Conservatory Logo
Conservatory Chronicles
 Issue #47                                                                                                     
September, 2011
In This Issue
WICKED PLANTS ends October 30
Milestones in the Volunteer Department
What's In Bloom?
October Events
Become a Member
SEPT 30 deadline! Photo Contest!
Wish List
Wicked Plants Press

Conservatory Chronicles


Morgan Davis 
Content Contributors:
Annie Abernethy, Guadalupe Cota, Meryl Mikal, Matt Weems  
 Photograph Contributors:

Vanessa Fajardo


Beware of what lurks in your garden... 

Wicked Plants banner
Slither in while you can... Wicked Plants disappears on  October 30th.

Visit Us
Tuesday - Sunday

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

The Conservatory is closed on Mondays.


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.  



"Autumn's the Season to FALL in Love with the Conservatory"


 As we bid farewell to summer everyone at the Conservatory of Flowers is embracing the arrival of autumn. The change of seasons brings with it a LOT of exciting events, transforming the nature of how the public interacts with our 1879 Victorian glasshouse.


Halloween will mark the close of Wicked Plants and needless to say, we all will be a bit saddened to say good-bye to our most popular and well-attended exhibition to date! Based on Amy Stewart's remarkable book, our Conservatory staff and volunteers did an amazing job interpreting her writings and presenting a truly outstanding horticultural exhibit. Something Wicked continues to come! The month of October brings many special events to the Conservatory in the form of weddings, workshops and Wicked evenings!  The ongoing improvements to the Orchid Gallery have significantly elevated the interest across our community in choosing the Conservatory as THE place for a myriad of special events.


As we gingerly uninstall Wicked Plants from the west wing of the Conservatory, we mobilize to produce Playland at the Conservatory, our fourth installment of the hugely appealing Garden Railway. Please mark your calendar to reserve the evening of Thursday, November 17th for its revealing at our Green & Gold Gala. It promises to be a night to remember!


The landscapes and gardens of Golden Gate Park take on the brilliant colors of autumn and wrap the Conservatory of Flowers with the special sensations and spectrum of the season, and we hope you will make plans to visit us often. The season to fall in love with the Conservatory is here...thanks for your continued interest and support!

Brent's signature 

Brent Dennis

Congratulations to our 20 new docents and Jungle Guides, who just completed the Conservatory's intensive seven week docent training program! Donned in green aprons, consider these friendly volunteers your resource for the history of Golden Gate Park and the Conservatory of Flowers, botany and our museum's permanent collections. For those interested in this program, the next training will be in 2012.

We are currently looking for Special Exhibits Docents for our next exhibit, Playland at the Conservatory. We need YOU to educate visitors about featured plants, our beloved model landmarks and San Francisco's bygone West End. The Conservatory requests that volunteers commit to two shifts per month for one year. Most shifts are two hours long. All volunteers are required to meet with the Director of Volunteer Services, complete an application and attend a Training Program. Trainings vary from an hour-long session for Horticulture, Greeter and Special Exhibit volunteers to seven 3-hour sessions for Docents and Jungle Guides.

Congratulations, Erika! We've said a temporary farewell to Director of Volunteer Services Erika Frank, who is on maternity leave. For more information about volunteering, contact interim Volunteer Coordinator and Guest Services Manager, Michelle Manzer at or 415-637-4326.

by Nursery Specialist Guadalupe Cota    


"The Fabulous Angel's Trumpets"   

Brugmansia in Wicked PlantsBrugmansias belong in the Wicked Plant family, but are probably familiar to many of you who live in the Bay Area. They grow in our backyards, and are currently blooming in the Arizona Garden gracing the Conservatory's parking circle! You may be more familiar with their common name 'Angel Trumpets,' recognizing their horn-like shape. They belong to the poisonous Solanaceae family of Atropa belladonna fame. Autumn is the best time to see the Angel Trumpets, and thanks to Berkeley Horticultural Nursery, we have several cultivars of Brugmansias in the Wicked Plants Exhibit.


Brugmansias are tropical trees or large shrubs native to South America and are rich in powerful tropane alkaloids: atropine, scopolamine and hyoscyamine.  Brugmansias are related to Datura and are potent solanaceous plants that have been used as a medicine and a poison. Datura innoxia grows in the American Southwest and has a long history of use by the Zuni and Navajo tribes.  


Brugmansias in Wicked PlantsThe cool growing species, Brugmansia aurea and Brugmansia sanguinea, inhabit wet highlands above 6,000 feet and have nodding, pendent flowers.  Golden Angel's Trumpet is employed for medicinal purposes; healers use the crushed leaves and flowers in a tea in Columbia and northern Peru. The seeds are used as an additive to chicha, a brew. Brugmansia sanguinea, Blood-Red Angel's Trumpet, has been cultivated and used for divination and healing purposes since pre-Colombian times.


The lowlanders, Brugmansia suaveolens, Brugmansia versicolor and Brugmansia x insignis, grow in Western Amazonia and are employed as hallucinogens or as an admixture with Ayahuasca; also known as Yage or Caapi.  The brew is made from the Vine of the Soul, the celebrated hallucinogenic plant of the Amazon. The Brugmansias are always found in fields, cemeteries and by houses- never in the wild. They bring on a crazed disorientation and terrifying visions followed by complete amnesia.  Many shamans cultivate Brugmansia cultigens in their gardens for their psychoactive properties; leaves and flowers are crushed in cold water or aguardiente (a sugar alcoholic distillate).


