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From the Director

Dear Friends,

Fuchsia boliviana
Fuchsia boliviana by David Kruse-Pickler

Brugmansia volcanicola
Brugmansia volcanicola by David Kruse-Pickler

Cloud forest, South America by Julian H.
Cloud forest, South America by Julian Hoyos

We are blessed to have a climate in which we can not only grow plants from the Mediterranean regions of the planet but also from the cloud forests. Our Meso American Cloud Forest is a renowned and extensive collection. Plans are moving forward for a Southeast Asian Cloud Forest, arguably to be the only one on earth. But a serendipitous thing happened while we were completing the final leg of a very well thought through, well processed plan for the Chilean/South American Garden. It came about as we were ever-so-wisely debating where the dividing line should be -- and how it should look -- between the strictly Chilean collection and the more generally South American portion of the same garden.

We were having trouble deciding from an interpretive stance how best to lay out and segue the design so that it made educational sense. Dr. Don Mahoney was vexed by the problem and, in a discussion with Dr. Frank Almeda of the California Academy of Sciences, came to a significant “aha”. That is, our current South American collection is actually much more limited than we had been conceiving it to be. Most of the non-Chilean plants come from high elevations. High, cloudy elevations, in fact. That's when the concept of a South American Cloud Forest struck.

Suddenly, our current collection, the plants that we believe are available to add to it, and those that actually thrive in San Francisco came together. The fact that this South American Cloud Forest collection is uphill from the mediterranean/Chilean part of the collection (of course the actual rise is hardly Andean) excited us as a useful educational concept.

Cloud forests are concentrated in a few areas of the world. In South America they are called the “eyebrows of the jungle” since they are the upland fringe between the hotter, lower areas and the high montane, cold regions. They are, worldwide, home to some of the most diverse wild life found anywhere. They provide oxygen and moisture -- and they are beautiful. This addition will round out the representation of cloud forests from the Americas in the Botanical Garden. When the Southeast Asian Cloud Forest is completed, only the cloud forests of Africa would not be represented. Perhaps that is a story for another day.

The Chilean/South American Cloud Forest Garden is to be interpreted from a medicinal plant point of view. We believe the addition of cloud forest plants from other portions of the continent will further promote that educational concept by broadening the number of known (and growable in San Francisco) medicinal plants.

Sometimes taking a little longer to fully develop a plan is not a bad thing. Meanwhile the Chilean Garden is undergoing rapid changes as the pathways are upgraded, a damaged fence is replaced, and over story plants are selected for Fall planting. We should see some real changes there next Spring!

Warm best regards,


Michael McKechnie
Executive Director, San Francisco Botanical Garden Society


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