Fall Chrysanthemum Show at Smith Offers Community-Based Learning

Budding Botanists Will Love This Show at Smith College Botanic Garden

It might be chilly outside, but Smith College’s greenhouses in Northampton are bursting with color this time of year! Annually, with the month of November, comes The Botanic Garden of Smith College’s Fall Chrysanthemum Show, an exhibition filled with colorful mums of all shapes and sizes (some as large as eight inches across!). Budding botanists will love exploring the greenhouse and inspecting blossoms to learn about chrysanthemums.

Of particular interest at the show is the showcase of hybrid mums created by students in Smith College’s horticulture class. Every year, the mum show includes blooms engineered by students specifically for characteristics like petal shape, color, and/or size. Hybrid blooms are created by hand-pollinating blossoms, a process that requires careful attention to be paid to the plants’ reproductive process. Visitors to the show can view the students’ hybrid flowers and vote for their favorite of the original blooms. The competition has been going on for nearly a century, and past winners’ blooms can be viewed in an online gallery. Take a look at the archived blossoms and try to guess what the flowers whose genetic material was hybridized might have looked like!

Visitors to the show can use a stroll through the flowers as a way to support learning of all kinds, particularly within the realm of science. Exploring the many different blossoms can help learners to understand diversity amongst plant life – especially when they keep in mind that technically, though some blossoms may look drastically different from each other, they are all variations of the same kind of flower. Add some math to your visit by counting how many flowers you see of each color, shape, or size, and perhaps create some basic statistics to accompany your data analysis. And of course, no visit to the show is complete without a family reading of Kevin Henkes’ Chrysanthemum, a heartwarming tale of a young mouse whose namesake is on display at the greenhouse!

The chrysanthemum show runs annually in November for several weeks. Housed in Smith College’s Lyman Conservatory (College Lane in Northampton), the show is free to visitors but donations are welcome. For more information, visit them online or call the botanical garden at 413-585-2740.

[Photo credit: (c) Sienna Wildfield]


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