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The knoll is named for John and Anna Comstock, who owned this land in the early part of the 20th century. Anna, one of Cornell’s first women professors, founded and headed the former Department of Nature Study, and wrote the Handbook of Nature Study. John was a Cornell professor of entomology. Beginning around 1912, forestry students planted red and white pines here. In 1985, nearly 20 mature white pines atop the knoll were lost in a storm; Cornell Botanic Gardens then re-designed the garden, adding new paths and access points.

The rhododendron collection is named for Cornell horticulturalist Clement Gray Bowers BS ’23, MS ’25, an expert in rhododendron classification, selection, and hybridization. He bred rhododendrons suited to cold winters.  He wrote the popular reference book “Rhododendrons and Azaleas: Their Origins, Cultivation and Development” and taught at Cornell, Syracuse, and Binghamton Universities.