The Conservatory Chronicles

Issue 102
May 2016
Captivated by  succulents? We have an exhibit for you! The Special Exhibits Gallery is filled with wonderful and amazing specimens, all set in the rusty remnants of an old ghost town . Come visit and learn more about succulents' many unusual adaptations to hostile environments from their superior water storage and drought resistance to their often painfully sharp defense against predators.

The Wild Bunch: Succulents, Cacti & Fat Plants opened to the public on May 6th after a preview celebration at Gala Under Glass on May 5th.  The exhibit will close on October 16th.  Visit soon - visit often!

We'll be open on Memorial Day, May 30th, 10 to 6:30.  Please include us in your holiday plans!

And speaking of Wild... Don't miss WILD Flowers currently in bloom across the park at San Francisco Botanical Garden. Winter's welcomed rains have brought a stunning show this season, with fantastic flora in bloom from California to the farthest reaches of the globe! Admission is free for San Francisco residents, plus your Conservatory Membership gets you in for free, too! Wild about outdoor music? Don't miss the return of Flower Piano at the Botanical Garden from July 7-18. Twelve days, twelve pianos, one Garden and you! More info

Grow Your Own Conservatory Plants
The gift shop is now carrying a variety of tropical plants for our visitors who are inspired by the Conservatory collection and want to start a tropical garden of their own.

The new stock includes unique begonia varieties, bananas (did you know the banana is the world's largest perennial herb?), sensitive plants (they move when you touch them!) and the ever so colorful coleus. Stop in today to bring home a plant friend of your own!

Meet "Jungle Guide" Allison "Ali" Walker
Ali enjoys volunteering with the youth education program 
One day in 2014, Ali Walker was strolling through her favorite shops in the Mission and noticed a flier recruiting Conservatory volunteers posted at Paxton Gate. As a fan of the Conservatory's tropical collections, Ali knew this was something she wanted to try.

Growing up on Long Island, Ali didn't encounter banana or papaya trees but her memory is filled with stories from her mother's childhood in Puerto Rico and searching for the perfect banana leaf for her delicious
pasteles .

Heading west in 2001 to study biology at Stanford, Ali quickly called California home. After working in labs at Stanford and
UCSF, she returned to school to study one of her childhood passions: botanical illustration.

Ali can now be found volunteering as a "Jungle Guide" leading 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students on explorations of the Conservatory. Along the way, Ali offers students a peek into giant carnivorous pitcher plants, teaches them to measure humidity, and shares the amazing adaptations techniques that plants have developed to survive.

When asked which things are most important to her volunteering she replied, "plants and people" -- and engaging kids with plants tops the list. "When I show a cotton boll growing on a plant and explain this is where those cotton balls in bags at the drug store get their start, it sparks their curiosity."

Ali also teaches a botanical illustration class, which has added to the roster of monthly lectures and field trips offered exclusively to our volunteers. Working from home on commissioned pieces is often lonely. Getting out of the house and interacting with people around a subject she loves brings joy and balance to her life.

Join Ali and a host of other great people as a Conservatory volunteer!

Upcoming Docent Training Program

This summer, the Conservatory will hold a comprehensive training program to prepare new volunteers to lead tours for adults or children. Jungle Guides introduce elementary school students to the wonders of the rainforest. Docents educate adult visitors about the fascinating collection of tropical plants and the stunning historic greenhouse. The Conservatory welcomes adult volunteers of all experience levels to join the training program. Learn more.
Amazonica lilypads
Victoria Amazonica in the Aquatics Gallery a few years ago
Missing the Victoria Amazonica?

So are we! But we're planning for its return this summer.

Thanks to a number of very generous donors, we have all new boilers warming the water in the Aquatics Gallery pools. If you look closely, you'll find 5 juvenile Amazonicas already appearing.  Be sure to follow us on Facebook for up to date information and bloom sightings.
What's in Bloom...
Fond of the popular perfume "Joy"?  Discover the source of the fragrance...
Magnolia alba
Common name: white champaca tree
Location in Conservatory: Aquatic Gallery
Native to: Southeast Asia, China
This evergreen tropical Magnolia is a cross between M. champaca and M. montana. The white petals and sepals surround the carpal, which becomes a spotted green and inedible fruit once pollinated.

M. champaca was traditionally used to fragrance oils and the flowers were worn in hair and on garlands by women and girls as a natural perfume. In 1930, the flowers were first used to make the extremely popular Joy perfume. The aroma is strongest at night, but it will attract butterflies and hummingbirds during the day.

The wood of M. champaca is used for making furniture. The trees are protected from logging in parts of of India where certain groves are considered sacred by Hindus and Buddhists. According to Tibetan beliefs, the Buddha of the next era will find enlightenment under the white flower canopy of the champaca tree.

Check out our What's in Bloom page to see what else is blooming!