The Mesoamerican Cloud Forest Garden features a colorful jungle of flowering plants, representative of typical cloud forest plant communities in southern Mexico and throughout Central America. High above the steamy, low-lying tropical rain forests in this part of the world, the landscape rises to elevations upwards of 6,500–10,000 feet. In these mountains, the cool, misty air supports a wild abundance of mosses, ferns, trees, vines, and moisture-loving plants. Here in San Francisco, conditions are similar and ripe for cloud forest plants, with mild temperatures and plenty of fog.
SFBG is one of the only botanical gardens in the world where these plants, many of which are rare or endangered, can grow successfully outdoors, making the Garden an important conservator of cloud forest species.
In the 1960's to 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 voucher specimens of leaves, flowers and other identifying parts of various plants, he also brought back cuttings and seeds, recognizing the similarities in climate, and the possibility of preserving some in cultivation.
Dahlia imperialis. Photo by James Gaither.
SFBG began planting the Mesoamerican collection in 1984 with seed collected by Dr. Breedlove and with propagules from the University of California at Berkeley Botanical Garden. The vast majority of these plantings were experimental, as almost all of these species had never been attempted in cultivation before. SFBG was the first in North America to grow many species, including Glossostipula concinna, Zinowiewia matudae, Lozanella enantiophylla, Weinmannia pinnata, Meliosma matudae, Cedrela salvadorensis, and Heberdenia penduliflora. Nearly 30 years later, SFBG's collection has matured into a dense, jungle-like cloud forest habitat, and Dr. Breedlove's experiment has matured into a collection of botanical exotics.