Conservatory Logo
Conservatory Chronicles
 Issue #46                                                                                                      
August, 2011
In This Issue
Visit us.. if you dare!
Labor Day Holiday Hours
What's In Bloom?
In the Gift Shop
Off to College
Become a Member
Upcoming Events
Architectural Heritage Lecture
Garden Photo Contest
Wish List

Conservatory Chronicles


Morgan Davis 
Content Contributors:
Annie Abernethy, Guadalupe Cota 
Photograph Contributors:



Beware of what lurks in your garden... 

Wicked Plants banner
Visit if you dare!

Visit Us
Tuesday - Sunday

10am - 4:30pm (last entry is at 4:00pm)

The Conservatory is closed on Mondays. The Conservatory WILL be open on Monday, September 5 for Labor Day!   


Please note that on Sundays and all major holidays, Golden Gate Park closes many of its roads to all vehicle traffic.

Information line:


$7.00 for Adults

$5.00 for Youth 12-17, Seniors age 65 & over, and College Students with ID

$2.00 for Children 5-11

Free for Children 4 and under


Discounts available to all San Francisco City and County residents with proof of residency
The Conservatory is free to all visitors on the first Tuesday of every month.


The Conservatory Of Flowers is wheelchair accessible for both motorized and non motorized chairs. Handicap permit parking is located at the east side of the building and also on John F. Kennedy Drive in front of the Conservatory. Strollers are not allowed in the Conservatory.


Donate Now!
Purple orchid photo by Todd Worley

 Your donation will help ensure the continued growth and success of this unique educational and historic living museum. 
Click here to make a donation through our secure online form.  



"Back to School"

Where did the summer go? The months of June, July and August seemed to fly by! We just celebrated Memorial Day, and now we're preparing for the Labor Day holiday. Soon, I will be traveling back to Michigan to see my two college-age kids before they return to school.


At the Conservatory of Flowers, school is coming back to us. We're preparing to welcome hundreds of field trip classes to our "jungle." We've filled up the 2011 weekday schedules, and will soon fill 2012. A new and very important group of volunteers are completing their Jungle Guide docent training to lead students through our tropical plant collections.


The Conservatory's Youth Education Program touches the lives of thousands of young visitors throughout the school year. We are extremely  honored to share that the Conservatory of Flowers was awarded a $10,000 grant from the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund to support our Youth Education Program. These funds join a significant number of other generous individual gifts from our members and supporters to help expand and enhance our programming for school-age children.


While reading, writing and arithmetic are the Conservatory of Flowers, we are working tirelessly to augment the classroom experience with invaluable, unique, hands-on learning opportunities about plants and conservation for Bay Area youth. We hope you will visit often during the upcoming school year as we connect people to plants and make learning fun.


Brent's signature 

Brent Dennis


What a busy July at the Conservatory! Garden Wise Guy Billy Goodnick taught us a thing or ten about how to design liveable and sustainable outdoor spaces (and how some plans go awry) in his Crimes Against Horticulture lecture on July 14. We look forward to his return for more hilarious and informative lectures. Trash Mash Up postergals in the photobooth The first wedding reception to grace our newly remodeled Orchid Gallery featured floral arrangements by our partners-in-crime for last year's Chomp! 2 exhibit, Paxton Gate. Their spectacular arrangements featured seasonal Paxton Gate Arrangementflowers -- and vegetables-- at the request of the bride and groom! Our After Hours MashUp on July 27 was a smashing success, with over 150 guests enjoying the galleries after dark. We had a blast teaming up with the SF Marathon; much applause to Marathon Events Coordinator Lea Troeh for her hardwork behind the scenes. And the biggest thanks goes to all of you who attend! For more event photos, visit our Find us on Facebook page.   


Special thanks for the donation of time and resources to:  

SF Marathon LogoTwelve Beverages    Bandit LogoMagnolia Photo Booth LogoTrash Mash Up banner    DUDHA.US    KI SUSHI   COMRADES BREWING 

 and Conservatory Advisory Council member, Saxon Holt.   


Plants of Ethnobotanical Interest

by Nursery Specialist Guadalupe Cota  


Wicked Plants in Special ExhibitsAs we showcase plants that contain irritating substances or poisonous alkaloids in the Special Exhibit based on "Wicked Plants" by Amy Stewart, we present many of the macabre stories of intoxication. We must also remember that many cultures find positive uses for these plants. Some chemical properties found in plants are useful in medicine, such as Digitalis or Curare, others are part of the admixtures healers use for their visionary work.


Ayahuasca vine ensnares exhibit fans.One large forest liana in the exhibit, Banisteriopsis caapi of the Malpighiaceae, grows in the Amazonian rainforest and West Indies. It is the main ingredient in the brew called Ayahuasca. Ayahuasca is used by the native shamans of the Northwestern region of South America in traditional medical rites and healing ceremonies; they pound the fresh bark and then boil it in water. The bark of Banisteriopsis contains a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) in the active chemical, the harmine alkaloid. The psychedelic brew is a unique combination of synergistic actions with the addition of Psychotria viridis.


