Last night was the opening of the new exhibit “Plantasaurus Rex” at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers, featuring an amazingly well done exhibit (in addition to the already stunning Aquatic Plants, Highland and Lowland Tropics, and Victorian Potted Plant galleries). For the opening night, the Conservatory also featured live music in the Potted Plant Gallery, two amazing beers from local Pacific Brewing Laboratories (Squid Ink Dark IPA and Nautilus Hibiscus Saison), and a wine bar. What? Great beer, wine, and plants? These people know how to get me to come to a party.
To be honest, I would have gone regardless of the beer and wine. I love visiting the Conservatory whenever I can. I always leave feeling as if I just returned from a 2 week vacation, and last night was no exception. The folks at the Conservatory did a stellar job on this new exhibit and they should be very proud. It contains a variety of plants from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods, as well as a huge T-Rex that extends through the roof to the outside of the authentic Victorian conservatory building.
Plant lovers af all ages will appreciate this exhibit, but there are a few interactive elements sure to entice children. Occasionally along the path of the exhibit is a small button that, when pressed, makes various dinosaur sounds to help you really feel like you stepped back in time. The children there last night were having a great time pressing the buttons (as were the adults). My personal favorite is the “volcano” aspect of the exhibit. The entire floor shakes as loud noises are made and glowing red lights shine from behind the volcano of stacked rocks. It’s not too different from a prolonged (yet localized) earthquake, so out-of-town visitors can have an very San Franciscan experience.
I didn’t spend all my time pressing buttons, though. Fortunately, I ran into my friend and former co-worker Larry who now works at the Conservatory. He was explaining many of the different plants in the exhibit to a few people standing nearby when I walked up, specifically about the foxtail ferns (Asparagus meyeri) and monkey-puzzle trees (Auracaria araucana). He has the best job ever.
This beautifully-arranged scene depicts many flowering plants with origins in the Cretaceous Period, including orchids, and a magnolia (you can just barely see it in the top right), as well as the foxtail fern, grasses. Additionally, their are gymnosperms and cycads from the previous periods (Jurassic and Triassic, respectively).
One of my favorite plants of the exhibit were the monkey puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana) that Larry stated are quite sharp. This South American tree is related to the Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla, syn. A. excelsa) that we commonly see for sale around the holidays, and the bunya pine (Araucaria bidwillii) of Australia. While they are now geographically very distant, when these trees first came into existence Australia and South America were united. I really nerded out over this for a while yesterday (and still am now).
My favorite feature overall, though, was the pond. I’m a sucker for any water feature and this one did not disappoint. The rock plantings on the side gave me some great ideas for my backyard makeover (coming this summer!).
Plantosaurus Rex will be at the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers until October 21, 2012, so there’s plenty of time to come see it. They did such a great job on this exhibit, and the permanent galleries are always spectacular, so you should definitely check it out if you live here or are visiting at all! Below are some images of the other galleries to entice you to come see this wonderful historic institution in Golden Gate Park.