We at Cornell Plantations would like to bid farewell to a tree that has cultivated memories for over five decades. It saddens us to see this magnificent magnolia in serious decline. This iconic tree has graced the gardens and will be missed.

HOPS: It’s a New York Thing!

Ever wonder what gives beer its refreshing blend of bitterness and aroma? Hops! This climbing vine produces hundreds of flowers commonly referred to as “cones” that contain Lupulin glands that produce both Iso-acid and oil extracts. Iso-acid is used for bittering, and the oils are used for aroma. In combination, breweries can create the perfect blend to pair with any occasion.

Hops were first known to be cultivated between the 8th and 9th century in gardens located in Bavaria and Europe. The young shoots were harvested and consumed in salads but it was not until the 11th century that hops were used for flavoring beverages.

In the 1800’s, hops were grown in New York State in massive quantities nearing 21 million pounds of dried hops. But in the 1900’s, prohibition and powdery mildew that spread rampantly through the crop destroyed New York’s hop industry.

But in recent years, hop cultivation in New York States has grown along with local micro-breweries. With the aid of improved horticultural practices and disease resistant varieties, production has returned to New York State in a big way. Steven Miller, a Cornell Cooperative Extension expert on hops estimated, “…there is a need for 400-500 acres of hops in New York to satisfy the domestic demand.” In 2011, there were only 50 acres of hops growing in New York State.

Since then, Hop yards have been popping up across the state. Hops are grown on a trellis system comprising of 24-foot wooden polls that are placed in rows ten feet apart (15 in total). Each row is composed of poles placed every 50 feet. The poles are connected with high strength wire for support, with additional string tied to allow vines to climb. This produces a V-shaped support system. Hops rhizomes are planted every three feet with their buds facing up. These hops are normally irrigated using trickle tubs with water adapters at each plant.

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Hops in the Pounder Garden at Cornell Plantations.

Depending on the varieties, harvesting begins in August and ends in September. Hops are ripe when a gentle squeeze loosens the scales, admitting a light aroma. Specialized machines cut the vines and supporting wires allowing the vine to fall into a trailer or truck bed. The vines are then transported to a stationary picking machine that is capable of picking 8 acres in 10-12 hours! A picking machine strips off the flower by sending the vines through a series of cleaning chambers to remove leaves and other debris. By the end of this process, the flowers are separated and transported by a conveyor belt to the hop kiln. This hop kiln is simply a heated floor or bench that has warm air flowing through it. The hops are spread to a depth of about 32 inches and dried with air that reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is forced through the hops. It takes nine hours to reduce the hops to the desired 30% dried green weight. Then the hops are cooled for 24 hours and compressed into 200-pound bales. Before they leave the yard, each bale is inspected and taken to a warehouse for short-term storage.

Once the hops arrive at the brewery, the culmination of flavors and aromas begins! Cornell Plantations offered a class focused on local crafted beers. Frank Purazzi, head chef at the Northstar House, guided participants through the process of food and beer pairing using fresh, locally grown ingredients and a sampling of local beers from Ithaca Beer Company. 

Learn more about our Garden to Table Series that will feature Taverna Banfi & Moosewood restaurants: http://bit.ly/1jrc9uP

—Justin Kondrat

—Edited by Sarah Fiorello

Last week, several months of planning culminated in a dozen Cornell Outdoor Education climbing staff rappelling down into Cascadilla Gorge to remove accumulated trash, both big and small. COE Staff ultimately cleaned both sides of the gorge between Stewart and College Avenues. Volunteers from the neighboring Chi Phi and Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternities worked with Jules Ginenthal to haul out collected trash. Trail repair work will be completed around the end of August, when our gorgeous gorge will be reopened to the public for the first time since 2008. — Todd Bittner, Director of Natural Areas at Cornell Plantations

Plantations seeks a Director of Horticulture

Cornell University invites applications from outstanding individuals for the position of Director of Horticulture for Cornell Plantations – the University’s botanical garden, arboretum, and natural areas.


