Lyman Conservatory

The Lyman Conservatory is one of the few remaining plant conservatories in the United States that was built in the nineteenth century. With its core greenhouses dating from 1895, the Conservatory has served a number of functions. For over 100 years, the Lyman Conservatory of the Smith College Botanic Garden has been bringing the plants of the world to New England, and offering the plants of New England to the world. The Conservatory houses over 3,000 species of plants selected from a wide variety of families and habitats, and comprises one of the best collections of tropical, subtropical, and desert plants in the country.

Teaching Collections

The greenhouses are home to a diverse collection of plants for the instruction of Smith students in the plant sciences: botany, horticulture, plant physiology, ecology, systematics, and pharmacognosy. 

Display Collections

The display collections, including a large number of orchids, are the core of the conservatory's collections. These plants are grown to demonstrate botanical, taxonomic, or ecological principles, or because of their outstanding ornamental attributes.

Research Collections

The research collections are assembled for professorial, graduate, and undergraduate research, as well as outside collaborations with medical, pharmaceutical, and biotech companies. Available to researchers and horticulturists domestically and internationally, the collections have also supplied plant material to those working on cures for cancer and AIDS, researchers doing broad-scale screening of plants for new pharmaceuticals, geneticists seeking to unravel the patterns of evolution in plants, and gardeners who seek to beautify our world. In the early 1990s we collaborated with a phytopharmaceutical firm that specializes in cell culturing Taxus species for the production of the anticancer agent Taxol.

Conservation Collections

With an increasing number of plant species becoming threatened by overpopulation and development, botanical gardens are devoting more of their resources to species preservation and rescue. Our staff is actively involved with the propagation and distribution of rare and endangered plants, particularly conifers.