A Victorian confection of wood and glass, the Conservatory of Flowers, which opened in 1879, is the oldest building in Golden Gate Park and one of San Francisco’s most beloved landmarks. It houses some 1,700 species of aquatic and tropical plants, many of them rare, including a 100-year-old giant Imperial philodendron, a world-renowned collection of orchids, giant water lilies, and carnivorous plants. Special exhibits have included such popular favorites as the Butterfly Zone and the miniature garden railroad.
The building is situated in Conservatory Valley, where intricately designed flowerbeds bloom from January through September. Palm trees along the stairs leading to the Conservatory provide an elegant frame for the central dome. To the east of the Conservatory are the Arizona Garden, with drought-tolerant species, and the Dahlia Garden, which is in radiant bloom through the summer months and into early fall.
The Conservatory’s story begins with eccentric millionaire James Lick, who ordered the prefabricated building but never had it erected; when he died in 1876, the greenhouse was still in crates. In 1878, several prominent San Francisco businessmen bought the kit and donated it to the city for construction in Golden Gate Park. The Conservatory was an immediate success, becoming one of the park’s most popular attractions. In 1883 the building’s dome was replaced with a slightly taller one after a fire destroyed the original. The Conservatory suffered no serious damage from the 1906 earthquake, and homeless survivors of the disaster camped in Conservatory Valley and throughout Golden Gate Park.
In 1995, a winter storm with high winds severely damaged the aging Conservatory and destroyed some of the collection. A campaign to save the beloved landmark resulted in a five-year, $25 million reconstruction with many needed upgrades. The building reopened in 2003.
In keeping with San Francisco’s policy of reduced pesticide use in all city parks and facilities, the Conservatory uses beneficial insects to control harmful pests, and is home to a population of geckos that keeps infestations by cockroaches and other insects in check.
The Conservatory of Flowers is at 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, in the eastern end of Golden Gate Park.
Conservatory Lighting and Summer Solstice Concert Psychedelic Photosynthesis and Surrealistic Summer Solstice Jam 2 June 20, 2018 6-10pm Conservatory Lighting at approximately 9:15pm Put some flowers in your hair and come … Continue reading
Join us for “Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park” on Thursday, December 7, from 4 to 8 p.m., featuring the 88th annual lighting of the city’s official holiday tree at McLaren Lodge … Continue reading
SAN FRANCISCO – The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department announced today a free special event, “Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park” that will take place on Thursday, December 7th, 2017. The “Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park” event will begin with the City’s 88th Holiday Tree lighting tradition, and is scheduled to … Continue reading
Join us for “Winter Lights in Golden Gate Park” on Thursday, December 7, from 4 to 8 p.m., featuring the 88th annual lighting of the city’s official holiday tree at McLaren Lodge (501 Stanyan Street and Fell) at 6 p.m., followed by a stunning new light art installation at the … Continue reading
Missed 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love and the lighting of the Conservatory of Flowers for the Summer Solstice? We have you covered! The lighting at the Conservatory of Flowers (100 John F Kennedy Drive) will continue to be on view through October 21, from 9 to 11:30 p.m., … Continue reading
EventsNov 17, 2018
Volunteer with the Audubon Society at the Bison Paddock of Golden Gate Park and help to restore the habitat of the endangered white crown sparrow. Lend a hand with weeding and tending … Continue reading
Join the members of the Audubon Society and the SFRPD gardeners in a recurring volunteer workparty at North Lake in Golden Gate Park that focuses on habitat restoration. Lend a hand with weeding … Continue reading
In 1988 a group of San Franciscans began the task of creating a space for those devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Volunteers worked in the grove to create the remarkable meditative space … Continue reading
This is the 33rd annual Pacific Association USATF Cross Country Championship race that takes place in Lindley Meadow of Golden Gate Park.
Join the Friends of the Golden Gate Park Nursery at this monthly volunteer workparty from 9 am- 12 noon. Learn new gardening skills at this unique horticultural resource center that supplies plant … Continue reading