What’s in Bloom


Learn about the Conservatory’s five distinct galleries and see which plants are currently in bloom.







The magical pools in the Aquatic Plants Gallery simulate the flow of a river winding through the tropics. The gallery features a diversity of aquatic plants and colorful water lilies including the Giant Water Lily with its majestic, spiny leaves visible during all but the coldest months of the year.  Carnivorous pitcher plants, warm-growing orchids, and brightly painted Heliconia and Hibiscus are scattered throughout the gallery. Giant taro leaves line the pond and the flowers of bromeliads emerge from their water-filled buckets amidst a diversity of epiphytes, creating an eye-catching display of colors and textures.

Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Asia to West Pacific

The orchid genus Coelogyne is comprised of about 200 species, commonly called Necklace Orchids because of their long pendant like inflorescence. Most of the species are relatively easy to grow and produce long-lasting fragrant flowers. In their winter dormant season, they can go weeks without water. They often have elaborately marked lips to attract pollinators, which include bees, wasps, and beetles. You can find our numerous Coelogyne orchids displayed in the Potted Plants Gallery.

Dendrobium antennatum
Common Name | Antelope Dendrobium
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Queensland Australia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, and Moluccas

Dendrobium antennatum, the orchid equipped with antennae! The characteristic petals of this orchid resemble antennae or, like the name suggests, the twisted horned of some antelope species. Unsurprisingly it belongs to the enormous genus Dendrobium, which is home to many unique and peculiar orchids. This species in particular grows happily from sea level up to 3000 feet of elevation on the branches and trunks of trees. Its flower spike produces approximately 15 flowers and stays in bloom for nearly two months. The flowers also carry a slightly sweet fragrance.

Lasimorpha senegalensis
Common Name | Swamp Arum
Family Name | Araceae
Native to | West Africa

Lasimorpha senegalensis is a very large aquatic plant from west Africa, found in swamps, ponds, and other areas with slow moving water. Beneath the water’s surface, this plant grows quite vigorously by lateral shoots, or rhizomes. Its flowers rise singularly from its base and smell of decomposing fruit. L. senegalensis’s stems, or petioles, are angular and thorned with arrow-shaped leaves. These leaves are known to have been used as a vegetable and as a medicine during childbirth. Its rhizome has also been used medicinally to treat ulcers and, as a decoction, for nervousness and pain.

Medinilla magnifica
Common Name | Pink Lantern, Rose Grape
Family Name | Melastomataceae
Native to | Philippines

In every stage of its blooming cycle, this Medinilla magnifica is true to its name. The magnificent flower clusters, called panicles, begin as a dewdrop-shaped pendant. Protecting the pendant are pink bracts, which look like petals but are actually modified leaves. As they unfold, the bracts curl upwards and reveal clusters of tiny pink and purple flowers. The flowers leave behind berry-like pods which remain on the plant for weeks. These beauties often grow on trees in their native habitat, the Philippines, but do not extract nutrients from the tree.

Stangeria eriopus
Common Name | Natal Grass Cycad
Family Name | Strangeriaceae
Native to | Southeast Africa

Stangeria eriopus is an amazing Cycad that can easily be mistaken for a fern. Its large divided leaves rise from a hairy stem that gave the plant its name eriopus, or “wooly footed.”  It grows in coastal grasslands and inland forests. In traditional medicine, this plant is used as a purgative and cure for headaches by the Zulu and Xhosa peoples. S. eriopus is classified as vulnerable and is the only species within its Genus. The Conservatory of Flowers is fortunate to have two specimens, one male and female, that might one day “get together.”

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. The genus is named after the last emperor of Brazil, Don Pedro II de Alcantara and the specific name is Latin for imperial. It takes between 8-20 years to flower and will flower for up to 12 months. 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 named such because of the ‘walrus-tooth-like prickles’ that protrude from the pitcher. The meaning of the specific epitaph also eludes to this unique characteristic, Latin ‘bi’ means two and ‘calcaratus’ means spurred. The plant has a symbiotic relationship with a species of ant called, Camponotus schmitzi. The plant has 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. N. bicalcarata is ranked as vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List.


Conservatory of Flowers is one of only a handful of institutions in the United States to feature a Highland Tropics display, given the challenge of creating such a cool and humid climate. 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 peek from hanging vines and through tree branches throughout.

