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.

Hymenocallis littoralis
Common Name | Beach Spider Lily
Family Name | Amaryllidaceae
Native to | Mexico and Northern Brazil

The Hymenocallis littoralis, commonly known as the Beach Spider lily, is native to Mexico and Northern Brazil. As it states in its name, the Beach Spider lily is commonly found near sea shores or running bodies of water. The Beach Spider Lily has a light fragrance that emits from its beautiful white firework like flower. Common pollinators for this plant are typically Hawk moths. The plant’s bulbous root has been used throughout history as a Antifungal and Antibacterial.

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.”

Thunbergia grandiflora
Common Name | Bengal Clockvine, Blue Trumpet Vine
Family Name | Acanthaceae
Native to | China, Nepal, Burma, India

Commonly known as the sky vine, Thunbergia grandiflora is a vigorous tropical shrub that can grow well over 10 meters tall. Showy lavender blue trumpet-shaped flowers droop on vines with a pale-yellow throat that works as a bull’s eye for pollinators. The dark green leaves are covered in fine hairs and vary in shape between elliptic and heart-shaped. In some tropical areas, the sky vine is considered an invasive weed since it can smother and outcompete native vegetation by reducing light levels. This plant is considered a problem in some agricultural lands in Australia where the sheer weight of the stems can also kill trees. T. grandiflora can reproduce from seeds or underground stems (tubers). These tubers once established can become quite extensive reaching about 70kg, this makes managing an invasive population difficult.

The scientific name Thunbergia commemorates Carl Thunberg (1743-1828), a Swedish physician and botanist, who was a protégé of Carl Linnaeus and botanical collector in South Africa and Japan.

Common Name | Water Lily
Family Name | Nymphaeaceae
Native to | Cosmopolitan Distribution

The name Nymphaea is translated from the Greek, and inspired by nymphs from Greek mythology.

These plants have large intercellular gaps in their leaves which trap air and help them to float on the water.

Nymphaea has a cosmopolitan distribution. Across the world different cultures have their own stories and traditions associated with this beautiful plant. Nymphaea species have also been used as hallucinogens across the globe. Records have been shown that highlight its uses in Egyptian and Mayan rituals. In both cases, only the upper caste of priests or royalty were depicted using these plants.

In Brazil, a legend of the water lily told of a moon goddess that turned beautiful girls into stars. A young girl named Naia saw the moon’s reflection in the water and drowned trying to reach it to become a star. The moon goddess rewarded her sacrifice by making her a star in the water, a water lily.

=Nymphaea species are used for various medicinal purposes across the world. Different parts of the plant are used to treat wounds, inflamed glands, mouth sores, tuberculosis, or kidney troubles.

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.

Nepenthes truncata
Family Name | Nepenthaceae
Native to | Philippines

Nepenthes truncata is a tropical carnivorous plant endemic to the open mountainsides of the Philippines and is endangered according to the IUCN Red List. While the plant is relatively compact, the cylindrical green pitchers can reach up to fifteen inches long. Nepenthes pitchers are modified leaves that attract, trap, and digest organism for nutrients. The name ‘truncata’ is derived from the leaf’s unique characteristic where they end abruptly either being squared off or in a heart shape pattern.

Hibiscus schizopetalus
Common Name | Japanese Lantern, Spider Hibiscus
Family Name | Malvaceae
Native to | Kenya and Tanzania

The flowers of this Hibiscus are distinctive in their frilly, finely divided petals that curve up and create a globe shape. Hibiscus schizopetalus is native to Kenya and Tanzania but is commonly referred to as ‘Japanese lantern’ because it resembles traditional Japanese lanterns. A long reproductive column protrudes from the center of the petals covered with stamens, the part of the flower that produces pollen. At the tip of the column are stigmas, where pollen lands and starts the fertilization process. The flowers attract a variety of pollinations, bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.


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.

Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | South Mexico to Peru

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. The genus was founded in 1978 by Carlyle Luer and about 118 species have been described as of today. Living in the cloud forest of the tropics between 300 and 2800 meters in elevation, 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 use visual cues in their patterned calyx, a showy labellum and smelly chemical signals to mimic mushrooms and attract mushroom-associated flies.

In our vey own Highlands Gallery you can experience these beautiful beings smiling down at you from our hanging vines, the horticulturalists cleverly named, Vlad the Vine and Elvira the Vine.

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.

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.

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

The large fragrant flowers of Sobralia orchids have beautiful multi-colored lips. The striking blooms appear sequentially on the inflorescence and range widely in color from purple to pink, yellow, and white. The flowers vary greatly in size ranging from 2 to 10 inches wide, but all are very short-lived and last either only a day or a week at most. The plants have lance-shaped leaves arranged along a reed-like stem and some species can grow 44 feet high.

Vireya sect. 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.


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.

Crescentia cujete
Common Name | Calabash Tree
Family Name | Bignoniaceae
Native to | Central and South America

Crescentia cujete, more commonly known as the calabash tree, has been cultivated throughout tropical Central and South America since ancient times. The light green bell-shaped flowers grow directly on the trunk and branches and are pollinated by bats. The fruit is a poisonous berry that is widely utilized to make bowls, jugs, utensils, and musical instruments. The fruit nectaries attract stinging ants which help defend the plant against goats and other herbivores. Crescentia cujete has a variety of medicinal properties from treating toothaches, diarrhea, pneumonia, and lung diseases.

Dioon spinulosum
Common Name | Giant Dioon, Coyolito de Cerro
Family Name | Zamiaceae
Native to | Veracruz and Oaxaca, Mexico

Cycads are a unique, ancient lineage of plants that flourished in the Mesozoic Era approximately 170 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 50 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.

According to the IUCN Red List, Dioon spinulosum is currently endangered in the wild. It has experienced an overall population decline of 70% because of habitat destruction and severe over collection. Increasing education and awareness is a key tactic for conservation, which is why it is so important for our guests to see this magnificent giant in person.  

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.

Heliconia psittacorum
Common Name | False Bird-of-Paradise
Family Name | Heliconiaceae
Native to | Panama, Tropical Americas

Heliconia is a genus of flowering tropical plants with approximately 225 species. The majority of Heliconia species are native to tropical Central and South America; however, several species are found on islands in the West Pacific. 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 support a diversity of ecological relationships with various organisms. Hummingbirds are the principle pollination 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. Interestingly, the name Heliconia is derived from Mount Helicon, a mountain in southern Greece that is known in Greek mythology to be the home of the Muses.


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.

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.

Common Name | Sun Pitchers
Family Name | Sarraceniaceae
Native to | Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil

Heliamphora is a genus of approximately 18 carnivorous plant species. Plants of this genus are endemic to Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil. Most Heliamphora species are found growing on the Tepui mountains of the Guiana Highlands. The Tepuis are remote table-top mountains that rise out of the tropical landscape. Heliamphora range from between the heights of 4000-9200 feet and sometimes above 2500 feet on the sheer vertical cliff faces. Conditions are extreme on the top of Tepui mountains: frequent and torrential downpours are accompanied by high winds and lighting, temperatures can dip to near freezing, and vegetation is sparse due to the limited and nutrient poor soil. Plants of the Heliamphora genus have evolved and adapted to the harsh conditions found on these plateaus.

The pitchers of Heliamphora are modified leaves that act as sophisticated traps. The bell-shaped pitchers arise from rhizomes anchored by the roots. A small lid, known as a nectar spoon, sits at the top of the pitchers and secretes nectar that lures insects into the top of the pitcher where fine, downward hair force the insect further down and prevent escape. Eventually, the insect falls down into a pool of rainwater at the base of the pitcher, where it drowns and is dissolved by a community of bacteria living in the pitcher. Heliamphora gets its name from the Greek roots helos (marsh) and amphoreo (vessel or pitcher). Interestingly, the common name for the genus, sun pitcher, is derived from the misinterpretation of helos for the similarly spelled root helio (sun), hence the mistaken identity.

Common Name | Tiger Orchids
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical America

Maxillaria is a large and diverse genus of orchids with over 300 species. Orchids in this genus range widely in shape, size, and color. The large diversity of orchids within this genus has led some botanists and taxonomists to consider reorganizing or splitting this genus into several genera.  The flowers, often fragrant, grow singularly on a scape arising from the base of the pseudobulbs. The genus name is derived from the Latin word Maxilla, meaning jawbone, due to the resemblance of the lip and column to an insect’s jaw. This genus is commonly referred to as the spider or tiger orchid.

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.

Pachystachys lutea
Common Name | Lollipop Plant, Golden Shrimp Plant
Family Name | Acanthaceae
Native to | Northern Brazil, Panama, and Peru

Pachystachys lutea is a popular landscape plant in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. The plant’s long-throated, short-lived white flowers emerge sequentially from overlapping bright yellow modified leaves (bracts). These bracts are brightly colored and serve the function of attracting pollinating hummingbirds. These hummingbirds help the pollination process by brushing up against 2 stamens held under the upper lip and are rewarded by nectar at the bottom of the fused corolla.


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.

Family Name | Apocynaceae
Native to | Central America, South America, and the Caribbean

Plumeria is a great example of how different cultures appreciate and use the same plant. In the Pacific Islands, Plumeria flowers are used for making leis and worn by women to indicate relationship status.In Mesoamerica plumerias are associated with deities representing life and fertility. In Sri Lankan, Plumeria plants are traditionally associated with worship. In the Philippines and Indonesia, Plumeria plants are often associated with ghosts and graveyards and are planted on cemetery grounds. In Malaysian folklore, the scent of the flower is associated with the pontianak, a female vampiric ghost.

Plumeria flowers are most fragrant at night in order to lure sphinx moths. The flowers have no nectar and simply trick their pollinators. The moths inadvertently pollinate them by transferring pollen from flower to flower in their fruitless search for nectar.

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.

Tacca chantrieri
Common Name | Bat Flower
Family Name | Dioscoreaceae
Native to | Southeast Asia

Tacca chantrieri is a flowering plant in the yam family, Dioscoreaceae. Its wing-like bracts are a deep purple and have the appearance of bat wings. The purpose of the bracts is to protect the flowers while they mature. As the bracts open they reveal about a dozen flowers on pendulant stems. The bracts also reveal long filiform bracteoles which look like whiskers. The purpose of the bracteoles is undetermined. It’s possible they are attractive to a now-extinct pollinator, however, this is still under debate. Tacca chantrieri are effective self-pollinators, and in one study, researchers removed the bracteoles from half the plants in the study and found the pollination rate was the same as the plants with bracteoles.


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.

Scarlett the Titan

June 3, 2019:

This morning is a bittersweet day. Most of the scent has passed as Scarlett begins to close. Now will begin the next phase of this Corpse Flower’s life… A nice long NAP! The bloom should remain standing for the next few days for public viewing. As the bloom begins to senesce, our horticulture experts will remove any decaying portions to ensure that the ever-important corm underground remains free from disease or rot. Once all above ground portions have died back, Scarlett will be moved to a behind the scenes space to quietly rest. We will be open today from 10:00a.m. to 10:00pm for your viewing pleasure with last entry at 9:30p.m. Come on down and take a gander at Scarlett the Titan!

Here are some photos from last night’s stinkfest with some helpful captions:

Here you see Scarlett in her full bloom glory. You can also see how that central spadix heats up. For Scarlett, around 87 degrees Fahrenheit!

These three photos show the journey of a curious, scent-driven insect. Notice the small individual flowers at the very base of the spadix. Incredible!

June 2, 2019: 6:13p.m.

The show has finally begun… Scarlett’s spathe has begun to open signifying that tonight is the night! From here things progress rapidly. As Scarlett’s pollinators are only active deep in the night the real prime time stinkfest will be closest to midnight. Tonight, we will be open until 10:00p.m. (last entry 30 minutes prior to closing) so come on down to take a whiff and witness this spectacle of the botanical world. Here are some initial photos of our star!

May 31, 2019:

The smell of this curious bloom itself is certainly impressive, but what part of the plant is stinky? The answer may surprise you! This plant can produce some of the nastiest-smelling chemicals around all manufactured in the top of the central spadix.

Here are just a few of the fun fragrances produced by the Corpse Flower and where you might encounter them elsewhere in the world:

1) dimethyl trisulfide – A liquid with a foul odor and can be detected by humans as low as 1 part per trillion. It has been found emitted from cooked onions, leeks, broccoli and cabbage. You can even find it in your Limburger cheese!

2) isovaleric acid – This lovely one may be easily recognized. A study in the Canadian Journal of Microbiology found that this acid is produced by a bacterium called Staphylococcus epidermidis which lives naturally on the human skin and produces that characteristic sweaty feet smell.

3) trimethylamine – This scent can be a shapeshifter of sorts. In low concentrations you can detect the smell of rotting fish while higher amounts tend to be more like ammonia. It can be found as a product of plant or animal decomposition and even bad breath.

With these lovely chemicals combined with others we are treated to the deep odor of rotting flesh. It is a smell that few people on this planet get to experience and we are thrilled to share it with you once again!

Other exciting news to share today… Scarlett measured in this morning at 71.25 inches! This officially puts Scarlett ahead of our previously tallest individual, Terra the Titan back in 2017. Come in and see this towering specimen in person to get the full perspective but for now, here are some progress photos:

May 28, 2019:

The Corpse Flower is often confused for the largest flower in the plant kingdom. That distinction goes to another smelly species, Rafflesia arnoldii. The Corpse Flower, however, is the largest unbranched inflorescence (flower spike) with a record specimen reaching over 10.5 feet tall. This inflorescence is made up of dozens of tiny, petal-less flowers arranged at the bottom of the central spadix. Female flowers open first to receive pollen from another Corpse Flower in bloom in the forest. They then shrivel and become unreceptive to pollen before the male flowers open. The male flowers will then release their pollen to be carried to a different Corpse Flower.

We have also reached a new milestone! Scarlett is just beginning to put some color on that ruffled spathe. Now that the spathe is turning its signature crimson color, we could be expecting a bloom in less than a week. Be sure not to blink or you might miss the opportunity to come to see (and smell!) this rare plant in full bloom. Stay tuned!

Today’s growth measures in at 67 inches. We are only 3 inches away from topping our tallest Corpse Flower on record, Terra the Titan, back in 2017. Progress photos below:

May 25, 2019:

As you may know, many flowering plants require a pollinator to move pollen from one flower to another. Most plants in our daily lives use familiar pollinators such as bees, butterflies, or birds to get the job done but not this quirky individual. With its peak bloom near midnight, the smells are released to call in pollinators such as beetles and flies, those who enjoy the pungent aroma of rotting flesh, to facilitate the movement of the all-important pollen. While it is unknown how far away insects may be able to detect the stench, humans can smell the odor from nearly a mile away in the dense forests of Sumatra. Today the growth measures at 59 inches. We are now seeing one of the two remaining leaf-like bracts is beginning to fall away. Yet another sign that Scarlett is moving ever closer to that auspicious moment of bloom! Enjoy a few new progress photos below and come in to see for yourself. Open today from 10-6.

May 21, 2019:

Today we can see much more of the ruffled spathe visible with a beautiful fade to green as you move down the plant. The bloom now measures at 47.5 inches tall which is an incredible 8.5 inches increase from our last blog post. Here are a few progress photos so you can see just how much Scarlett has grown!


May 17, 2019:

Wow, how this plant can grow! We are now able to see the spathe of Scarlett the Titan. From our best estimate, this gives us anywhere from 10-14 days until peak bloom. We will be sure to post updates on the progress of this stinky friend so you can be here at just the right moment! The bloom currently measures 39 inches adding 2 inches from yesterday’s post.

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