Old Trees Have New Home in Wellesley’s Global Flora Greenhouse

April 10, 2019

Wellesley’s celebrated Durant Camellia had thrived inside the Margaret C. Ferguson Greenhouses since 1922. The 10-foot-tall tree is a campus treasure—the sole survivor of the four that College founders Henry and Pauline Durant donated to Wellesley in the 1870s. Transferring it into the new Global Flora greenhouse required much careful planning.

Rather than risk damaging the tree, which is known for its elegant, glossy leaves and pink flowers, by physically uprooting it, the greenhouse staff decided to leave it in place during construction. The architects behind Global Flora, whose design won a LafargeHolcim Design Award, created a transparent, climate-controlled pavilion around the tree.

“In essence, the pavilion was built around the camellia so we wouldn’t have to uproot it and risk damage,” said Kristina Jones, director of the Wellesley College Botanic Gardens.

The tree is a Camellia japonica, a species native to China, southern Korea, and southern Japan. “Its new home will be perfectly suited for it. It will receive less direct sunlight from the south and be more open to the north,” Jones said. Benches will be installed around the pavilion to “create a calm setting, a space for contemplation and meditation.”

The Durant Camellia’s pavilion is one of the many indoor landscapes in Global Flora, which features wet and dry biomes replicating the physical conditions—such as soil components, temperatures, light, and humidity—that sustain diverse plants in their natural habitats.

Jones, her staff, and a tree moving crew carefully removed the other large trees planted in the old greenhouses and stored them in the Science Center for the last 20 months. They recently replanted them in the Global Flora conservatory.

“In their new homes, the trees will receive more light and be watered by rainwater we collect in cisterns,” said Jones. “Global Flora presents optimal conditions for them.”

A tree stands in the middle of global flora, a windowed structure.

The dragon tree (Dracaena draco) is now installed in its new home inside the dry biome of Global Flora.

A group of construction workers move a tree into its new home in global flora.

The tree moving crew move the cannonball tree (Couroupita guianensis).

A construction worker fills waters a newly-planted tree.

The banyan (Ficus benghalensis) receives a good watering after being planted in Global Flora’s wet biome.

The Camellia tree remains protected inside the newly built global flora.

The camellia pavilion was built around the 140-year-old Durant Camellia, which stayed in place throughout construction. In warm weather, the top of the structure can be opened to provide ventilation.