Frequently Asked Questions:
What are the botanic gardens?
The Wellesley College Botanic Gardens consist of the Alexandra Botanic Garden, Hunnewell Arboretum, Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses and Visitor Center. These are all located on the campus of Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts.
Are there plants for sale at the greenhouses?
No, Wellesley College does not offer plants for sale.
What ages are appropriate for a tour?
We give tours to many different groups:
- School groups and after-school groups - ages K and up. Tours can be customized to reinforce classroom study and can include an activity in the Visitor Center; please arrange this when booking the tour.
- Garden clubs
- Senior adult groups
- Other adult groups
What educational material is presented in a school tour?
The Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses at Wellesley College offer a year-round exploration of habitat diversity and plant adaptation with over 1000 specimens of desert, tropical and semi-tropical species in a dozen different houses, many representing specific biomes. Our volunteer docents lead groups of 8-10 students on greenhouse tours that last for 40 minutes to an hour, depending upon students' age. We accept school groups from Kindergarten on up.
The greenhouses can accommodate a maximum of 32 children on tour at one time, but larger groups can be split up so that every student participates in a tour and spends time in the Visitor Center. With prior arrangement, tours can include an activity in the Visitor Center. Our school tour program connects to the science standards for K - Grade 6 as laid out in the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, with discussions of habitat, plant structure, and life cycle.
Highlights of a greenhouse tour:
- Desert House containing desert-dwelling plants from around the world; observation of desert adaptations; exploration of the concept of convergent evolution.
- Tropic House with several layers of plantings; observation of adaptations to a rainforest environment; exploration of a bromeliad's habitat.
- Hydrophyte (Water) House containing pools filled with fish and water-growing plants.
- Economic plants such as banana, coffee, sugar cane, papyrus; explanation of growth cycles and uses.
- Tropical Pitcher Plants; discussion of the adaptation of these insect-eating plants to their environment.
- Misters: being sprayed by the misters in the Fern House and propagation beds is often a highlight for elementary school kids!
What are the minimum and maximum numbers of people in a tour group?
Eight is the minimum number of people required for a group tour. We divide greenhouse tours into groups of 8 to 10, each led by a trained volunteer docent. The greenhouses can accommodate a maximum of 32 people on tour at a time. Larger school groups are split up so that every child participates in a tour and spends some time in the Visitor Center. Tours can include an activity in the Visitor Center if this is arranged in advance.
Is there handicap accessibility?
The Ferguson Greenhouses can be maneuvered in a small wheelchair, provided that there is someone available who can open the upper latches on some of the greenhouse doors. There is a set of stairs in the Fern House which can be avoided. There is one handicap parking space in front of the Visitor Center and several more around the Science Center.
The Alexandra Botanic Garden and Hunnewell Arboretum contain stairs and uneven surfaces. The paved paths through the arboretum are wheelchair accessible.
Whom do we contact to arrange a tour?
Tours are organized and led by staff and volunteer docents of the Friends of Wellesley College Botanic Gardens. Call the WCBG Friends office at 781-283-3094 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. A minimum of two weeks' notice is needed to schedule a tour.
We regret that we cannot accommodate tour groups arranged by commercial tour operators.
What is the fee?
There is no charge for entrance to the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens, and tours are free. Donations to the Friends of Wellesley College Botanic Gardens are greatly appreciated.
Where do we meet for our tour?
Tours originate in the Visitor Center, adjacent to the Ferguson Greenhouses. Visitors should park in the Gray Lot, located near the greenhouses.