San Francisco conservatory blooms with rare orchids

May 17, 1992|By New York Times News Service

As their habitats in the Andes mountains in South America have disappeared, some of the last specimens of rare cool-growing orchids are preserved at the Conservatory of Flowers in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

The conservatory recently opened to the public its collection of 2,800 Masdevallia and Dracula orchids, varieties that thrive in cool climates -- 70 degrees in the daytime and 50 degrees at night.

Most of the orchids on display no longer exist in their native habitats, which include snowy mountainsides at 14,000 feet. A few are so rare that they have no names.

The conservatory, which started its collection in 1984 with a $10,000 grant from the San Francisco Orchid Society, today is the only such conservatory cultivating high-altitude orchids. Indeed, the conservatory has returned some of the plants to their native habitats.

The orchids share the Victorian greenhouse with about 2,000 tropical orchids, as well as other exotic plants.

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