LOWLAND TROPICS

In the steamy, lush jungles of the Lowland Tropics Gallery, a light rain falls on the canopy of majestic palms. An enormous kapok tree lies on the forest floor while brightly colored orchids and falling water cascade around it. Coffee berries, cacao pods, and tropical fruits hang heavily from branches, and the sweet fragrance of jasmine and Stanhopea orchids mingle in the air. The gallery is also home to the Conservatory’s centenarians, including the towering Imperial Philodendron, a pygmy date palm from San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, and 100-year old Cycads, which are primitive gymnosperms that pre-date the dinosaurs.

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

Click images to enlarge.

Areca vestiaria
Common Name: Orange Crownshaft Palm
Family Name: Arecaceae
Native to: Eastern Indonesia, Maluku, and Sulawesi

This palm varies from a red crown shaft with maroon leaves, to an orange version with green leaves, and everything in between. It has been observed that there is substantial color variation depending on elevation, with the more colorful plants coming from higher elevations. This photo shows the three stages of the palm’s fruit – the yellow inflorescence emerging, the full-sized but unripe yellow fruit, and the ripe red fruit.

Brownea coccinea
Common Name: Scarlet Flame Bean, Rose-of-Venezuela
Family Name: Fabaceae
Native to: Guyana, Venezuela, North Central Brazil

Spectacular heads of red flowers are 4 to 6 inches in diameter and only last a few days. New leaves emerge in pale pinkish brown hanging clusters.The presence of the red pigment anthocyanin may be to protect the developing chlorophyll inside the new leaves from too much ultraviolet light. There are also theories that brown leaves give the appearance that the leaves are dead, making them unappetizing to predators.

Carica papaya
Common Name: Papaya
Family Name: Caricaceae
Native to: Central and South America

The papaya is commonly referred to as a tree, but it is technically a giant herb because it never produces true woody tissue.

The papaya typically has a single, unbranched, non-woody trunk. The trunk is topped by an umbrella-like canopy of palmately lobed leaves. The stems and leaves contain white milky latex. Papayas are dioecious with male and female flowers on separate plants, but many cultivars are hermaphroditic. Their yellowish-white trumpet-shaped flowers are fragrant and bloom throughout the year.

The papaya is used all over the world in traditional medicine for its digestive, wound-healing, and anthelmintic properties. These properties originate from the presence of the enzyme papain in the latex of the papaya plant and its fruit.

Clerodendrum quadriloculare
Common Name: Starburst, Shooting Star
Family Name: Lamiaceae
Native to: Philippines and New Guinea

Clerodendrum quadriloculare, commonly known as starburst or shooting star,  blooms clusters of long white tubular flowers, among the green leaves with deep purple undersides. It is naturally occurring as a shrub, but can also be grown as a small tree.

 

Dioon spinulosum
Common Name: Giant Dioon
Family Name: Zamiaceae
Native to: Veracruz and Oaxaca, Mexico

Cycads are a unique, ancient lineage of plants that flourished in the Mesozoic Era approximately 250 million years ago. Commonly mistaken as a palm or fern, the cycad is in fact not closely related to either. This particular cycad is over 100 years old.

Dioon spinulosum is one of the tallest cycad species in the world, growing to 40 feet high.  A cycad is either male or female and the cones of each sex are usually quite different in size and shape.  When the female cones ripen and open they will reveal hundreds of orange, unfertilized ovules. For the cone’s ovules to be fertilized, the Conservatory would need pollen from a male plant of the same species, which we do not have at the Conservatory. So, this giant Dioon will repeat it’s cycle of producing unfertilized cones, year after year, without producing offspring. Fortunately, cycads can also produce stem offshoots, often called pups. These can be separated from the parent and rooted to create new plants.

Musa
Common Name: Banana, Plantain
Family Name: Musaceae
Native to: Southeast Asia and Australia

The Musa genus is primarily known for being the source of bananas and plantains. Considered the fourth most important crop in the world, many cultures expand on the use of Musa plants for things like medicine, fibers, dyes, fuel, cordage, wrapping materials, and even steam for cooking.

Banana or Plantain?
Bananas and plantains are considered the same fruit botanically. However, they differ in genome which lead to the different classifications between cooking bananas, plantains, and dessert bananas.
Verschaffeltia splendida
Common Name: Seychelles Stilt Palm
Family Name: Arecaceae
Native to: Seychelles

Found on three islands in the Seychelles, this species is threatened by habitat loss. This canopy or understory palm grows in moist rainforests on steep hillsides and ledges. The stilt root system is thought to have evolved to stabilize the palm on steep slopes and in strong winds. The spikes on the trunk of the palm protect it from hungry animals.

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