Wellesley College Botanic Gardens was established nearly a century ago, to be “a center of interest to all.”


Wellesley College Botanic Gardens is celebrating 100 years in 2025! We will be updating our mission statement to reflect the values and priorities of our growing community, and the vision for this next era of the gardens.

Wellesley College Botanic Gardens is guided by Botany Department Chair Margaret Ferguson’s vision at the founding of the greenhouses and gardens: “It is our purpose that the [gardens] shall stand…for the dignity and educational value of its scientific work. At the same time we shall not fail to emphasize the humanistic aspects of our subject; and we shall endeavor to form a center that shall be of interest to all.”

As of 2019, the Botanic Gardens mission is to:

  • increase participation in science by engaging people with a diverse array of outstanding botanical resources for teaching, research, and exploration
  • promote scientific and environmental literacy, using aesthetic appeal and innovative programming to stimulate interest in and stewardship of the natural world
  • contribute to the sense of place at Wellesley, by developing and maintaining exemplary spaces within this iconic campus to support community, personal well-being, education, sustainability, and connection to nature for everyone

Core values

Wellesley College Botanic Gardens serves as an educational public garden, a resource for connecting with plants and demonstrating ecological practices, and an accessible space for building community, wellness, and a sense of belonging. These educational gardens are shaped by the innovative, interdisciplinary engagement of students, staff, faculty, alums, community partners, and the wider public. We welcome all visitors, and seek to center environmental justice, sustainability, climate resilience, accessibility, and a sense of belonging in our gardens, exhibits, and programs. We care for the plants, gardens and landscapes using mindful practices that exemplify respect for the environment and all beings who call this place home. These guiding principles follow Wellesley College's strategic plan, which aims to center our commitment to inclusive excellence as a transformative force in education.

Our team

Our dynamic Botanic Gardens team of staff and students keep our diverse gardens, habitats, and landscapes flourishing, and support teaching, research, and community use of the botanic gardens. Additionally, the Friends of Botanic Gardens enables us to support public visitors, volunteers, and broader enjoyment of the gardens. Together, our staff, students, volunteers, and supporters enable our mission of serving as a welcoming educational garden for everyone.

About the gardens

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More about the gardens

Wellesley College Botanic Gardens is rooted in a legacy of change-makers who recognized the central importance of plants for everyone, and advocated for an educational resource that would span generations.

Wellesley College Botanic Gardens was established in 1925 to be "a center of interest to all", for both scientific and humanistic interest in plants. This founding vision was led by Wellesley College alumna and Botany Chair Margaret C. Ferguson (class of 1891), who is reputed to have trained more women in botanical science than any other scientist of that time. To promote the study of plants native to the local region and across the globe, she advocated for and oversaw the establishment of the 20+ acres of Alexandra Botanic Gardens, H. H. Hunnewell Arboretum, and the Margaret C. Ferguson greenhouses, within the Wellesley College campus, which are now collectively the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens.

In 1940, Botany Professor Harriet Creighton (class of 1929) took leadership of the Botanic Gardens, stating "We are students of plants and plants are important to the modern world", and gathered broader support for the gardens' educational mission. In 1983, the Friends of Horticulture, now called Friends of the Botanic Gardens, was founded, and raised funds to build the WCBG Visitor Center in 1992, which houses the multi-purpose Creighton Room. Support through the Friends continues to support the gardens' ability to host public tours and programs, provide hands-on and co-curricular learning opportunities for students, and serve as a beloved educational resource for all visitors.

These botanical roots were present in the founding of Wellesley College. In 1875, the botanically-minded Wellesley College founders Pauline and Henry Durant lent students their own greenhouse collections for the study of plants, and the first Botany course was held one year after the College's founding. The camellia tree (Camellia japonica 山茶 or ツバキ) inside Global Flora is often called the "Durant Camellia". This tree was planted by the Durants on campus, and is the sole living link to the founders, who did not want buildings named after them.

Many people, beings, and forces shaped and continue to shape the land and plants where the Botanic Gardens now resides. The outdoor landscapes include diverse meadows, woodlands, and wetlands, in addition to cultivated specialty gardens. The plant communities - from trees and shrubs to wildflowers and grasses - are a dynamic composite of locally adapted plants, and designed garden layouts, introduced at different times through the prior decades and millenia. The greenhouses contain plants and designed habitats which are sourced from a network of botanic gardens and vetted plant nurseries (as gifts or purchases), for educational purposes.

Across all of these stories, the unifying thread has been to uplift education and appreciation of plants in our lives, for everyone. We welcome all to join us in this mission, and be a part of this garden's story.

The landscapes, plants, and gardens hold stories that go back millenia, and continue to unfold! Explore some of these stories below, and let us know if you'd like to contribute a story.

  • During the last ice age, around 12,000 years ago, the movement of glaciers formed hills and valleys of campus, which now include some of the knolls (eskers) and low wetlands of the botanic gardens
  • Humans lived in this area for millenia. Descendants include the Massachusett, Wampanoag, and Nipmuc nations. The understanding of plants and land practices we use today are rooted in Indigenous science, in addition to contributions of many groups whose stories are under-recognized in our existing materials. We are working with local partners to develop resources and exhibits to highlight these contributions.
  • In 1875, the Durants found Wellesley College as a liberal arts college for women, and emphasize the importance of botanical education and connection with outdoor landscapes, by maintaining the glaciated landscapes, in contrast to the flattened landscapes of all-male universities of the time
  • Margaret C. Ferguson shares a vision of Botany at Wellesley
  • Wellesley's Women of Botany carry on a legacy of centering plants at Wellesley
  • The Paulson Ecology of Place Initiative launches to enhance sense of belonging in the campus landscape
  • The Global Flora conservatory is envisioned, and built in 2019, right before the global Covid-19 pandemic
  • The new Science Center includes state of the art teaching and research greenhouses, adjacent to the new Global Flora
  • The Frost Center for the Environment launches, to provide a hub for all to connect with environmental action
  • Botany and Empire, an exhibit by ES244 students led by Prof. Ashanti Shih, shares the diverse stories of plants represented in Global Flora.