HIGHLAND TROPICS

The Conservatory of Flowers is one of only four institutions in the United States to feature a Highland Tropics display. The gallery mimics the misty cloud forests of tropical mountaintops. Dense mosses, Impatiens, and Gesneriads engulf rocks. Majestic Rhododendrons and tree ferns grow from the forest floor. Also featured is the renowned collection of delicate high-altitude orchids. Many of these orchids are epiphytes, which are plants that grow on other plants, including the infamous Dracula orchids that hang throughout.

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

Click images to enlarge.

Cavendishia grandifolia
Common Name: Jungle Blueberry, Neotropical Blueberry
Family Name: Ericaceae
Native to: Central and South America

Cavendishia grandifolia, or the neotropical blueberry, belongs to the same family (Ericaceae) that includes rhododendrons, azaleas, heathers, and edible crops like cranberries and blueberries. The Cavendishia grandifolia berry has two to four times more antioxidant capacity than conventional blueberries according to research published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

The Conservatory’s plant is a sprawling epiphytic shrub. Dozens of waxy pink, white, and green flowers dangle from long inflorescences. Pink bracts add another pop of color.  

Coelogyne
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Southeast Asia

The orchid genus Coelogyne is comprised of about 200 species. A number are on display in the Potted Plants Gallery. Most of the species are relatively easy to grow and produce long-lasting, fragrant flowers, and they can go weeks in their winter dormant season without water. They often have elaborately marked lips to attract pollinators, which include bees, wasps, and beetles.

Dracula
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: South and Central America

One might assume that the name is a reference to, Count Dracula, but in Latin, Dracula literally means ‘little dragon’. When fully open, the flower resembles a dragon’s face. Living in the cloud forest of the tropics, Dracula orchids are a remarkable example of mimicry. Mimicry is an adaptation that allows an organism to look like another plant, animal, or in this case, a fungus. Dracula flowers look and smell like fleshy mushrooms to attract pollinating flies.

Masdevallia
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Mexico to Brazil

Masdevallia is a genus of 350 cool growing orchid species. They are best known for their unusual triangle-shaped flowers made up of sepals fused into a tube-like structure. Though the flower shape is similar from plant to plant, the difference in size and color is wide and wonderful.  Masdevallias have a wide variety of diverse scents, colors, and textures that relate to the small fruit flies that pollinate them. Scents range from rotting gorgonzola to a ripe peach or apple.

Medinilla
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.

Miltoniopsis
Common Name: Pansy Orchid
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Andes of Colombia, Panama, Ecuador; Brazil

This cheery orchid looks like a cross between a pansy and a butterfly. Native to cloud forests of the Andes, this orchid demands high humidity and cooler temperature. A number of species display markings that glow under ultra-violet light and are visible to bees, their likely pollinator.

Miltoniopsis or Miltonia? Although given recognition in 1889 most botanists continued to lump Miltonia with Miltoniopsis until the mid 1970’s. However, even today hybrids of Miltoniopsis are still registered as Miltonia.

Zygopetalum
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Tropical South America

The long-lasting flowers are quite stunning with bold colors in shades of green, burgundy, and purple and are known to be very fragrant. Zygopetalum is a genus in the orchid family (Orchidaceae) with approximately 15 species. This group of orchids can be found in Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay. Zygopetalum orchids occur in wet forests at moderate altitudes and are best grown in intermediate temperatures. Most species in this genus are epiphytic, meaning they grow on other plants for support.

Impatiens niamniamensis
Common Name: Parrot Impatiens, Candy Corn Impatiens
Family Name: Balsaminaceae
Native to: Tropical Africa

Impatiens niamniamensis is an evergreen, perennial species that usually grows 2 to 3 feet tall. An interesting adaptation of this plant is its method of seed distribution. The scientific name Impatiens is Latin for “impatient” and refers to the plant’s seed capsules. When the capsules mature, they explode when touched, sending seeds several yards away.

Vireya Rhododendron
Family Name: Ericaceae
Native to: Southeast Asia

Vireyas grow in cool mountainous regions of Southeast Asia, either as epiphytes high in the tall trees of the cloud forest or on open ground in shrubberies. There are over 300 Vireya species, comprising approximately one-third of all rhododendrons. Many rhododendrons make poisonous nectar. This poison helps to keep herbivores away but is harmful to humans who consume honey made with the nectar.

VISIT US

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