Acineta superba
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela

The orchid’s name, Acineta superba, is derived from the Greek word akinetos which means immobile and refers to the flower’s rigid lip. Acinetas are epiphytes and grow on other plants, rather than in the soil on the forest floor.  Acineta orchids thrive in the wet montane forests at elevations of 800 to 1950 meters.

Acineta superba flowers are pollinated by male Euplusia concava bees. It’s thought that a distinct blend of fragrance chemicals is produced by each Acineta species. The unique odor and distinct shape of the flower attracts only a single type of pollinator, thus ensuring the bee will exclusively visit flowers of that species. Fragrance production consumes energy, so some orchids are only fragrant when their pollinators are most active.


Common Name | Tulip Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | West South American to Venezuela

The Anguloa orchid is commonly known as a tulip orchid because of the way the leaves resemble tulip leaves when they emerge from the forest floor.  The flower’s waxy petals and sepals form a cup that partially encloses the lip and column, which contains the reproductive organs. The lip acts as a landing pad for the pollinator and it rocks when landed on. This motion helps remove pollen from the flower and attaches it to the bee. The bee is attracted to the strong cinnamon scent of the flower.

Family Name | Araceae
Native to | Mexico to Tropical America

This Anthurium inflorescence is called a spadix and is framed by a red, orange, white, or green spathe, which looks like a leaf or petal. The spadix holds dozens of microscopic female and male flowers. In order to avoid self-pollination, these flowers are active at different times. By avoiding self-pollination Anthuriums’ can increase genetic diversity, increase disease resistance, and increase their offspring’s ability to adapt to change. When Anthurium flowers are pollinated, the spadix fills with round, berry-like fruit. The berries might look sweet but, Anthuriums’ contain calcium oxalate crystals which are highly poisonous if ingested.

Cavendishia colombiana
Family Name | Ericaceae
Native to | Colombia

Cavendishia is commonly referred to as the Neotropical Bluberries. Cavendishia has roughly 114 species, none of which is our standard blueberry. Bluberries and Cavendishia do share the same family, Ericaceae, and by stretching your imagination the berries of Cavendishia colombiana do look like out-of-this-world bluberries. Cavendishia colombiana is native only to the cloud forests of Colombia where it can grow on the ground as a terrestrial plant or on other plants as an epiphyte. The flowers are clear green to white in color and are surrounded by a red bract when it is time to bloom.

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

Cavendishia grandifolia is native to the forests of Ecuador, but it is now endangered, primarily due to habitat loss, according to the IUCN Red List. 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 significantly more antioxidants than blueberries but have a very bland taste.

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 to attract hummingbirds to pollinate.


Dendrobium smillieae
Common Name | Bottlebrush Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Australia and New Guinea

Dendrobium smillieae is a robust orchid that is found in Queensland Australia and New Guinea. They grow epiphytically on tree limbs and trunks or lithophytically on rocks in the lowland rainforests. The pseudobulb stems grow in a dense mass and can reach a height of 5 feet. The waxy, tubular flowers grow in a dense cluster, known as a raceme, and are greenish white to pink in color. A beautiful bird named the Canary Honeyeater (Stomiopera flava) pollinates and feed off the nectar of these flowers that are arranged in a bottlebrush-like groups.

Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical America

Epidendrum comes from the Greek words ‘upon’ and ‘trees’, which refer to their epiphytic growth habit. Carl Linnaeus initially grouped all epiphytes he ever encountered in this genus but after a time and more consideration some were removed from this group and even some non-epiphytes were added. Epidendrums have long, reed-like inflorescences that produce brightly colored bunches of flowers in shades of orange, red, yellow, and pink. In almost all species of Epidendrums, the flowers have a fringed lip that’s fused to the column along its entire length. They are pollinated by butterflies or hummingbirds. Some Epidendrums are well suited for novice orchid growers because they are forgiving, vigorous growers, and can tolerate mild evening temperatures outdoors.

Macleana insignis
Common Name | Tropical Blueberry
Family Name | Ericaceae
Native to | Southern Mexico to Costa Rica

It might not look like its temperate relatives, but Macleania insignis is indeed a type of tropical blueberry. It grows naturally in cloud forests either on the ground or clinging to trees as an epiphyte. Its bright, red and white waxy flowers dangle in clusters, making pollination easy for hummingbirds within the canopy. Like its flowers, M. insignis’s branches are pendulant, extending out away from its base with thick, ovate leaves. Lastly, M. insignis does produce fruit that is edible and slightly sweet.

Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to South Tropical America

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.

Mediocalcar decoratum
Common Name | The Charming Mediocalcar
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | New Guinea

This miniature orchid has many bell-shaped flowers that some say resemble candy corn. When grown in strong light the leaves may develop a purple tinge. This species is found only on the island of New Guinea in the South Pacific. It grows happily as a cool growing epiphyte on shaded tree trunks in New Guinea’s montane forests. The genus name Mediocalcar comes from the Latin roots ‘medium’ meaning middle and ‘calcar’ meaning spur. The meaning of ‘middle spur’ is in reference to the protrusion of the middle part of the lip. While it usually blooms in late summer or fall, Mediocalcar decoratum often blooms twice a year.

Microcoelia stolzii
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Kenya to Southern Tropical Africa

This miniature orchid grows on twigs and branches in Africa and is related to the much larger and more famous “Darwin’s Orchid”, Angraecum sesquipedale. Unlike its cousin, however, the beautiful white flowers of this Microcoelia are only the size of a stylus tip. This plant also amazes because it is leafless. Don’t worry, though, its abundant roots work overtime by not just absorbing water and nutrients, they also take on the role of photosynthesis!

Common Name | Bonnet Orchids
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to Tropical America

There are over 1,000 species of Pleurothallis orchids. Although often very small, as a group they show the vast diversity and a huge range in vegetative form, growth habit (terrestrial or epiphytic), and can be found as tall cane-like plants, clumped or trailing, pendant or climbing, or delicate moss-like species that can grow on the thinnest of twigs.  Pleurothallis flowers are among the most diverse and unusual. Due to their small size, Pleurothallis orchids often specialize in using tiny insects such as gnats for pollination. The flowers of many of the species at the Conservatory grow from the base of the heart-shaped leaves. Also emerging from the leaves are aerial roots and new plants. Pleurothallis orchids reproduce vegetatively. These new plants are often called a keiki (pronounced key-key), which is Hawaiian for “baby”.

Pleurothallis cypripedioides
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Ecuador and Peru

This beautiful little orchid is easily distinguishable by its hairy, pouch-like flower. Their appearance might remind the viewer of a baleen whale feeding in the ocean. Both its lip and lower “pouch” grow a colorful array of thick hair that looks like baleen.  Pleurothallis cypripedioides is a miniature orchid that can be found growing on trees, holding on with its roots as they collect dripping water. It grows at elevations between 1100 and 3600 feet in hot to warm tropical forests. This orchid crawls and spreads by its main stem and has leaves that stay approximately an inch and a half in length. Additionally, many botanists liken this tiny orchid to Cypripedium, or lady slipper orchids, which would explain the species name cypripedioides.


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 several rare and ancient Cycads, which are primitive gymnosperms that pre-date the dinosaurs.

Acalypha hispida
Common Name | Chenille Plant
Family Name | Euphorbiaceae
Native to | New Guinea, Malaysia

The common name, chenille, means caterpillar in French. The fuzzy, pendulous inflorescence of the chenille plant range in color from vibrant red to a creamy white. The chenille plant is dioecious, meaning the male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers are on separate plants. The individual flowers which make up the inflorescence are very tiny, have no petals, and are made up of feathery pistils. These pistils are tightly packed into cylindrical flower clusters along the raceme called catkins. Flowers with catkins, including the chenille, are predominantly pollinated by the wind, and occasionally by insects.

Areca vestiaria
Common Name | Sunset Palm, Orange Crownshaft Palm, Monkey pinang
Family Name | Arecaceae
Native to | 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. It is also commonly known as ‘pinang yaki’ or monkey pinang to native Indonesians, possibly because the Sulawesi crested macaque frequent this palm to enjoy the sweet ripe fruit. 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.

Eugenia uniflora
Common Name | Surinam cherry
Family Name | Myrtaceae
Native to | Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay

The fruit of the Surinam cherry is used as a flavoring base for jams and jellies. The taste ranges from sweet to sour, depending on the cultivar and level of ripeness. While Eugenia uniflora is native to the Amazon rainforest, the tree was introduced to Florida where it is now out of control and listed as an invasive species. The plant is relatively pest resistant. The leaves are spread on house floors in Brazil so that when crushed underfoot they exude a spicy, resinous fragrance, which repels flies.

