying their plant, reviewing their personal “Peterson First Guide to Wildflowers,” taking notes, and writing questions. After all this preparation, students are excited when visiting the Mundy Wildflower Garden to discover their flower and share their knowledge. To conclude their outing, they write a report and receive a “Mission Completed” stamp.

After their field trip, Ms. Tesoriero’s class took it one step further to enrich their learning across disciplines. Based on Beth Olshansky’s research and her book entitled “The Power of Pictures: Creating Literacy through Art,” students created detailed drawings of their wildflowers. Then each student wrote an acrostic poem using letters in their wildflower’s name.

The students used a watercolor wax resist painting technique with crayon to make their drawings.

Eighteen prints created by the students are on display through the end of April, 2017.

Wood art gives new life to fallen trees

1 year 28 weeks ago
"What lies beneath," wood art by Lisa M. Narloch, is on display at the Nevin Welcome Center.

Lisa M. Narloch’s recent work includes a variety of local woods from her own property and around Central New York. Drawn to the imperfect, unusual, weathered and broken, her unique, natural art embraces the idea of giving a new life to a fallen tree and showing us “what lies beneath.” 

Meet the artists at an opening reception on Wednesday, March 22 from 4:30 - 5:30 p.m. Light refreshments will be served.

She has recently created some pieces from wood from a big leaf magnolia and northern catalpa she received from the arborists at Cornell Botanic Gardens, which will be on display.

Lisa is very careful to determine the state of each tree before it is gifted to her. Most of them have storm, rot or ant damage, and are already down. Some trees needed to be removed to expand a road, or were too close to buildings. She also uses 100% food grade hemp or walnut oils and beeswax (a gift from a local beekeeper) for natural finishes for the majority of her work.

This exhibit will be on display until the end of August, 2017.

This project is made possible, in part, with the funding from The Community Arts Partnership of Tompkins County. CAP Brings Creativity to Life!

Western conifer species tested as part of US Forest Service research

1 year 29 weeks ago
A collaborative effort, involving Phil Syphrit who curates our conifer collection and staff from the USDA Forest Service, led to the donation of 10 seedlings of western conifer species. After a number of months in our Plant Production Facility, the seedlings will be ready to plant in our collections this spring. By monitoring how these trees perform in our environment and providing data to the US Forest Service, the Cornell Botanic Gardens contributes to important research on declining tree species, while also expanding our collection of conifers.

Read more about this collaboration on our Tumblr blog.

Rhoda Maurer treks the hills of Kentucky to collect new plants

1 year 29 weeks ago
In September 2016, Director of Horticulture Rhoda Maurer participated in a plant-collecting trip in Southeast Kentucky to add diversity to our collections. Cornell Botanic Gardens is part of the Plant Collecting Collaborative, a network of public gardens and arboreta that collects wild plants to grow at their home institutions. Preserving wild plants ex situ (meaning “off site”) serves as an insurance policy against extinction—an important part of a worldwide plant conservation effort.

Read more about Rhoda’s collection trip with four other curators on our Tumblr blog.

Click here for the full list of species we plan to add to our collections.

"Painting in the Greenhouse" starts February 19

1 year 37 weeks ago
Join our winter art classes in the greenhouses to focus on color. Improve composition, enhance values, and stretch your use of color as you discover an amazing variety of plants. Bring all materials needed for the medium of your choice. We will visit the Botanic Garden’ plant production facility as well as the tropical greenhouses of the Ken Post facility and the Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory. All ability levels, and children ages 12 and older, are welcome. Pre-registration is required.

Dates/times: Three Sunday sessions, February 19, 26 and March 5, 1:00 p.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Cost: $120 ($108 for CBG members)*
Instructor: Camille Doucet, watercolor artist
Location: Cornell Botanic Gardens' Greenhouse, 397 Forest Home Drive


Click here to learn more and register.

Explore Cornell Botanic Gardens with

1 year 37 weeks ago

Looking for trails to cross-country ski this winter? Want to find those ideal for wildlife watching?  Search for trails throughout Tompkins County by desired activity, trail length and difficulty as well as who "stewards" the trail. Click here to explore the site.

