Andean Cloud Forest & Chilean Garden
October to December is a perfect time to visit the Andean Cloud Forest and Chilean collections at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Both collections include plants from these "biodiversity hotspots" in South America that are rapidly losing ground and in danger of extinction. Right now, the passifloras, salvias and fuchsias are blooming, framed by the most comprehensive collection of high-elevation palms found in any botanical garden. Come see two amazing collections: The Chilean Garden started during the earliest days of SFBG and has been fully renovated; the Andean Cloud Forest is an exciting new collection for conservation of rare and endangered species.
Andean Wax Palm
"Chilean rhubarb, Dinosaur food"
Andean Cloud Forest
The Andean Cloud Forest, currently under renovation, grew from SFBG's close relationship with the Botany Department at the California Academy of Sciences, in particular Senior Curator of Botany, Frank Almeda. Dr. Almeda has been traveling to South America for over 10 years to study the Melastomataceae family, many of which grow in cloud forest habitats. Over the years, Frank has shared seed with SFBGS Curator Dr. Don Mahoney, to grow our collection of Andean Cloud Forest plants.
Along with the Mesoamerican and Southeast Asian cloud forest gardens, the Andean Cloud Forest collection represents a key biodiversity hotspot of plants rapidly disappearing in the wild.
The cornerstone of the Andean Cloud Forest Garden is the most comprehensive collection of high elevation palm species known in any botanical garden in the world. There are new and established high-elevation palms in our collection, including Ceroxylon quindiuense (Andean wax palm), the tallest palm in the world, from the Colombian Andes. Our specimens were planted in 1980, and are still in juvenile form at 60 feet. The tallest Ceroxylon quindiuense on record in Colombia has reached over 200 feet. More recent palm plantings include Parajubaea torallyi, the highest-elevation palm that grows at 11,000 feet in the Bolivian Andes.
The border of this new collection will be bookended by two small groves of Araucaria species (Araucaria angustifolia and Araucaria araucana). When mature, these trees will create a striking vista as their umbrella-shaped canopies reach up and over the collection.
The Chilean Garden was among the original collections that opened the Garden in 1940. Nestled next to the Andean Cloud Forest, this small but important garden has seen upgrades and renovation in recent years. Some of its special attributes include a mass planting of over 10 Chilean wine palms (Jubaea chilensis) at the entrance alongside different Puya species and a small grove of Chilean myrtle (Luma apiculata) with vibrant tan-orange bark that stands in dramatic contrast to the deep green glossy leaves.
Driven by our mission to grow one of the world's finest collections, the evolution of the Chilean Garden continues. In the works are plans to develop new interpretive signage that focuses on medicinal Chilean plants. It is imperative that we protect these plants as urban and agricultural encroachment continues.