Come for the water lilies, stay for the Bat Flower!
These enormous Victoria Water Lilies are a prominent fixture in the San Francisco Conservatory of Flowers‘ Aquatic Plants Gallery. The Conservatory recently posted on Instagram that these impressive plants have just begun to bloom, producing massive white and pink flowers that typically stick around for just 2 days. The gigantic leaves float on top of the water, and they have now grown to their largest size between 4 and 6 feet across!
According to the post, these lilies typically blossom throughout the summer, so now’s a great time to book your next trip to the Conservatory. You can see which flowers are in bloom throughout the year here.
Victoria Water Lilies exist in 2 different species from across South America: Victoria amazonica and Victoria cruziana. According to the Conservatory, theirs are likely Victoria cruzana, or the Santa Cruz water lily. The huge leaves are supported by “large spongey veins,” and the underside and edges of the leaves are covered in sharp spines, “a possible defense against herbivores such as fish and manatees.”
When the flower first blooms in the evening, it is white and emits a pineapple scent to attract pollinators such as scarab beetles. On the morning of the next day, the flower closes, trapping the beetle inside while it changes into a male flower and turns pink. In the evening, the flower opens to release the beetle covered in pollen, which goes off to pollinate a new flower.
These water lilies are absolutely fascinating, but they’re not the only awesome plant to check out during your visit! The Bat Flower, or Tacca chantrieri, is worth seeing in the Potted Plants gallery. According to the Conservatory, the long “whiskers” are a “scientific mystery.” They make quite a statement on this peculiar plant, which blooms until early fall.
The Conservatory of Flowers is a beautiful, lush green space that’s one of SF’s favorite escapes from city life. Not only is it a national, state, and local landmark, but it’s been curating a vast collection of rare and unusual plants since 1879. The water lilies themselves have been documented at the Conservatory for over 100 years!
Enjoy this up-close view of some of the world’s most beautiful plants and flowers by making a reservation in advance. They also offer free admission to the general public on the first Tuesday of every month!
The Conservatory of Flowers is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10am to 4:30pm. Find them at 100 John F Kennedy Drive in Golden Gate Park.
Featured image: @emilybkim via Instagram