Cornell Botanic Gardens ranked one of the 50 most stunning university gardens and arboretums worldwide

1 year 37 weeks ago ranked Cornell Botanic Gardens 22 out of 50 most stunning university gardens and arboretums throughout the globe. They wrote "The botanical gardens at...Cornell University covers 25 acres with an emphasis on plants native to the New York area. There is also a 150 acre arboretum and an additional 3,500 acres of natural land that encompasses a mixed terrain of bogs, meadows, gorges, and woodlands. Stressing the importance of education connected with the garden, [there is] a LEED Gold certified welcome center with bright, open rooms to host visitors and large multipurpose rooms for education and outreach programs."

Click here to see who made the list.

You can now shop online for Garden Gift Shop merchandise

1 year 41 weeks ago

A selection of merchandise sold at our Garden Gift Shop in the Nevin Welcome Center is now available through The Cornell Store's online store. You can shop for some of our most popular items including "Magic Tees," mugs, magnets, guidebooks and more! Click here to browse the online store.

25% off everything at the Garden Gift Shop this Friday and Saturday

1 year 41 weeks ago
Find the perfect holiday gifts for your friends and family at the Garden Gift Shop at Cornell Botanic Gardens. Everything in the store is 25% off Friday, December 9 and Saturday, December 10. You’ll find an array of unique gifts including handmade ceramics, jewelry, pins, magnets, prints, cards, Cornell- and Cornell Plantations-branded merchandise.
The Garden Gift Shop is located inside the Nevin Welcome Center (124 Comstock Knoll Drive) and is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10am-4pm. One-hour free parking is available.

A selection of merchandise is also available for purchase online here.

Open House at the Gift Shop today and tomorrow

1 year 44 weeks ago
The Cornell Store’s Garden Gift Shop is holding an Open House on Friday, November 18 from 4:00 - 7:00 pm and Saturday, November 19 from 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. Take your time to explore the store, shop for unique gifts and enjoy some free refreshments. You’ll receive a free mug with your purchase of $25 or more (while supplies last) and a free Cornell Christmas Bear with your purchase of $125 or more! Merchandise featuring the old Cornell Plantations logo will be 25% off.

Celebrate the Winter Solstice at Cornell Botanic Gardens

1 year 44 weeks ago
Join us for "Plants of the Winter Solstice" on December 21 at 7:00 p.m.

Since ancient times, the winter solstice has been celebrated by cultures around the world as a sacred, festive time. Plants such as oak, holly, ivy, mistletoe, and evergreens have long been a crucial part of these celebrations. Discover the natural history and folklore of these plants while celebrating the longest night of the year. The program will include an indoor presentation, followed by a “lantern tour” of the Mullestein Family Winter Garden to look at some of winter’s wonders and learn how plants cope with the cold. We’ll then head back inside to warm up with some hot apple cider (Wassail) and doughnuts. Please dress warmly and bring an electric lantern or flashlight. Pre-registration is required.

Learn more about how cultures throughout the world celebrate the winter solstice in an article on our Tumblr blog written by Kevin Moss, Adult Education Coordinator.

Date/time: Wednesday, December 21, 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
Cost:$10; $8 for Plantations members.
Instructors: Kevin Moss, Adult Education Coordinator; Dr. Peter Davies, Cornell Emeritus Professor of Plant Science; Irene Lekstutis, Landscape Designer, and Emily Pratt, Horticulturist.

Click here to register

Natural History walk at Edwards Lake Cliffs on November 13

1 year 45 weeks ago
Visit this unique natural area on a guided afternoon walk with Plantations’ botanist Robert Wesley. This 84-acre preserve protects one of the rarest environments in the local region – the lake cliffs. The preserve also contains Shurger Glen, a forested ravine and winding gorge with breathtaking waterfalls, scenic views and rare species. On the tour, we’ll look at native and naturalized plants, geology, and also some troubling invasive plant species. Please dress for the weather and wear comfortable hiking shoes. Pre-registration is required.

Date/time: Saturday, November 13, 1:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Cost: $10 ($8 for members). Pre-registration is required
Instructor: Robert Wesley, Staff Botanist

Click here to register.

