Cornell Plantations is located on the east side of the Cornell University campus in Ithaca, NY. Ithaca is located at the southern end of Cayuga Lake. Altogether the area encompasses 200 acres of property, 150 of which are the Floyd R. Newman Arboretum.
Originally, the land designated as the Arboretum was farmland. In 1981, the arboretum started development. The Arboretum currently contains varieties of chestnut, conifer, flowering crabapple, maple, oak, and walnut trees. The Arboretum has several different plant collections and designated areas including the Zucker Shrub Collection, the Urban Tree Collection, Newman Meadow, Jackson Grove, and Beech Loop. The Zucker Shrub Collection was named after Isabelle Schnapps Zucker. It is a specialty garden consisting of diverse shrubbery, grasses, and trees. The Collection was designed for low-maintenance plants that were selected for their long seasons, especially their autumn coloring and winter appeal. The Newman Meadow is a large open area of field plant life. It is only mowed once a year, but several paths are kept for visitors to walk through the field. It is the largest open area on campus and the tall grasses represent a distinct ecological community.
The Urban Tree Collection showcases a multitude of trees in an area that is designed to emulate similar environmental stresses as found in urban areas. Such stresses include poor soil, poor drainage, and windy conditions. This area provides Cornell University's Department of Horticulture the opportunity to study the growth and struggles of urban-planted trees. The Department seeks to enhance the survival of such trees and develop better horticultural technology to allow trees to adapt to a harsh urban environment.
The Jackson Grove is an area that features yews, oaks, and elms. Recently, the area became home to the Dorothy Hemp Hill Magnolia Collection. This collection includes a variety of magnolias such as the loebner, umbrella, oyama, willow-leafed, cucumber, big-leafed, and kobushi.
The Botanical Gardens at Cornell Plantations extend over 25 acres. They include twelve different special gardens such as Rockwell Azalea Garden, Heasley Rock Garden, Groundcover Collection, Comstock Knoll, Mundy Wildflower Garden, and Deans Garden. The Heasley Rock Garden is named after Walter Heasley, who gifted the area to the University in 1980. Heasley graduated class of 1932. The Rock Garden contains a variety of alpine plants and other shrubs that thrive in dry, rocky areas. Of note, this garden is home to a fifteen year old moss campion.
Admission to the Plantations is free of charge, year-round, from sunrise to dusk. Interested parties can call 607-255-2400 for more information. Walking tours of the botanical gardens are available by appointment. Each tour lasts roughly an hour and visitors will be led through the gardens by a guide who will identify significant plant life. Only three of the gardens are wheelchair accessible. Walking tours of the Arboretum are also available upon request.
Bus tours are available, patrons provide the bus. A guide will board the bus and share information about the arboretum and allow stopping time at observation points. The fee for all tours (walking and bus) is $6 per person, with a $50 minimum for group tours. A non-refundable deposit of $20 is required minimally ten days prior to the tour date. Interested parties should call 607-254-7430.