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The Beauty of the Cornell University Plantations

The Beauty of the Cornell University Plantations

In April 2014, Cornell Plantations welcomed Christopher Dunn as the Elizabeth Newman Wilds Director of Cornell Plantations at Cornell University, he is replacing Don Rakow who returned full-time to academia after 20 years as director.


Christopher Dunn has journeyed full circle. Having traveled a long way to and from the University of Hawaii’s Lyon Arboretum in Honolulu to return to upstate New York. When asked “Why chose Ithaca over Hawaii”, he looked surprised and said “Why not?” He later said that it was the reputation that Cornell Plantations has as a very fine public garden and Cornell University as one of the premiere universities in the world. That combination, as well as the intellectual capacity that is here and the administration’s interest in seeing Plantations increase its profile within the University community, Ithaca and the region.

“As director of a public garden, I’d like the public to engage with the interaction between human and environment, to understand the relationship between nature and culture. Not only come to Plantations for an aesthetic experience or an event. But perhaps if we could do the events and the interpretation in such a way that people leave the garden with a greater understanding of the necessity of plants and healthy systems in our lives.”


And of course, as a director in the digital age, Dunn has a clear vision of how technology can be applied in ways to pursue plant conservation work. Cell phones can be used to interpret QR [Quick Response] codes on the signs at museums or gardens. Information technology such as GIS [Geographic Information Systems] can help people planning a visit to go on-line to the garden’s website and guide them to what they want to see, such as where all the lilacs are. Another way is to take a picture of a plant and have that linked to an on-line database where someone can identify it for you. It may come back with two or three options of likely plants that you could be looking at. “Some say technology separates people from nature, but it is actually bringing people back in someway, by using it to take advantage of an individual’s interest or capability to better understand what they’re surrounded by.”

Learn more about Cornell Plantations:

About The Author

Xiaowei (Veronica) Wang

The most Chinese among Americans and the most American among Chinese.


This site celebrates the people places, and culture that make Central New York one of the most vibrant and livable regions in the country. From Auburn to Utica, from Syracuse, to Ithaca, this is LivableCNY.

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