HIGHLAND TROPICS

The Conservatory of Flowers is one of only four institutions in the United States to feature a Highland Tropics display. The gallery mimics the misty cloud forests of tropical mountaintops. Dense mosses, Impatiens, and Gesneriads engulf rocks. Majestic Rhododendrons and tree ferns grow from the forest floor. Also featured is the renowned collection of delicate high-altitude orchids. Many of these orchids are epiphytes, which are plants that grow on other plants, including the infamous Dracula orchids that hang throughout.

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

Click images to enlarge.

Dracula
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: South and Central America

One might assume that the name is a reference to, Count Dracula, but in Latin, Dracula literally means ‘little dragon’. When fully open, the flower resembles a dragon’s face. Living in the cloud forest of the tropics, Dracula orchids are a remarkable example of mimicry. Mimicry is an adaptation that allows an organism to look like another plant, animal, or in this case, a fungus. Dracula flowers look and smell like fleshy mushrooms to attract pollinating flies.

Impatiens niamniamensis
Common Name: Parrot Impatiens, Candy Corn Impatiens
Family Name: Balsaminaceae
Native to: Tropical Africa

Impatiens niamniamensis is an evergreen, perennial species that usually grows 2 to 3 feet tall. An interesting adaptation of this plant is its method of seed distribution. The scientific name Impatiens is Latin for “impatient” and refers to the plant’s seed capsules. When the capsules mature, they explode when touched, sending seeds several yards away.

Masdevallia
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Mexico to Brazil

Masdevallia is a genus of 350 cool growing orchid species. They are best known for their unusual triangle-shaped flowers made up of sepals fused into a tube-like structure. Though the flower shape is similar from plant to plant, the difference in size and color is wide and wonderful.  Masdevallias have a wide variety of diverse scents, colors, and textures that relate to the small fruit flies that pollinate them. Scents range from rotting gorgonzola to a ripe peach or apple.

Miltoniopsis
Common Name: Pansy Orchid
Family Name: Orchidaceae
Native to: Andes of Columbia, Panama, Ecuador; Brazil

This cheery orchid looks like a cross between a pansy and a butterfly. Native to cloud forests of the Andes, this orchid demands high humidity and cooler temperature. A number of species display markings that glow under ultra-violet light and are visible to bees, their likely pollinator.

Miltoniopsis or Miltonia? Although given recognition in 1889 most botanists continued to lump Miltonia with Miltoniopsis until the mid 1970’s. However, even today hybrids of Miltoniopsis are still registered as Miltonia.

Vireya Rhododendron
Family Name: Ericaceae
Native to: Southeast Asia

Vireyas grow in cool mountainous regions of Southeast Asia, either as epiphytes high in the tall trees of the cloud forest or on open ground in shrubberies. There are over 300 Vireya species, comprising approximately one-third of all rhododendrons. Many rhododendrons make poisonous nectar. This poison helps to keep herbivores away but is harmful to humans who consume honey made with the nectar.

Aeschynanthus radicans
Common Name: Lipstick Plant
Family Name: Gesneriaceae
Native to: Malaysia

Aeschynanthus radicans is an epiphytic evergreen vine. It truly earns the common name the lipstick plant with its bright red flowers that protrude from a darker tube-like structure. The genus is in the gesneriad family along with the African violet.

Solanum quitoense
Common Name: Naranjilla
Family Name: Solanaceae
Native to: South America

Commonly called naranjilla, or “little orange” in Spanish, as a reference to the round, bright orange fruit, however this plant is not in the citrus family, but rather the nightshade family. The flavor of the fruit is likened to pineapple and lemon, and can be eaten fresh, but is more commonly made into juice or marmalade.

Platycerium
Common Name: Staghorn Fern
Family Name: Polypodiaceae
Native to: South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, Australia, and New Guinea

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.

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