Exhibit Signage thanks to Briony Morrow-CribbsPsychotria viridis is known as Chacruna and is native to Central and South America. Some Indian tribes of the Amazonian basin use this plant as a snuff. This tropical shrub is from the coffee family and is the second most important ingredient in the Ayahuasca drink. The active ingredient, N,N-DMT, is a naturally occurring chemical in the tryptomine class. N,N-DMT is obtained from the long narrow leaves. These two plants, brewed together, produce a drink employed for divination, prophecy and medical purposes that has been in use for ages as part of aboriginal life.


In the informative book "Plants of the Gods", Richard E. Schultes, Albert Hofmann and Christian Ratsch explain about MAO Inhibitor: "It reduces the body's production and distribution of monoamine oxidase. MAO normally breaks down the vision-inducing ingredient DMT before it can cross the blood-brain barrier into the central nervous system. Only with this combination of ingredients can the drink have its consciousness-expanding effects and trigger visions."


Please do not try this at home. Even in the communities that use dangerous plants for good, only the respected authorities who have been handed down special knowledge through generations handle the plants. For those interested in learning more about psychedelics and their use in healing and divination, The Vaults of Erowid online library provides many details.



 Everett Middle School Bookmarks

Friends of the Conservatory Gift Shop appreciate the artful and eco-loving bookmarks designed by Everett Middle School's Ecology Club, sold here to support their garden project.


We're proud to be part of the release of "One Simple Thing," a children's storybook that tells the tale of our bookmark artists. Authored by the club's teacher, Paula Ginsburg, the book comes in either full-color form to add to your library, or as a coloring book to help children engage with the creative activism of San Everett Middle School BooksFrancisco kids determined to make environmental change.


Eco-loving Bookmarks - $1

One Simple Thing Coloring Book - $12

One Simple Thing Full-Color Storybook - $9 


Featured items are only available in store. For more items visit us- in store or online.    



Michelle Chu's interest in biology emerged after her parent's introduced her to the Conservatory as a child. She incorporated this experience into her college essay, which we're reproducing here:   



While purchasing my admission ticket to the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, I notice that a member of the staff working there recognizes me instantly. She looks at me briefly and her facial expression says "You again?" I laugh and continue walking into the Conservatory of Flowers. Once I step in, I see the Costus Malortieanus flower and immediately flashback to the picture I took with my parents when they first introduced me to the Conservatory of Flowers. Walking towards my left, I glance at the treacherous-looking bat plant in the Special Exhibits section. Walking back towards the right side of the Conservatory, I immediately walk to the Highland Tropics section where I gaze at the Masdevallia orchid, an eye-opener during my every visit. The fascination of nature's beauty makes it clear why my parents exposed me to nature at an early age.


My introduction to nature began with outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, and camping. Intrigued by nature's beauty, I read through my parents' phytology and microbiology books carefully in search for answers to the evolution of exotic plants, flowers, and insects. I was captured by the spine-tingling pictures of loathsome, microscopic lice and the predatory Venus fly traps. Seeing my interest in nature, my parents introduced me to the Conservatory of Flowers in hopes of spurring more appreciation for the beauty of nature. But, little did they know that by introducing me to the Conservatory of Flowers, they were actually introducing me to my second family.


Collage of Plants in Bloom Mentioned in EssayMuch like my home where I greet my family when I walk through the door, I greet the flowers when I walk into the Conservatory of Flowers. I smile at the water lilies and lotuses as they float by serenely in the water. I quickly study the 100-year-old giant Imperial Philodendron plant to see how age is treating it. I smell my favorite Masdevallia orchids and visually examine them to see if they have grown or if their babies are now in bloom. The Masdevallia orchid's unique shape amplifies my obsession with it every time I see it. Unlike the appearance of a regular orchid, the Masdevallia's long sepals merge together to form a tube with tail-like extensions resembling the eccentric fašade of a kite in flight. Looking at the Masdevallia orchid, I feel an earnest desire to unravel its genetic diversity, pigmentation, reproduction and evolution that allow orchids to come in different shapes, shades, and blends of color.


When observing the Masdevallia, I realize that all my time spent adoring nature and nights pondering through my parents' phytology and microbiology books have led me to my ultimate dream of studying biology. Through biological studies, I am committed to pursue an in-depth understanding of science about life, nature, growth, and the evolution of the universe so that I have the knowledge to help find cures for life-threatening diseases such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes, and influenza. Nature is my passion and also my inspiration to study biological sciences to save lives.


This fall, Michelle will matriculate at San Francisco State University, where she will major in biology with hopes to pursue a career in medicine.  


