It is easy to get lost in the tall grasses. They stretch out, the matte green of their leaves conveying what it would be like to touch them, to run your finger down the blade and feel the rough resistance of these durable plants' skin: the gama grass, rough hair grass and broom beard grass. Their spindly, delicate roots seem just plucked from the earth.
It would be possible to spend a morning with these three alone. But there are at least 3,000 other plants in this cool, gently lit room with its muffling gray-brown rug. And they are just as entrancing. Arranged in shallow wooden cases, this botanical collection at the Harvard Museum of Natural History is unique. No hothouse or herbarium contains anything comparable; no wilted, browned specimens pressed between paper rival it. These plants and flowers are made of glass--down to the tiny, hairlike bristles on some of their roots. They look so real, so exactly like their soil-anchored counterparts the world over, that some people spend hours in the Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants: seeing flora as if for the first time, trying to spot an inconsistency between a model and a recollection of the real thing, straining to see brittle glass where it seems there is only yielding tissue.
This article was originally published with the title Friable Flowers.