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: Aquatic Plants | Highland Tropics | Lowland Tropics | Potted Plants | West Gallery

Click images to enlarge.

Angraecum sesquipedale
Common Name: Darwin Orchid
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Madagascar

Commonly known as the Darwin orchid. Charles Darwin was the first to hypothesize that the flower’s pollinator was a moth with a very long proboscis. His prediction was not verified until 20 years after Darwin’s death when the large sphinx moth, Xanthopan morganii praedicta, was discovered. Nectar is stored at the bottom of the flower’s spur, which looks like a long tail. In order to reach the nectar, the moth must have a very long proboscis. While the moth attempts to get the nectar, other parts of its body pick up or deliver pollen to the orchid’s reproductive column. Many species of Angraecum are critically endangered due to habitat loss and over-collection for trade.

Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Southeast Asia

Grammatophyllum is a genus of orchids with approximately 13 species that are distributed throughout Southeast Asia. Grammatophyllum orchids are large plants with arching sprays of showy flowers.  This genus includes some record-breaking species, a Grammatophyllum speciosum weighed in at 2 tons in the 1851 Great Exhibition in Hyde Park in London.

Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Southeast Asia 

Renanthera is an orchid genus composed of approximately 20 species and is native to Southeast Asia. Joao Loureiro, a Portuguese Jesuit missionary and naturalist, first described the genus in 1790. These orchids produce remarkably colorful blooms in hues of red, yellow, and orange-red. The long inflorescence, or clusters of flowers, can be composed of hundreds of flowers in some species. Orchids in this genus are monopodial, meaning the orchid grows upright from a single point.

Family Name: Malvaceae
Native to: Temperate, Subtropical, and Tropical Regions

The Hibiscus captures the magic of the tropics by combining the lush, deep greens of the foliage and the bright colors of the flowers. Though well-known for its beauty, Hibiscus is also famous for its economical uses across cultures. It can be worn decoratively, cultivated for food and drink, and even used as a natural dye. More recently, scientists were able to extract silver and gold nanoparticles from Hibiscus during an effort to find more sustainable sources for biosynthesis.

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.

Alcantarea imperialis
Common Name: Imperial Bromeliad
Family Name: Bromeliaceae
Native to: Brazil

This giant terrestrial bromeliad can be found growing on inselbergs (isolated rock outcrops) in southeastern Brazil. This species plays an important ecological role as it stores rainwater in the pockets created by its leaves, offering a home to frogs, insects, and even other small aquatic plants. Alcantarea imperialis is becoming increasingly threatened in the wild due to habitat loss, which in turn affects the creatures that are dependent on the plant.

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