The Glass Flowers

The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants at Harvard University, commonly known as the “Glass Flowers,” preserves the past and inspires a future for hundreds of heirloom plants.

| Fall 2018

  • glass-flower-collection
    The Glass Flowers collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History contains over 800 species and cultivars, including full-sized models and hundreds of microscopic plant parts.
    Photo by Rebecca Martin
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    The Glass Flowers collection.
    Photo by Rebecca Martin
  • glass-flowers
    The Glass Flowers collection.
    Photo by Rebecca Martin
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    This glass version of ‘Shortia galacifolia’ was crafted by Rudolf Blaschka in 1893.
    Photo from the Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants; Harvard University Herbaria.
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    The Glass Flowers collection.
    Photo by Rebecca Martin
  • glass-flowers
    The Glass Flowers collection.
    Photo by Rebecca Martin
  • workbench
    The Blaschkas' workbench and glassworking tools are on display with the Glass Flowers collection.
    Photo by Rebecca Martin
  • blaschka-family
    Leopold, Caroline, and Rudolf Blaschka at their home in Germany. A long-standing family trade, their lineage of glassmakers and jewelers can be traced back to the 15th century.
    Photo from the Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants; Harvard University Herbaria
  • Gossypium-herbaceum
    The Blaschkas crafted this model of Gossypium herbaceum in 1893.
    Photo from the Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants; Harvard University Herbaria.
  • kalmia-latifolia
    Kalmia Latifolia has showy flowers and glossy leaves. This glass version was crafted by Rudolf Blaschka in 1900.
    Photo from the Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants; Harvard University Herbaria
  • apple
    A glass ‘Alexander’ apple, depicted with an apple scab infection.
    Photo by the Corning Museum of Glass
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    Created in 1892, this model shows Brugmansia arborea before the species became extinct in the wild.
    Photo from the Archives of Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka and The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants; Harvard University Herbaria
  • monarda-didyma
    A glass model of Monarda didyma, crafted by Rudolf Blaschka in 1903.
    Photo from the Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants on exhibit at the Harvard Museum of Natural History; Harvard University
  • Monarda-didyma
    A sketch of Monarda didyma.
    Photo from the collection of the Rakow Research Library; Corning Museum of Glass; Corning; NY

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  • workbench
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  • Gossypium-herbaceum
  • kalmia-latifolia
  • apple
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  • monarda-didyma
  • Monarda-didyma

Crafted more than a century ago, Harvard’s Glass Flowers still elicit gasps of disbelief from viewers. There’s a stem of scarlet bee balm (Monarda didyma) so realistic it looks like it might actually smell of citrus and oregano if rubbed hard enough; a branch of mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) that a florist could convincingly place side-by-side with fresh blooms; and a tiger orchid (Rossioglossum grande), pollinated by glass bees whose wings seem to whir.

Artists Leopold and Rudolf Blaschka’s approximately 4,300 other botanical models also stun. From 1887 until Leopold’s death in 1895, the father and son glassworkers devoted their lives to reverse engineering the world’s flora and reconstructing them in glass at their studio and garden near Dresden, Germany.

After Leopold’s death, Rudolf continued to make glass models for Harvard until 1936. The Blaschka methods, inherited through several generations of glassworkers, allowed them to make such realistic models that botanists have been shocked to see them accurately depict details that weren’t published scientifically until more than a century after their creation.

Almost from the beginning, the Blaschkas’ Glass Flowers earned a reputation as their best work, and some of the greatest examples of glass artifice ever created, drawing more than 300,000 visitors a year to the Harvard Museum of Natural History, where the collection is housed. Many artists have tried to match them without success. Even modern technology fails to reproduce the Blaschkas’ handiwork exactly — the fine detail and naturalistic translucence of glass is difficult even for 3D printers to replicate.



As species diversity decreased over the past century, the Glass Flowers evolved into more than a breathtaking garden of re-created heirloom plants perennially in bloom. They became a window into a lost world, and a potential horticultural touchstone. The Glass Flowers collection, formally known as The Ware Collection of Blaschka Glass Models of Plants, contains more than 800 species and cultivars, representing six continents. Of those, more than 160 are threatened or extirpated in parts of their natural range, and at least 20 are now endangered globally. More than just immortalizing them in glass, the Blaschkas’ work has the potential to help preserve and protect the plants they so carefully depict. 

Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia arborea)

Status: Extinct in the wild






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