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A Peek Inside the Conservatory of Flowers

Article by Pierre Zarokian

If you’ve ever been to San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, you might have noticed a white building that looks like something out of an old horror movie. That building is the oldest structure in Golden Gate Park and it’s called the Conservatory of Flowers. Don’t pass it off as just another garden, it’s got some of the most unique and exotic plants available in California.

Originally, the kit that the Conservatory was based upon was supposed to be in the city of San Jose. James Lick, an eccentric businessman and real estate investor, had intended on building a mansion there. He surrounded the grounds with plants he had imported from South America, but died before he could complete his master project.

That kit went up for sale and was purchased by prominent San Franciscans.

Part of the reason it was built had to do with trends of the time. During the turn of the 19th century, industrialization was in full swing and large urban centers were springing up all across America. The old frontier was gradually disappearing, replaced with urban landscapes. Greenhouses and botanical gardens offered city dwellers the opportunity to glimpse exotic plant life that had long vanished to make way for modern society.

Today, one can find roughly 1,700 species of plants within the Conservatory. This includes a corpse flower species, which attracted roughly 16,000 visitors, and poison plants rumored to have been part of the concoction that killed Lincoln’s mother.

Admission for adults is $8, with children ranging from $2-$6 depending on their age. If you happen to be in the city during the first Tuesday of each month, this stunning exhibit of natural life is free for all.