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.

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.

Pleurothallis gargantua
Common Name: Giant Bonnet Orchid
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Ecuador

This terrestrial orchid can be found in the steep mountain forests in Ecuador, between 4500 and 7500 feet above sea level. It grows in cool and wet conditions but can tolerate wildly fluctuating temperatures such as those found in its native habitat.  While the flower is only a few inches wide, the Pleurothallis gargantua has the largest bloom of its genus. Its lower sepal is a dark burgundy, while its upper sepal is lighter with veins of the same color. The flower grows out of the base of the leaf and is pollinated by tiny insects such as gnats or grass flies. It has two pollinia, a trait that it shares with the rest of its genus.

Tillandsia umbellata
Family Name: Bromeliaceae
Native to: Ecuador

This unique Tillandsia is endemic to Ecuador where it is endangered in the wild due to habitat destruction. However, it is cultivated worldwide for its striking blue flowers. Tillandsia umbellate grows as an epiphyte on the trees of lowland and moist montane forests in Ecuador. As a member of the Bromeliaceae family, it is a relative of the pineapple.

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