Brugmansia in Wicked Plants in cagesIf you're interested in further stories about the role of these plants in a historical context, you might read One River by Wade Davis.  One River mentions the ritual use of Ayahuasca and Brugmansia by many tribes in the Amazon Basin.  Wade Davis recounts his travels in South America with Timothy Plowman, both students of the famous Harvard botanist Richard Evans Schultes. Dr. Schultes worked in South America to bring many plants new to science, made many friends of the tribes in Colombia and explored many rivers.


Enjoy the beauty of these dangerous plants this fall, but do not experiment: outside of the ritual use, which has been closely manipulated by tribe leaders over time, these plants are fatal to consume.  


Green & Gold Annoucement Flier Click on the Image for More Information on the Green & Gold Gala

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

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      

the book worm


Enjoy 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.   


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

Date: Monday, October 10 at 7 pm

Fee: $5 suggested donation, pay at the door     Quiet Lightning Photographs by Julie Michelle Photography      

 It's been an amazing summer presenting the Greenhouse Effect with Quiet Lightning! From greeting all new audiences, collaborating with the fabulous photographer Julie Michelle, hosting live music from
bands Con Brio & Michael Musika at the Labor Day Litnic, and the WORDS themselves. We're sad the series draws to a close, but the best is yet to come! We're going out with a bang during San Francisco's legendary Litquake festival.
The October 10th show will feature: Robin Bullard, Stellar Cassidy, Sarah Ciston, Amy Cruz, Allison Landa, Mira Martin-Parker. Roger Porter, Guinevere Q, Dean Rader, Claire Rawlins, Alyson Price Sinclair and Ransom Stephens. Litquake 2011 LogoThe monthly shows -with featured artwork by one local artist- are published in sPARKLE & bLINK, available at our Gift Shop and online. Join us for the literary heat wave!     

The Fine Art of Poisoning: Perils, Pleasures and Protocols
An evening of toxic indulgence
Date: Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Time: 6:00 PM - 10:00 PM
Lecture 6:00 PM, Wicked Plants Reception 7:00 PM, Jill Tracy Performance 8:00 PM

Fee: $15 General Public; $10 Medical Students; $5 Conservatory of Flowers Members

"It's quite an elaborate scheme, the fine art of poisoning."
The dark side of the garden comes to deadly bloom at the Conservatory of Flowers this fall, in Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues & Assassins, based on the book by Amy Stewart. There is no escape from the dizzying world of perilous plants. What is their lore and allure? Their notorious past? Should we be frightened? What do we need to know?

Let's reveal "The Fine Art of Poisoning," a night inspired by San Francisco's "femme fatale for the thinking man" Jill Tracy and her award-winning song and short film by Bill Domonkos. Enter the wicked world of toxicology with Dr. Olson, Medical Director, San Francisco Division, California Poison Control System. Take pleasure in our poison garden, and as night falls chanteuse Jill Tracy will divulge true perils from the plant kingdom. Backed by members of her Malcontent Orchestra, she will weave a web of cautionary tales, lusty murderous obsessions, and shadowy stories of secretly-served revenge.

Enter at your own will.

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


Quiet Lightning images courtesy of Julie Michelle Photography. Wicked Bugs image by Briony Morrow-Cribbs, courtesy of Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.   


 The wickedest plants in the west are breaking out of this joint, and we've got to make way for a new gang. Now through October 30th, all of the Conservatory's original merchandise for Wicked Plants: Botanical Rogues and Assassins is 50% OFF!
For Wicked Plants fans, this sale is not to be missed, as all merch is one of a kind and in limited supply:
Wicked Pints Claim your crew with a Wicked Plants tee (now $11.00 Kids/$16.00 Adults)    


* A set of 2 pint glasses (now $15.00) display etchings by Briony Morrow-Cribbs, the book's illustrator. Shot glasses are available for 6.50 each! Wicked Plants Tattoos 


* For those of you straight-laced and under 18 folks, a sheet of trickster tattoos (now $1.50) make a cheap Halloween costume.    

Wicked Plants Book Cover 

* Adorned with a bow, the poison garden kit (now $6.50) holds six seed packets of your favorite mischief-makers.    


* Wicked Plants: The Weed that Killed Lincoln's Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities is still $18.95, but you can add the author's signature for free when Amy Stewart returns for another rousing presentation on October 6th. 

All sale items available in the Gift Shop or online at    

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


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 





Upper Haight Farmers Market  

Waller & Stanyan  

4:00 pm - 8:00 pm  



Off the Grid: Upper Haight   

Waller & Stanyan  

4:30 pm - 8:30 pm


Saturday, October 8
  Annual Alemany Farm Harvest Festival 

11:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Alemany Farm | 700 Alemany Boulevard
Join dozens of other gardeners, friends, family and neighbors for farm tours,  games for kids, T-shirt making, face painting, bike powered hayrides, garden and orchard tasks, music and a BBQ potluck!

Saturday & Sunday, October 15 & 16  

Children's Creativity Museum Opening Weekend 

FREE museum admission and carousel rides  

221 Fourth St. in the heart of SF's Yerba Buena Gardens   

General Hours: Wed-Sun 10:00 AM-4:00 PM  

 The Children's Creativity Museum (formerly Zeum) is a hands-on, multimedia arts and technology experience for kids ages 3-12 and their families.   

For more info, visit or call 415-820-3320.



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 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


   Hi Lumen Projector and Screen for Presentations 


Drape Sponsorship for the Orchid Gallery Interior Decoration Upgrade 


2 Podiums for Lectures and Presentations


Chalk Board for Announcing Upcoming Events and Deals 



Flashlights for Jungle Guides and Docents


Contact Morgan Davis with items for in kind donation!





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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