Located in Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University is a bold, innovative, inclusive, and dynamic teaching and research university. Cornell Plantations is alive with plants, purpose, and a presence that truly distinguishes the university among its peers. Plantations’ leadership in high quality horticulture, along with our environmental conservation and education programs make Cornell one of the most distinguished campuses in the world.

With 35 acres of botanical gardens, a 100 acre arboretum, 3400 acres of natural areas, more than 50,000 accessioned plants representing over 16,000 taxa, and two NAPCC collections, a fabulous opportunity exists for a dynamic Director of Horticulture to shape the direction of a leading botanical collection. The cultivated collections at Cornell Plantations are a valuable resource to Cornell University faculty, researchers, students and the visiting public. Key gardens include a renowned herb garden, a winter garden, and others with an environmental focus such as our bioswale and sustainability gardens. Key collections include groundcovers, rhododendrons, maples, oaks, crabapples, conifers, beeches, and lilacs.


As a member of the leadership team at Plantations, the Director of Horticulture is key to the strategic development and implementation of Plantations’ mission. The horticulture staff includes a landscape designer, plant records specialist, greenhouse manager, an arboriculture team, highly qualified gardeners, and grounds maintenance crew; many of the horticulture staff are members of the UAW. The Director of Horticulture should have considerable public garden management experience, a graduate degree in a relevant field, excellent communication skills, and a willingness to prepare grants in support of programs.

Cornell University offers a rich array of health, leave, and educational benefits and is an equal opportunity, affirmative action educator and employer. 

For more information and to apply, click here.

Join Cornell Plantations for Local Flavors, Local Brews, the first in our 2014 Garden to Table Series, with Frank Purazzi  of Northstar Public House! http://bit.ly/1q4rIKT

Join Cornell Plantations for Local Flavors, Local Brews, the first in our 2014 Garden to Table Series, with Frank Purazzi  of Northstar Public House! http://bit.ly/1q4rIKT

While visiting Cornell Plantations’ botanical garden you come across a tree like no other - with leaves and flowers that resemble something exotic - you question your surroundings.  Yes, you are still in Ithaca, NY.  What you are seeing is a 51-year-old specimen of Magnolia macrophylla Michx  (Big leaf Magnolia) located next to the Lewis Education Building in the Groundcover Collection. 

True to its name, this tree produces massive leaves that measure 16 inches in length. But this tree should really be named for its magnificent flowers which are the size of dinner plates!  And what  beautiful dinner plates they would make - creamy colored petals with a magenta center accompanied by a pleasant floral fragrance. Flower buds form at the tip of branches and bloom in June.

In Ithaca, this plant is far out of its native range which extends along the edge of the Piedmont plateau from North Carolina to West Florida, westward to Kentucky and Louisiana.   This particular tree’s parents came from higher elevations in Kentucky possibly providing some cold tolerance.  Its home at Plantations is in a microclimate – protected by Comstock Knoll, nestled next to the Lewis Building - that has allowed it to survive here in Ithaca.  

In 1963, the American Horticulture Society gave the seed for this tree to the First Director of Cornell Plantations, Richard M. Lewis. Staff cultivated this seed, and in 1966 the 3-foot tall tree was planted at its present site.  Today the tree stretches over the Lewis Building and provides for a summer of “oohs” and “ahhs”. 

Over the years, this tree has managed to capture the hearts of visitors and alumni. This magnificent Magnolia is blooming now. Come today to marvel at its beauty! 

Beauty is all around us ! Come enjoy the wonders that Cornell Plantations has to offer.  Take it outside !

Check out our latest E-News!  It’s amazing how much happens at Plantations. 

It’s a gorgeous day at Cornell Plantations.  If you can, Take it Outside and see some of these amazing blooms (courtesy of Jay Potter)!  Also, why not take your work outside?  Did you know that we have wifi in the NWC which you can access from the patio? Well, we do! 

If you need another reason why you should take your work outside - here’s an article about Nature Deficit Disorder: http://bit.ly/1qPbuX1 

See you around the garden!