Common Name | Lobster Claw, Toucan Beak, False Bird-of-Paradise
Family Name | Heliconiaceae
Native to | Central Malesia to SW. Pacific, Mexico to Tropical America

Heliconia is a genus of tropical flowering plants. The majority of Heliconia species are native to tropical Central and South America. Heliconia species support a diversity of ecological relationships with various organisms. Hummingbirds are the principal pollinators of Heliconias in the Americas. The flowers produce an abundance of nectar and the color, shape, and curve of the flowers are adapted to specific hummingbird species. Several species of Heliconia open their flowers at night to attract nectar-eating bats for pollination. Additionally, multiple species of bats use the leaves and foliage to construct habitats and shelters. Heliconia species with upright bracts are known to collect rainwater and support a community of minute, aquatic fauna.

Heliconias thrive in tropical conditions and habitats that have an abundance of water, sunlight, and rich soil. The inflorescence, or cluster of flowers, are quite distinctive and range in colorful hues of red, orange, yellow, and green. The inflorescence consists of brightly colored, waxy bracts (specialized leaves at the base of flowers) arranged alternately on the stem that encloses and protect small flowers. Heliconias used to be included in the banana family but was relocated because of how different the flowers look.

Common Name | Banana, Plantain
Family Name | Musaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Asia to West Pacific

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. Plantains are larger and starchier than bananas.

Saraca indica
Common Name | Ashoka Tree
Family Name | Fabaceae
Native to | Indo-China to W. Malesia

The ashoka tree is prized for its beautiful and fragrant flowers. The cluster of yellow flowers emerge in the winter and fade to an orange and then crimson color with age and increased sunlight. Long crimson stamens give the flower clusters a hairy appearance.

Both Buddhists and Hindus consider the tree sacred and plant it around their temples. The blossoms are used for religious offerings and the tree is found in the literature and artwork of both religions. The bark of the ashoka tree is highly regarded for its medicinal value, and aids in the management of hemorrhoids, uterine fibroids, and discomfort caused by menstruation. A 2015 study in the Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity Journal asserted that the bark also has anti-breast cancer properties.



The Potted Plants Gallery pays homage to the Conservatory’s late 1800’s Victorian roots when plant collectors stored their exotic tropical treasures in opulent glass greenhouses to protect them from cold European climates. This ever-changing garden of curiosities features a rotating host of unique, charismatic and rarely seen plants from tropical places throughout the world. Lush flowering trees and shrubs are held in an incredible assortment of decorative urns and containers from all over the world including copper containers from India, Javanese palm pots, ceramic pots from Burkina Faso and a historic urn from San Francisco’s 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition.

Family Name | Araceae
Native to | Mexico to Tropical America

This Anthurium inflorescence is called a spadix and is framed by a red, orange, white, or green spathe, which looks like a leaf or petal. The spadix holds dozens of microscopic female and male flowers. In order to avoid self-pollination, these flowers are active at different times. By avoiding self-pollination Anthuriums’ can increase genetic diversity, increase disease resistance, and increase their offspring’s ability to adapt to change. When Anthurium flowers are pollinated, the spadix fills with round, berry-like fruit. The berries might look sweet but, Anthuriums’ contain calcium oxalate crystals which are highly poisonous if ingested.

Burbidgea schizocheila
Common Name | Golden Brush Ginger, Voodoo Flame Ginger
Family Name | Zingiberaceae
Native to | Borneo

Bright orange cones of blooms emerge from the upright inflorescence. Dozens of individual flowers open successively over a period of two weeks. The plant also has handsome deep green leaves and dark red stems. Burbidgea is a genus of plants in the ginger family (Zingerbaraceae) with five known species that are all endemic to Borneo. Burbidgea schizocheila is considered vulnerable according to the IUCN Red List due to extensive habitat loss. Extensive logging of Boreno’s forest for palm oil plantations have made humans the main reason for their decline. 