Board approves Cornell Botanic Gardens naming!

1 year 47 weeks ago
(Published in the Cornell Chronicle on October 28, 2016)

Cornell’s living botanical and natural areas collection is getting a new name.

Cornell Botanic Gardens was officially approved Oct. 28 by the Cornell University Board of Trustees, the final step in a broad rebranding effort begun more than two years ago. The new moniker replaces Cornell Plantations as the name of the world-class botanic gardens, arboretum and more than 3,500 acres of natural areas tended by an organization that welcomes to campus more than 70,000 visitors each year.

“We are thrilled by the board’s encouragement as we open a new chapter in our long and illustrious history,” said Christopher Dunn, the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director. “Cornell Botanic Gardens expresses our position as a full-fledged public garden with first-class horticultural collections and some of the finest conservation and education programs anywhere in the world.”

Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), says the change affirms the college’s and university’s commitment to excellence, openness and diversity.

”Cornell is unrivaled for the astonishing natural beauty accessible right here on campus. The iconic landscapes beloved by generations of students are due in large measure to what is found at Cornell Botanic Gardens,” said Boor. “The new identity more clearly describes the diverse collection of plant life that truly makes Cornell Botanic Gardens not just a treasure on our campus, but a destination for visitors from around the world.”

Since 2014, leadership at CALS and the Cornell Botanic Gardens have thoroughly explored stakeholders’ feelings about a possible rebranding. That process revealed strong support for a move away from a name that many felt did not adequately reflect the full extent of what the organization offers to the university and community. In addition, for many the name Plantations evoked negative associations with slavery and racial oppression.

A broad consensus of those surveyed agreed that Cornell Botanic Gardens more appropriately identifies the organization as a public garden, and reflects its diverse collections, educational programs and vision for the future.

Dunn says the change is an opportunity to promote and strengthen the relevance of the organization and its new mission, “to inspire people – through cultivation, conservation and education – to understand, appreciate and nurture plants and the cultures they sustain.” He envisions deeper engagement with students and faculty as Cornell Botanic Gardens focuses on addressing and interpreting important issues, such as climate change, biocultural conservation and other critical concerns.

That new direction, enshrined in the theme of “cultivation, conservation and education,” according to Dunn, touches on the academic mission of virtually every discipline at Cornell, and more tightly aligns the botanic gardens with all aspects of the university’s academic priorities.

By size, Cornell Botanic Gardens is in the top five gardens in North America. More than 50,000 plants are found in the 150 acres of cultivated gardens, which include world-class collections of herbs, rhododendrons, conifers, maples, oaks and flowering trees. The Cornell Botanic Gardens also stewards 3,400 acres of natural area preserves on campus and throughout Tompkins County. These holdings along with educational outreach efforts support teaching and research at Cornell and learning opportunities for all ages.

Last year the Botanic Gardens’ F.R. Newman Arboretum was ranked the most beautiful college arboretum in the country. The organization’s stewardship of natural areas that are home to rare species helped the university earn full points for biodiversity conservation and, for a fourth consecutive year, attain gold status in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating (STAR) System, a national framework for colleges and universities to track sustainability efforts.

While the term Plantations (applied in 1944, replacing what had been Cornell University Arboretum since 1928) is being left behind, the name will not be erased. Dunn says the organization will fully acknowledge former names and history in its informational materials and educational programs.

Design of a Cornell Botanic Gardens logo is underway. New permanent signage is expected to be installed by spring 2017. The cost for the rebranding efforts will be shared by Cornell Botanic Gardens, CALS and the university.

Matt Hayes is managing editor and social media officer for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

For more information about our renaming and strategic planning process, click here.

It's For the Birds: Lecture by Doug Tallamy on November 2

1 year 47 weeks ago
A lecture by Doug Tallamy, professor of entomology and wildlife ecology at the University of Delaware will conclude our 2016 Fall Lecture Series at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 2nd in the Statler Auditorium in Statler Hall on Cornell University’s campus.