Become a Member!

With an exciting, constantly changing program of special exhibitions and seasonal delights, the Conservatory of Flowers is a great place to bring the whole family more than once a year.
Members admire plants in Aquatics Gallery.


Visit our website to learn about the various tiered benefits for membership levels, and to join!


All membership levels include the following benefits:


* Year-round free admission 

10% discount in the Conservatory Gift Shop and selected Merchants including Flora Grubb Gardens and The Urban Farmer Store


* Invitation to exclusive members-only events and 

discounts for select special events


* Monthly 'Conservatory Chronicles' enews subscription annual print newsletter


* Knowledge that you are an important steward of the historic Conservatory of Flowers


* Reciprocal privileges at more than 250 horticultural organizations in North America through the AHS.


Photo by Photographer and Jungle Pass Member Matt Laws

 Mark your calendars for upcoming engagements at the Conservatory. You can always visit the website for more upcoming programming and ticket information. 

Evening Photography Workshop with Source Photography

Date: Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Time: 4:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Fee:  $175 General Public; $150 Conservatory Members with pre-registration

Source Photography Image 3Experienced photographers from Source Photography offer a unique opportunity to photograph the Conservatory of Flowers in a way rarely available to the public. The workshop consists of a private guided tour of the Conservatory's exterior and interior, followed by professional instruction at four photography stations designed to teach a specific aspect of photography: Still Life, Live Model, Macro Photography, Featured Conservatory Plant.  

Attendees take their photography to the next level by learning about lighting, working with a live model, composition, and working with both on and off camera flash. At the end of the workshop, complimentary hors d'oeuvres and a champagne toast reception offer attendees an opportunity to discuss what they learned and share their experiences. Register today to reserve your space; class is limited to 35 students. Click here to register, and learn more! Visit our facebook album for Source Photography's Conservatory images After Hours. For Workshop Related Questions:   


The Conservatory of Flowers and Quiet Lightning PRESENT: The Greenhouse Effect Summer Reading Series 

Date: Monday, September 5 & October 10 at 7 pm

Fee: $5 suggested donation, pay at the door         

Quiet Lightning Photographs by Julie Michelle Photography

Thank you to everyone who read, and listened, at the first Greenhouse Effect on August 1. Monday, September 5 is the second in our three partseries, and we'll be celebrating the Labor Day holiday together! Join the Quiet Lightning community for a picnic in Conservatory Valley, beginning at 3pm. Michael Musika and Con Brio will be performing, and Comrades Brewing will return with their flavorful brews. The foundations of a feast will be provided, and your culinary contributions are encouraged. White after Labor Day is a faux-pas, so take this opportunity to don yours in the Conservatory! According to Leah Garchik, we're quite vogue. Do note: John F Kennedy Drive will be closed to vehicles until 6 pm, so ride your bike, or wear your walking shoes, if you're joining us for the "litnic."Quiet Lightning brings their high-charged community readings to the Conservatory of Flowers for three months, going out with a bang during San Francisco's legendary Litquake festival. Entirely open to the public, Quiet Lightning accepts any form of writing: fiction, poetry, personal statement-anything-so you never know what's coming next! The accepted submissions are ordered in a way that weaves varying patterns of language into a compelling and oft-intoxicating double set of literary mixtape madness. The monthly shows-with featured artwork by one local artist- are published in a sPARKLE & bLINK, available at the shows and online. September's featured artist is Bay Area native Tyler Bewley whose works convey a message of environmental awareness, and provokes action and reflection that makes him a natural fit for a show at the Conservatory... Join us for the literary heat wave!  


Wicked Bugs: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects

Date: Thursday, October 6, lecture from 7 - 8 pm, Q&A to follow
Fee: $12 General Public; $7 Members; Free to Begonia, Cycad and Orchid Guild Members      

Wicked Bugs Cover ImageEnjoy a delightfully sinister evening with Amy Stewart author of WICKED BUGS: The Louse that Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects as she crawls through the research that wormed its way into her newest book. From horrific to bizarre, learn about the strange places bugs appear in pop culture, relationships, science, travel and, last but not least, the garden. The Conservatory galleries will be open at 6:30 to view Wicked Plants. Space is limited. Reserve your space or purchase your tickets online.     


Save the Date! On the evening of October 19, we'll celebrate The Fine Art of Poisoning, as we wish farewell to Wicked Plants, with Dr. Kent Olson, Medical Director of the San Francisco Division of the California Poison Control System, and the Underworld's cult darling Jill Tracy. Stay tuned for more details on the perils, pleasures and protocols...  


For more event info, visit the website or email Special Events & Programs Manager Morgan Davis. We look forward to greeting you!


Top image, credit: Source Photography. Quiet Lightning images courtesy of Julie Michelle Photography. Wicked Bugs courtesy of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.   