Common Name | Corsage Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical Central and South America

Cattleya is a premier flower in the floral industry and are used by orchid enthusiasts to create hybrids (often with Laelia orchids) and prize plants. Their large, showy flowers often have a pleasant sweet or citrusy fragrance. They are often used for prom or weddings in corsages which gives them their common name, Corsage Orchids. An interesting adaptation of Cattleya orchids is that some have a pseudobulb attached to every leaf to store water and nutrients, which are used in the dry season. In the wet season, new leaves grow twice as fast. Many species grow in the trees so they don’t get water from the soil and instead depend on humid air.

Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Asia to West Pacific

The orchid genus Coelogyne is comprised of about 200 species, commonly called Necklace Orchids because of their long pendant like inflorescence. Most of the species are relatively easy to grow and produce long-lasting fragrant flowers. In their winter dormant season, they can go weeks without water. They often have elaborately marked lips to attract pollinators, which include bees, wasps, and beetles. You can find our numerous Coelogyne orchids displayed in the Potted Plants Gallery.

Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Asia and Australia

Cymbidium are noteworthy because of their standard and miniature sizes with approximately 55 natural species, 16 natural hybrids, and thousands of hybrids exist. They bloom in the winter with over a dozen flowers ranging from white, pink, red, orange, or even black. Many of the showier hybrids have large striped petals and sepals and a ruffled lip of a contrasting color. Cymbidiums are popular in the florist trade for corsages and floral design.


Dracontium spruceanum
Family Name | Araceae
Native to | Central America

This herb is an eye catcher with its wonderfully painted stem. Dracontium spruceanum has a nicely patterned, camouflage-like stem that has been described to look like a snake’s scales. This species, along with the rest of the Dracontium genus, closely resembles Amorphophallus which also grows in the Potted section of the Conservatory of Flowers. It similarly grows a large stalk with a dissected leaf from a tuber that is buried underground. This tuber can go dormant and survive with no aboveground growth for extended periods of time. This species in particular is known to have the widest distribution of its genus and subsequently comes in different sizes and growth patterns. It prefers the shaded understory of tropical forests that receive heavy annual rainfall.

Eulophia petersii
Common Name | Peter's Eulophia
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | East to South Africa

This ancient looking orchid appears almost like the hardened shell of a crab’s claw. Eulophia petersii is a terrestrial, desert-dwelling orchid that grows well in shallow, sandy soil, anywhere from sea level to 4500 ft elevation. Like many orchid species, it has a pseudobulb that holds and supplies the plant with water. Unlike other species, this orchid is well adapted to dryer environments and appears much more dense and succulent-like. Its flower spikes can reach an impressive 8 ft tall and can stay in bloom for nearly two months. Indigenous medicines have used Eulophia species as remedies for gastrointestinal and skin disorders.

Ixora coccinea
Common Name | Scarlet Jungle Flame, Flame of the Woods
Family Name | Rubiaceae
Native to | India, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia

Ixora coccinea, commonly known as scarlet jungle flame, is native to Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam. It has been introduced to other tropical regions around the world and today is widely grown as a popular ornamental shrub. Ixora coccinea is a dense multi-branching evergreen shrub that is notable for its brightly colored blooms. The scarlet, tubular flowers grow in dense rounded clusters and can bloom year-round in the right conditions. Ixora coccinea is a member of the Rubiaceae family and is a showy relative of coffee. The genus name Ixora is a Portuguese translation of Isvara meaning ‘lord’ in Sanskrit and is a reference to the god Siva. The species name coccinea translates to scarlet and is a reference to the blooms.

Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to Tropical America

Laelia orchids are stunning with blooms in a wide range of color from bold pinks and purples to bright yellows and greens. Laelias are found in forests from sea level to mountain habitats across Mexico down to tropical America.

The Laelia genus is a great example of taxonomic work in progress. Laelia was formerly a large genus of orchids from Mexico to Brazil. With new DNA evidence and modern research, the Laelia and Cattleya genera have been rearranged to better reflect their evolutionary history.

Maxillaria tenuifolia
Common Name | Coconut Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to Costa Rica

This orchid is known for its wonderful fragrance reminiscent of coconuts and pina coladas. The flower’s rust-colored sepals surround a spotted rust and white lip. The grass-like foliage makes an attractive houseplant even when not in flower. This genus derives its name from the Latin word maxilla which means jawbone. The lip of the flower looks like an arched tongue. The result is a blossom that slightly resembles a jawbone.

Common Name | South American Slipper Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Mexico to South Tropical America

Plants in the genus Phragmipedium is named after their shoe shaped pouches and are native to regions of Mexico to Southern Tropical America. The pouch is a modified petal, also called a lip. The pouch traps insects, which are forced to escape through a backdoor exit, depositing pollen as they squeeze out, thus pollinating the flower. A distinct trait of “Phrags” is that their flowers bloom sequentially, one after another. Each bloom lasts about two weeks; meanwhile, another bud is developing. The entire flowering season can last from six to eleven months. Depending on the species, the colors can range from green, to a soft mahogany-pink, to a dazzling orange-red.

Common Name | North American Pitcher Plants
Family Name | Sarraceniaceae
Native to | Northern America

Sarracenia is a genus comprising of about 11 species, all pitcher plants that are native to Northern American. Similar to the more famous Venus flytrap, these plants are carnivorous. But unlike the fly trap, which moves to trap its prey, the Sarracenia has a passive trap. The plant’s leaves have evolved into a funnel-shaped pitcher. Insects are attracted by a nectar-like secretion on the lip of pitcher, as well as a combination of color and scent. Slippery footing at the pitchers’ rim causes the insect to fall in. Once inside, tiny downward-facing hairs make it nearly impossible for an insect to crawl back out, and liquids at the bottom of the pitcher make tiny wings too wet to fly.

Sarracenia are often found in hot, sunny bogs of Texas and the east coast of the United States. Bog soil is acidic and lacks nutrients so digested insects serve as an important source of nourishment for the plants. When blooming, the Sarracenia’s dramatic umbrella-like flowers are usually on long stems well above the pitcher, to avoid trapping potential pollinators. Today, the IUCN Red List has named several species vulnerable, threatened or endangered because of human interference.


After trekking through the tropics respite can easily be found among the fern fronds of the West Gallery. Ferns are an ancient group of plants that have their earliest ancestors dating back approximately 400 million years.  Many Victorians had a passion for fern collecting, housing their most delicate species in tropical conservatories like this one. Today, ferns are found on every continent except Antarctica. Look out for a New Zealand Tree Fern in the southwest corner, and a delicate-looking Tassel Fern amongst the many ferns hanging from above. With ample seating among these peaceful plants, the West Gallery offers a gentle recharge.

Huperzia squarrosa
Common Name | Tassel Fern
Family Name | Lycopodiaceae
Native to | Southeast to Pacific Asia 

Plants in this genus were once a part of the genus Lycopodium from which they differ by not having specialized spore-bearing cones. Spores from Lycopodium are highly flammable and were once a primary ingredient in fireworks and in flash powders used in photography. The dry spores are also hydrophobic, which makes them repel water, and were used as a waterproofing powder for pills, and surgical gloves. Today, we know that Huperzia squarrosa also has impactful medicinal properties that are used to treat brain disorders, Alzheimer, and Parkinson diseases.

Microsorum musifolium
Common Name | Crocodile Fern
Family Name | Polypodiaceae
Native to | South Myanmar to New Guinea

Microsorum musifolium is especially noteworthy for the texture of the leaves, the Crocodile Fern comes from the Malaysian Archipelago and makes a great house plant. The name Crocodile Fern comes from the beautiful dark green veins that wrinkle in a pattern that resembles the back of a crocodile. It is naturally an epiphyte and can grow on trees or even on rocks. It can tolerate medium shade and prefers to stay moist but well drained. If grown correctly, they can grow up to 1 meter tall and over 1 meter wide. The genus Microsorum means ‘small sori’ in Greek, which describes the cluster of spore capsules on the underside of the leaves. The species name musifolium means ‘banana-like leaves’ which references the elongated strap-life fronds.

Common Name | Staghorn Fern
Family Name | Polypodiaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Old World, Peru to Bolivia

Staghorn ferns have two types of fronds, basal and fertile. The sterile, oval-shaped, basal fronds not only help the plant adhere to trees, but also cover the roots to protect against damage, capture rain water, and trap leaf litter that decomposes and provides the plant with nutrients. The antler shaped fertile fronds hold the reproductive spores. There are about 17 accepted species, the most common is P. bifurcatum mature plant can be up to 3 feet across.


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