Many bird populations in the U.S. are in steep decline, in part because our gardens and managed landscapes occupy more space than natural areas and we have not designed them with birds in mind. To do that we can no longer view plants only as ornaments but must consider all of their roles when selecting them for our landscapes. Tallamy will discuss what birds need form our landscapes to breed successfully, the important roles native plants play in maintaining food webs vital to birds, emphasize the benefits of designing landscapes with these roles in mind, and explore the consequences of failing to do so. Landscaping in this crowded world carries both moral and ecological responsibilities that we can no longer ignore.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Tallamy take part in our lecture series,” stated Sonja Skelly director of education at Cornell Plantations. “Professor Tallamy is not only a wonderful speaker, but his message is an important one – as gardeners we have a vital role to play in the health of bird populations and in our own food web.  Bird lovers and plant lovers alike will not be disappointed, Dr. Tallamy offers hope and solutions that can easily be accomplished in our own backyards. ”

Doug Tallamy is the author of “Bringing Nature Home: How You Can Sustain Wildlife with Native Plants” published by Powell’s Books and available on  Tallamy is Professor and Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at the University of Delaware in Newark, DE.

Elizabeth E. Rowley Lecture
It's For the Birds
Date/time: Wednesday, November 2; 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Location: Statler Hall Auditorium, Cornell University
Parking:  Free parking in Hoy Road Parking Garage

The Cornell Store will be selling books by the author at the lecture. Books are also available at Plantations' Garden Gift Shop.

Click here for the 2016 Fall Lecture Series lineup.

Cascadilla Gorge is closed until spring

1 year 47 weeks ago
The Cascadilla Gorge Trail from Downtown to College Avenue is now closed for winter season. The trail is closed due to hazardous conditions from wintry conditions and falling rock that create unsafe conditions. The trail will re-open in the spring when conditions allow.

Although the gorge is closed, you can tour it virtually using Google's Street View feature. Click here for a 360 degree view in front of one of the gorge's waterfalls. To view more points in the gorge, click on the yellow “pegman” in the bottom right corner and drag it to a point on the trail.

Lecture: "Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love" on Wednesday, October 26

1 year 48 weeks ago
We continue our Fall Lecture Series, on Wednesday, October 26 with a lecture by the best-selling author of Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, Simran Sethi. The lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. in Statler Auditorium in Statler Hall on Cornell University’s campus.

Embedded in every conversation about feeding people, conserving natural resources and ensuring a healthy diet, is the threat of losing agricultural biodiversity. Award-winning journalist Simran Sethi spent five years meeting and working with people dedicated to making our food supply more secure, abundant and delicious. Join Cornell Plantations for a lecture by Ms. Sethi as she relates stories from her travels across six continents to interview scientists, farmers, chefs, winemakers, conservationists, and advocates and experts of all types to learn the intimate histories of our foods and ways we can better save—and savor—them. Her talk will include a tasting of Finger Lakes Cider House cider, tracing the journey of local historic apples into non-alcoholic shrub and hard cider. Founded by Cornell alumna Melissa Madden and Garrett Moore, the Cider House and their farm, The Good Life, are committed to preserving heirloom apples and biodiversity.

“We are thrilled to have Simran Sethi as part of our lecture series,” stated Sonja Skelly director of education at Cornell Plantations. “Simran has a fabulous story to share with us about the foods we love, how they are being lost, and what is happening across the globe to save them. It’s going to be an enlightening and delicious evening!”

Simran Sethi is a journalist and educator focused on food, sustainability and social change. Named the environmental “messenger” by Vanity Fair, a top 10 eco-hero of the planet by the U.K.’s Independent, and designated one of the top eight women saving the planet by Marie Claire, Simran is the author of award-winning book Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love, about the story of changes in food and agriculture told through bread, wine, chocolate, coffee and beer. She is an associate at the University of Melbourne’s Sustainable Society Institute in Australia, a contributor for Orion Magazine and a recent visiting scholar at the Cocoa Research Centre in St. Augustine, Trinidad.

Date/time: Wednesday, October 26; 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Free and open to the public
Location: Statler Hall Auditorium, Statler Hall, Cornell University

Click here for the full lecture series lineup.