On this windy, foggy, chilly day D. and I visited the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park.
Built in 1879, the Conservatory is the oldest glass-and-wood Victorian greenhouse in the Western hemisphere and is home to more than 10,000 plants from all over the world. It was badly damaged in a now-legendary 1995 storm and was closed to the public for eight years. It reopened 3 years ago after a $25 million restoration.
It is divided into different climate zones and habitats: highland tropics, lowland tropics, aquatic plants, potted plants, and special exhibits (right now there is a butterfly exhibit in there, with live butterflies flitting about among plantings of their favorite flowers).
It is an amazing place. Literally every 2 feet we were stopping and exclaiming "Wow!" or "Oh my God!" or "Look at that!" at some splashy flower, enormous leaf or contorted, gnarled tree trunk. There is no way I could do justice to the astounding beauty and mind-boggling diversity of the specimens in there, so I'll just mention a couple of highlights.
One of the most amazing plants for me was the 100-year-old imperial philodendron located under the central dome. It is the largest specimen in cultivation. Its leaves near the top of the dome reach up to six feet long! At the ground, its aerial roots were as thick as a regular tree trunk! (In the pic, the big leaf is only about 4 feet long.) It seems to scrape the ceiling of the dome, probably 20 feet or more up. "I'm glad it's friendly," D. said.
My other favorite plant there was the lotus growing in the Aquatic Plants room. There were 3 kinds of lotus there; I liked the blue ones the best.
Afterward we checked out the nearby dahlia garden and Arizona garden, and while looking for the horseshoe pitching area we got lost and wandered through Peacock Meadow instead. No, there were no peacocks there, just people playing volleyball and having cookouts. I love maps but have a poor sense of direction in the 3-D world. Go figure.
We also scoped out a nearby statue of President James Garfield. We were intrigued by the seated figure of a grieving woman holding a broken sword. A lot of the statues and monuments in the Park have allegorical figured included. For example, the bust of Beethoven at the Music Concourse also has an allegorical figure of Music below it. They really went all out when they made monuments in those days.