The famed Glass Flowers are part of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, a truly fantastic museum in Boston and is fully named The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants.

The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, Harvard Museum of Naturla History
The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants,

The collection has recently been cleaned and refurbished with new cases and crystal clear glass, organized by plant family to enhance it as a teaching tool – today for museum goers, but originally for the students.

 

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The collection was started for Professor George Lincoln Goodale, founder of Harvard’s Botanical Museum, who wanted life-like representations of the plant kingdom for teaching botany. At the time, only crude papier-maché or wax models were available.

He found the Czech glassworkers Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, from a family of glass makers dating back to the fifteenth century, and between 1886 to 1936 they created more than 4000 glass models of 700 species of flowering and non- flowering plants.

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

Yes, they are all glass.  Every single bit of these flowers including the root balls, stems, leaves, and even dirt are made of glass. Many visitors, including this one, found it incredible, and I often heard gasps of disbelief, one person assuring his companion that much of it was silk.

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Red Maple leaves (Acer rubrum) – Glass Flowers Exhibit, Harvard Museum

I won’t go into each description here – I am on vacation after all, but imagine these as teaching tools!  Each specimen has multiple parts, with details of the flowers, roots, and cross sections of flower parts.

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Lupinus mutabilis – glass flower parts details

These masters of glass knew how to observe – many of the details are magnified many times life size, such as the lupine pollen grain above, magnified 1500 times. Or below – the stamen and pistil of Tetraneuris scaposa, Stemmy Four-nerve Daisy.

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Glass flower detail – Tetraneuris scaposa

Keep thinking – all glass.

Yellow Lady’s Slipper orchid, Cypripedium calceolus:

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

Kalmia latifolia:

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

Evening Primrose, Oeothera acaulis:

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

Display case with Bush Poppy, California native plant, Dendromecon rigid.  Hmmm – when did they get to California ?

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

Keeping in mind that these were teaching tools, there are also many glass models of insect pollinators showing bees, flies, moths, butterflies, and their adaptations to particular flowers.

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Bee pollinated flowers at Glass Flowers Exhibit

Keep reminding yourself: these are glass !

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Bee on Scarlet Runner Bean – Glass Flowers Exhibit

I wonder how the glass blowers knew how this pollution process worked:

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Fly pollinated flowers – Glass Flowers Exhibit

No doubt these glass artisans had taxidermy samples to work with, such as these flies:

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
abdomen of fly pollinating flower

Even examples of fly larva:

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Insect larva, Glass Flowers Exhibit

 

Pardon the lights reflecting on the class case of the beautiful Scarlet Runner bean. I wanted to show the entire display.

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

 

My only regret about the exhibit is the dim lighting that does not allow the viewer to see the translucent quality of the glass.  (For illustrating this article I have brightened many of the photos.)  I am sure the curators don’t want strong light that would deteriorate the colors over time, but I missed seeing the stained glass effect of glowing glass.

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants

Many of the cases are mounted on the walls like the one above, so it is possible for the photographer to find occasional opportunities to shoot up into the flowers to get a glow.  Note the yellow flowering Mexican Tulip Poppy above (center) and below:

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Mexican Tulip Flower in Glass Flowers Exhibit

I also found that I could avoid the glare and see some of the plants better by kneeling on the floor and shooting directly into the case, such as for this cactus.  I wonder when this cactus might have flowered in Boston for the Blaschkas to have worked with it ?

Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History; The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants
Cactus in Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History

It is a phenomenal exhibit and it can only be seen at Harvard’s Natural History Museum.  The flowers are too fragile to ever travel, but are marvels of glass making and wondrous teaching tools even if more than a century old.  I only wonder how many might have been damaged as they were being handled so long ago.

Blue Pea Lathyrus magellanicus - Glass Flowers Exhibit Harvard Museum of Natural History
Blue Pea – Lathyrus magellanicus, Glass Flowers Exhibit

I can’t image handling these as a botany student, but I can imagine they will continue to inspire any botany lover who goes to see them.

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