Landscape architect and U.C. Berkeley extension professor JC Miller will provide an overview of the 2005 restoration of Thomas Church's Fay Park. Tucked away in Russian Hill, the Church-designed garden was commissioned in 1957 by the owners of the Fay Berrigan House, built in 1912. The entire property was donated to the city in 1998 and is now a public park. The lecture will be held in the Presidio, itself a renowned cultural landscape, and will include an introduction to the key elements that define significant cultural landscapes.


TONIGHT! Thursday, August 18, 6 pm

Golden Gate Club, The Presidio, 135 Fisher Loop

$12 general public; $8 Heritage members and students

Event information and ticketing can be found here: .  



Horticulture Magazine and are sponsoring a photography contest that gives you a chance to win $1000! The deadline is September 30, 2011... so get out into the garden to snap away! Submit your photos online:  

Garden Photo Contest Logo 


Orchid Image


Celebrated Chefs is an exciting "frequent diners program" designed to raise money for non-profit organizations by dining at participating restaurants. Your participation is FREE.

Every time you dine at a Celebrated Chefs restaurant, the restaurant donates 5% of your dining bill directly to the Conservatory of Flowers!

It's simple: you participate by providing Celebrated Chefs with the credit card that you most frequently use to dine out. Then, the next time you dine at one of the participating restaurants, pay your bill using the same credit card, and 5% will automatically be donated to the Conservatory of Flowers - whether it's dining for business or pleasure. 

No special cards or identification is required and your information is kept confidential.

Visit the website for enrollment today. 


Thank you for considering us through this tasty fundraiser!





Upper Haight Farmers Market  

Waller & Stanyan  

4 pm - 8 pm  



Off the Grid: Upper Haight   

Waller & Stanyan  

4:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Saturday, August 20

Golden Gate Park Scavenger Run 

 FREE | Meet at the Conservatory's steps. | 8:00 am   

Win prizes as you partake in the 4-6 miles, or 10+ mile fun runs!  


Saturday, August 20  

Alamo Square Flea Market

9 am - 3 pm


Friday, September 9  

City, Speak to Me | Opening Reception 6 - 9 pm 

Art Exhibit by frequent Conservatory Collaborators:  

Photography by Julie Michelle, Poetry by Silvi Alcivar      

La Boutique, 414 Jackson St. at Sansome, SF  

Exhibit runs through October 15   


Sunday, September 11  

Sunday Streets Western Edition

11 am - 4 pm  

Grove Street Farmer's Market, live music, and community building! 




Weddings, Corporate Luncheons, Office Holiday Parties... See how our event spaces will work for your private party. Visit the website for more information or contact Events Manager Morgan Davis at   
Ryan Anson's bouquet photo      Ceremony Photo Maparunga Photography    Orchid Gallery Reception

Photo Credits: Left, Ryan Anson Photography, Middle, Janine Mapurunga Photography  


Alison and Nathan

One of the 2010 COF weddings was the marriage of two creative and crafty minds. Their big day was recently featured in 7x7's wedding blog.

Read the full article online:

 Tech Geek Wedding at Conservatory of Flowers 

Photo Credits: Mapurunga Photography



Hand Carts and Dolleys for daily operations


   Projector and Screen


Drape Sponsorship for the Orchid Gallery


1 or 2 Podiums for lectures and presentations


New stanchions for the entry


Flashlights for Jungle Guides and Docents


Contact Morgan Davis with items for in kind donation!





New! The San Francisco Chronicle Leah Garchik gets literary with Quiet Lightning. 

SF Parks & Recreations Get Out & Play View our videos on YouTube features interviews with Amy Stewart and Exhibits Director Lau Hodges, and introduces viewers to the bewitching plants.

Local blogger Tina Tarnoff artfully disentangles the Wicked Plants.  


Gardening Gone Wild contributor Saxon Holt photographs the plants that star in the exhibit.  


Oregon Floral Designers Blum give a visitor's perspective of the scene in Wicked Plants.

7x7 blogs about the sinister exhibit, and offers Christopher Walken as an unlikely spokesperson.

Sunset's Fresh Dirt blog admits its our turn to dig into Amy Stewart's novel and the fun it delivers, and dares visitors to experience it themselves.

Exhibits Director Lau Hodges introduces many of the 'killer plants' featured in Wicked Plants in a behind the scenes exhibit tour on KTVU.

ABC7 News interviews Amy Stewart and Lau Hodges in the exhibit, and discovers which plants was ironically deemed too dangerous to display in the park.
The San Francisco Chronicle crowns Amy Stewart a "garden rock star" in its feature on Wicked Plants.

The Richmond Blog warns you to watch your back, and shares a number of photos of the exhibit. 

Micheal Leaverton of SFWeekly introduces some of the less appealing side effects of the "plants that rack up body counts."          


Conservatory Chronicles 5

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