In the 1960's and early 1970's, Dr. Dennis Breedlove, botanist and
curator at the California
Academy of Sciences began work on the flora of Chiapas, Mexico's
southernmost state. In addition to collecting the standard herbarium
specimens, he also brought back seeds because he recognized the
similarities in climate, and the possibility of actually preserving
some of the rare and endangered cloud forest species in cultivation.
Dr. Breedlove's idea has now become reality; the present San Francisco Botanical Garden
collection focuses on growing and displaying a variety of species
native to tropical mountains in Mexico, Central, and South America.
Plantings at San Francisco Botanical Garden began in 1984 with seed collected by Dr.
Breedlove and with propagules from the University
of California Botanical Gardens. The vast majority of plantings
were experimental, as almost all of these species had never been
attempted in cultivation before. We have been the first in North
America to grow species such as Glossostipula concinna, Zinowiewia
matudae, Lozanella enantiophylla, Weinmannia
pinnata, Meliosma matudae, Cedrela salvadorensis, and Heberdenia
The landscape attempts to re-create the feeling of an actual cloud
forest, employing trees, shrubs, groundcovers, ferns, vines and
epiphytes to create masses of dense vegetation. With the oldest
plants now into their sixteenth year, the collection has matured
into a realistic representation of cloud forest habitat. Oaks, pines,
alders, Chiranthodendron, and Zinoweiwia are now 20 or more feet
tall, providing shade and shelter for a host of species such as
Deppea, Monochaetum, Chusquea, Bartlettina,
Vines such as Passiflora, Smilax, and Bomarea
festoon some of the larger trunks and branches, creating a wild
and jungle-like effect.
The collection boasts plants in bloom at any time of the year.
From Spring through Fall, over twenty species of Salvia attract
great numbers of hummingbirds, as do cupheas in Summer and Fall.
The daisy family that includes Montanoa, arborescent Senecios, Bartlettina
and tree Dahlias comes into its own from late Fall through early
Spring, attracting both visitors and butterflies such as the Monarch.