The Liberty Hyde Bailey Conservatory Greenhouse is home to a living plant collection of more than 650 species – from Cornell’s famous corpse flowers, also called Titan arum, to numerous types of carnivorous plants. It is one of several plant collections that make up the Liberty Hyde Bailey Hortorium in the Plant Biology Section of the School of Integrative Plant Science. The conservatory is managed by Cornell AES.
The conservatory's Palm House section features a single, large bed with a pond and a meandering walkway that simulates a tropical forest trail, with trees, ferns, legumes, and flowering bromeliads. A custom mix of coconut coir, biochar and clay-based products provides the ideal growing medium in the Palm House bed.
Other collections, such as cacti, orchids and temperate ornamentals are housed in the adjoining greenhouse compartment, the Student House. The conservatory not only brings a bit of tropical magic to Cornell, but it is vital for teaching, research and outreach.
The new 4,000-square-foot structure provides more space to house the collections, and has computerized environmental controls to regulate temperature, light and humidity, while reducing energy consumption by about 50% compared to the old structure. Construction started in 2014 in the same place on Tower Road on the Cornell campus as the historic, but deteriorated wood and steel greenhouse, designed by architects Lord & Burnham in 1931, which had to be demolished.
The set-up and daily care of all species in the collections, provided by Cornell AES’ dedicated greenhouse growers, go well beyond the watering, fertilizing and pruning that most people associate with plant maintenance. It includes propagation, trellising, scouting for and treating pests and other potential problems, arranging the plant displays, assisting faculty and staff with teaching materials, and conducting tours.
More about the Liberty Hyde Bailey collections and the man who started it all: