What’s in Bloom

WHAT’S IN BLOOM

See which plants are currently in bloom at the Conservatory.

AQUATIC PLANTS

HIGHLAND TROPICS

LOWLAND TROPICS

POTTED PLANTS

WEST GALLERY

AQUATIC PLANTS

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.

Bulbophyllum echinolabium
Common Name | Hedgehog-shaped Lip Bulbophyllum
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Sulawesi

This handsome, but unpleasant smelling flower is one of the largest of the Bulbophyllum species of orchids. It has a moveable warty lip. The lip on an orchid is a modified petal that is attractive to pollinators. The lip of the B. echinolabium has a spiny texture and the color resembles raw or rotten meat. The smell of the flower has been described as a stink bomb, a decomposing rat, and just plain appalling. The fragrance, texture, and color are designed to fool carrion flies into believing that the flower is a piece of rotting meat.

Medinilla
Family Name | Melastomataceae
Native to | Tropical and Subtropical Old World to W. Pacific

Medinilla is a genus of about 190 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, that can be up to 18 inches long. 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.

Musa
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.

Osa pulchra
Family Name | Rubiaceae
Native to | Costa Rica and Panama

This is one of the rarest plants in the Conservatory of Flowers’ collection. Osa pulchra is the only species in the Osa genus and is found only on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula and a small area in Panama. Only a few dozen individual plants of this species are known to grow in the wild. It is incredibly difficult to grow in gardens and even harder for collection growers to acquire seeds. The Conservatory of Flowers, one of few gardens in the world to display the species. It bloomed for the first time in March 2020.

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.

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.

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.

HIGHLAND TROPICS

Conservatory of Flowers is one of only a handful 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.

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.

Dracula
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.

Laelia
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.

Masdevallia
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.

Maxillaria
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.

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 1500 to 2500 meters. 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 one of the largest blooms 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.

Pleurothallis teaguei
Common Name | Clamshell Orchid
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Ecuador

Pleurothallis teaguei is native only to Ecuador and is a warm to cool growing epiphyte. Multiple black flowers emerge several dozen at a time from each large heart shaped (cordate) leaf. There are over 1,000 species of Pleurothallis orchids, but this beautiful orchid species is one of the largest in the genus. With leaves that can be as wide as 18 inches and as tall as 24 inches and beautiful black flowers that can be as big as a US quarter. Summertime is the best time to see these flowers blooming at the Conservatory.

Restrepia antennifera
Common Name | Antennae-Carrying Restrepia
Family Name | Orchidaceae
Native to | Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru

The stunning Restrepia antennifera orchid is a member of the Conservatory’s cloud forest collection. It is one of around 50 epiphytic species in a genus named after the Colombian botanist José Manuel Restrepo (born in 1782). They grow at altitudes of 1,150 – 11,550 feet and are distributed in Mexico and Central and South America.

The colorful and patterned flower screams a style all its own: who can pull off wearing vertical stripes…with polka dots?!? This two-inch-long flower also has interesting structural characteristics. What we might, at first, call “the lip” is actually a synsepal formed by the fusion of the two lateral (side) sepals. The true lip is the smaller hinged structure resting above the synsepal. The lateral petals are thin and have club-like extensions at their tips. Their resemblance to antennae yielded the species name, antennifera, “antennae bearing”. This feature also helps distinguish Restrepia from the related Pleurothallis – a genus in which it was once included.

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 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.

Clerodendrum quadriloculare
Common Name | Starburst, Shooting Star
Family Name | Lamiaceae
Native to | Philippines to 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 frequently visited by butterflies and hummingbirds for its sweet nectar. It is naturally occurring as a shrub but can also be grown as a small tree. C. quadriloculare is invasive to places like Hawaii, Puerto Rico, French Polynesia, and Samoa because of its aggressive growth habit which forms dense thickets that outcompete native species for space and resources.

 

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.  

POTTED PLANTS

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.

Anthurium
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. 

Cymbidium
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.

 

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.

Laelia
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.

Medinilla alata
Common Name | Chandelier Plant
Family Name | Melastomataceae
Native to | New Guinea

This striking Medinilla has translucent pale bluish-white petals over burgundy calyxes and flower stems. The common name is Chandelier Plant, which refers to the flower structures hanging decorative shape that resembles a chandelier. The flowers mature into red berries that turn a deep magenta as they age. Medinilla is a genus of about 190 species in the family Melastomataceae. The genus Medinilla was named in 1820 after J. de Medinilla, governor of the Mariana Islands, which are off the coast of the Philippines.

Phragmipedium
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.

Tecomanthe dendrophila
Common Name | New Guinea Trumpet Vine
Family Name | Bignoniaceae
Native to | Maluku, New Guinea, Solomon Islands

Tecomanthe dendrophila is a member of the Bignoniaceae plant family; a family largely composed of climbing, tropical plants. Tecomanthe dendrophila is a liana, woody vine, and can grow to 30 feet tall. The flowers are trumpet-shaped and hang in a cluster of blooms. These showy flowers are bi-colored and range from deep rose to pink with a creamy yellow throat.

WEST GALLERY

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.

Platycerium
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.

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