The Glass Flowers

The main Glass Flowers gallery is closed for extensive model and case restoration, space renovation, and the installation of state-of-the-art lighting and display features. During this time, visitors can marvel at a special exhibit of selected models on temporary display. The Glass Flowers gallery will reopen on May 21.

One of the museum’s most famous treasures is the internationally acclaimed Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, the “Glass Flowers." This unique collection of over 4,000 models—some 3,000 on display—was  created by the glass artisans, Leopold Blaschka and his son, Rudolf. The commission began in 1886, continued for five decades, and represents more than 830 plant species. 

This exhibition is supported by a generous gift in memory of Melvin R. Seiden AB ’52, LLB ’55 and a grant provided by the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, a program of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts administered through a collaborative arrangement between MassDevelopment and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Frequently Asked Questions

Are they really glass?

Yes, the models are made entirely of glass often reinforced internally with a wire support.


Who made the Glass Flowers?

The models were created by father and son Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka, nineteenth century glass artisans who perfected their family craft. Their lineage of jewelers and glassmakers trace as far back as the fifteenth century.

How were the models made?

The parts were shaped after the glass was softened by heat. Some models were blown. Colored glass was used for many, others were "cold painted" with a thin wash of colored ground glass or metal oxide(s) and heated until the material fused to the model.

When were they made?

The models were made from 1887 through 1936.

Where were the Glass Flowers made?

The Blaschka's studio was located in Hosterwitz, near Dresden, Germany.

Why were the models made?

Harvard Professor George Lincoln Goodale,  founder of the Botanical Museum, wanted life-like representatives of the plant kingdom for teaching botany. At the time only crude papier-maché or wax models were available.

The life-size models include 847 species, with remarkably accurate anatomical sections and enlarged flower parts. Since the Glass Flowers are always in bloom, tropical and temperate species may be studied year-round.

Who gave the models to Harvard?

Mrs. Elizabeth C. Ware and her daughter Mary Lee Ware financed the collection and presented it to Harvard University as a memorial to Dr. Charles Eliot Ware, Class of 1834.