Conservatory of Flowers – Wicked Plants

On the last day of our vacation, Cody and I returned to Golden Gate Park to check out the collection of plant life at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers. I had not been there in years, but as luck would have it, their special exhibit happened to be about poisonous plants.  How could I pass that up?


The Aquatic Plants gallery was a nice place to head to first. The sound of water flowing from one pool to another was a soothing background noise to enjoy the plants in.


Pitcher plants officially freak me out. There’s something so ominous about them. Perhaps this is why I don’t like Victreebel.


The Highland Tropics gallery “mimics the misty clouds of tropical mountaintops” and the Conservatory of Flowers is “one of only four institutes in the U.S.A. to feature a Highland Tropics display.”  That means there are tons of orchids in there that you normally wouldn’t see because of the extreme conditions one would have to create in order to allow them to flourish. There were plants that somehow attached themselves to rock, roots exposed, which was perplexing and utterly intriguing.

Orchids are important to me, thanks to my first boyfriend, and it always amazes me to see how many variations of there are of this species. It is “believed to be the largest family of flowering plants with between 21,950 and 26,049 currently accepted species.” [wiki] Crazy!


Slightly scary dragon orchids


Denboridiam orchid


The fittonia foliage caught my eye immediate with such beautiful white veins contrasting with its lovely green leaves. I would love to grow these, but they appear to be very picky. I suppose there is no harm is seeing if they will be good ground covering in the shade of the large tree in the backyard.


Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues & Assassins was the rotating exhibit based on Amy Stewart’s 2009 New York Times Bestseller Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln’s Mother & Other Botanical Atrocities and it features of 30 species of plants with scandalous histories that people grown in their yards without knowledge of their deadly defenses. I want a yard full of pretty killers!


All the plants on display are supplemented by excerpts from Stewart’s book, which were presented in beautiful etchings. I imagine Tess would have enjoyed their use of typography very much.


“As visitors enter the exhibition, they find themselves in a mysterious, untended yard behind a ramshackle old Victorian home. Peeking through the window, it’s clear that a crime has just taken place. A man is slumped over on a table, a goblet in his lifeless hand, as the lady of the house flees in the background. Crows caw, and a rusty gate creaks. In the overgrown garden, moss covered statues rise up out of an unruly thicket of alluring plants. Beautiful flowers and glistening berries bewitch the eye, but consider yourself warned – these plants have names like deadly nightshade, poison hemlock and white snakeroot. Here lurk some of the greatest killers of all time.”

Showcased in the middle of the greenhouse was a gorgeous display of foxgloves, otherwise known as Digitalis. Oh foxgloves, how you are a constant presence in my life.


Ever have something presented to you or a new discovery that you then see everywhere when they were no where before? Foxgloves are that thing for me. I actually wanted to walk through the botanical gardens to find the numerous foxgloves they have there, but because of time constraints, I opted to check out Wicked Plants instead. As fate would have it, I didn’t need to look for the flowers that mean so much to me.

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Outfit of the day


It was sweltering in the greenhouse, of course, so being completely covered was not such a great idea, but I endured in order soak up as much as I could of the gallery.

The Wicked Plants exhibit ran until October 30th, so I am sorry for those of you who are interested in potential fatal foliage, but were unable to attend. Kudos to all those who contributed their time and effort to created such a wonderful gallery of Victorian delight for many, like myself, to enjoy.




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