The magical pools in the Aquatic Plants Gallery simulate the flow of a river winding through the tropics. The gallery features carnivorous pitcher plants, warm-growing orchids, and brightly painted Heliconia and Hibiscus. Giant taro leaves line the pond and the flowers of hundreds of bromeliads emerge from their water-filled buckets. A sculpture of a Victoria amazonica water lily hangs suspended in the air. The Victoria amazonica, lotus plants, and colorful water lilies grow in the ponds during the summers when water conditions are just right.

You can visit all the galleries: Potted Plants | Lowland Tropics | Highland Tropics | Aquatic Plants | West Gallery

Click images to enlarge.

Victoria cruziana
Common Name: Giant Water Lily
Family Name: Nymphaeaceae
Native to: South America

Famous for its enormous leaves, which allow it to absorb as much sunlight as possible, the giant water lily’s individual leaves can grow 4-6 feet in diameter. Supported by large spongy veins, the leaves have upturned edges and the leaf underside (and stem) are covered in sharp spines, as a possible defense against herbivores such as fish and manatees.


Common Name: Water Lily
Family Name: Nymphaeaceae
Native to: Cosmopolitan Distribution

Water lilies can be referred to as perfect flowers. Not because they are picture perfect, but because they contain both male (stamen) and female (carpel) reproductive parts. Most Nymphaea begin with the female phase to collect pollen in the flower center, then during the male phase, the center is shielded, while the pollen covered anthers are displayed.

Thalia dealbata
Common Name: Powdery Thalia, Hardy Water Canna
Family Name: Marantaceae
Native to: Mexico, Southern United States

This emergent aquatic plant absorbs excess nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as the insecticide, permethrin, from water. Studies have shown that constructed wetlands containing Thalia dealbata can reduce the concentration of agricultural runoff by at least 50% after 100 hours of exposure.

Common Name: Dancing Lady Orchid
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Cental and South America

Some species of Oncidium have long bouncing stems with abundant flowers that flutter in the breeze and look like male bees. Pollination occurs when actual angry male bees attack the flowers thinking they are a competitor. The common name, dancing lady orchid, refers to the elaborate lip that looks like a dress with a full skirt. The petals and sepals look like the arms and head of a tiny lady.

Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Southeast Asia, East Asia, New Guinea, and Australia

The Vanda orchid has some of the most magnificent flowers in the orchid family. Growers have hybridized the Vanda in efforts to get a flower that’s the biggest, showiest, and most colorful. The blue and purple species are the best known Vandas, but there are a wide range of other colors, which makes for striking hybrid combinations that are popular in the floral trade.

Family Name: Melastomataceae
Native to: Africa, Madagascar, Asia, and Pacific Islands

Medinilla is a genus of about 150 species in the family Melastomataceae. Most species are evergreen shrubs with white, pink, or orange flowers. The flowers are arranged on a panicle, a branched cluster of flowers. When pollinated, the plant bears showy berries. The leaves of many Medinilla species are arranged in a whorl or are alternating. This allows the maximum amount of sunlight to hit each leaf.

Nepenthes bicalcarata
Common Name: Fanged Pitcher Plant
Family Name: Nepenthaceae
Native to: Borneo

The fanged pitcher plant is a has a symbiotic relationship with with a species of ant called, Camponotus schmitzi. The plant possess adaptations that provide the ant colony with food or shelter. In exchange, ants aid the plant in pollination, seed dispersal, defense, or the gathering of essential nutrients.

Nepenthes truncata
Family Name: Nepenthaceae
Native to: Philippines

Nepenthes truncata is a tropical carnivorous plant endemic to the lowland rainforests of the Philippines, and is endangered in its natural habitat. While the plant is relatively compact, the cylindrical green pitchers can reach up to fourteen inches long. Nepenthes pitchers are modified leaves that attract, trap, and digest organism for nutrients.


Whether you’re a native San Franciscan, a visitor from another side of the world, or a classroom of budding botanists, the Conservatory of Flowers offers an intimate up-close experience with rare and endangered plants unlike any other. Come see what treasures await you!

Golden Gate Park | 100 John F. Kennedy Drive | San Francisco, CA 94118 | 415-831-2090