Botanical Garden

A carnival of colors, scents, and vibrant visions decorate the space of the San Francisco Botanical Garden (also the formerly known Strybing Arboretum). As part of the memorable Golden Gate Park, 55 acres of land stretch across San Francisco, laying out the foundation for a symphony of plants, flowers, and trees to share the roaring sound of nature with the public. A visit to this magical display of greenery consists of more than 7,500 varieties of flora from across the globe. As a result, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is the largest of its kind on the West Coast.

The Collection of Gardens

When visiting the San Francisco Botanical Garden, you will encounter several different collections of garden displays, which are broken down into the following sections:

a) Mediterranean: Native plants from California, as well as specimens from Southwestern Australia, Chile, and South Africa are situated within the Mediterranean section of the gardens, which also provides access to the John Muir Nature Trail and the Redwood Trail.

b) Mild-Temperate Climate: Some of the mild-temperate climate plants include items from Eastern Australia and New Zealand. A Japanese design called the Moon-Viewing Garden is also integrated within this section.

c) Montane Tropic: Here, visitors will come across plants positioned in the Mesoamerican Cloud Forest and the Southeast Asian Cloud Forest.

d) Specialty Collections: Some of the gardens incorporated within this category include: primitive plants, succulents, Dwarf Conifers, as well as presentations of Dry Mexico. The Garden of Fragrance, and the Zellerbach Garden of Perennials are also part of the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Magnolias and camellias also decorate the grounds.

The History of the San Francisco Botanical Garden

The makings of the San Francisco Botanical Garden first began during the 1890s through the vision of park supervisor, John McLaren. Since money wore thin at that time for the construction of such an attraction, the actual assembly of the dream did not begin until 1926. Through the generosity of Helene Strybing, the funds were made available for the garden to take shape and flourish. By 1937, planting of the grounds took place after a supply of local donations was acquired. Three years later, the arboretum was fit for visitation, and opened to the public in May of 1940.

Today, although the city of San Francisco is the official management behind this popular Golden Gate Park sight, the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society (formerly known as the Strybing Arboretum Society) has quite an influence over the maintenance of the collected specimens. With a history tracing back to 1955, the Society is also in charge of the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture, a bookstore, monthly plant deals, and the offering of numerous community education projects. To this day, the San Francisco Botanical Garden still obtains additional plants to add to their ever-growing assortment of foliage.

Things to Do

As you explore the sights that the San Francisco Botanical Garden has to offer, you will pleasantly encounter a wealth of activities and attractions that extend beyond just a stroll about impressive waves of green. Some of the adventures you may want to participate in while visiting the garden include:

a) Visit the Garden Bookstore: Bring a souvenir back home with you as you purchase calendars, notecards, and posters. A variety of book titles also wait, including subjects on organic gardening, medicinal plants, botanical art, and garden design.

b) Enjoy the Library: With a history tracing back to 1972, the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture serves as the largest horticultural library in the northern part pf California. Inside its wall, 27,000 volumes and 450 plant and garden periodicals are situated. Even the children have something to glance at with a children’s botanical library containing 1,300 selections.

c) Entertain the Kiddies: The Children’s Storytime session at 10am, followed by a walk in the gardens at 11am is a great way to spend time with the little ones. Filled with fun, this program costs nothing to enjoy and accommodates children from the ages of four to eight. This treat is offered to the public on a monthly basis (every 1st and 3rd Sunday). Some of the tales to look forward to includes natural history stories and myths regarding nature.

d) Buy a Plant: For those looking to spice up their garden, the San Francisco Botanical Garden provides the perfect opportunity to bring home plants that rarely grace the selection offered at commercial nurseries and gardening locations. The Saturday Plant Sales have become quite the tradition, taking place from 10am to 1pm at the nursery, which is situated at the southwest corner of the Gardens.

e) Enjoy a Colorful Walk: Free guide tours make a great outing filled with knowledge and satisfied curiosities. Trained experts hold these exciting excursions departing from the bookstore (Monday thru Friday at 1:30pm; and on weekends from 10:30am to 1:30pm) and from Friend Gate (2pm on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday).

Contact Details

Address: The San Francisco Botanical Garden is situated about the Golden Gate Park with a main entrance found on Ninth Avenue at Lincoln Way. When coming from the Japanese Tea Garden, this attraction may also be reached through the Friend’s Gate.

Phone: Tours: (415) 661-1316 ext. 312; Story Time: (415) 661-1316 ext. 303; Bookstore: (415) 661-1316 ext. 308; and Library: (415) 661-1316 ext. 303

Hours: The Gardens are open on weekdays from 8am to 4:30 pm, while on the weekends and holidays; this sight also operated from 10 am to 5pm.

Admission: It is free to enjoy this beautiful Golden Gate Park attraction if you are a San Francisco City or County resident. You must show proof of residency (such as a valid California ID, utility bill and photo ID). For visitors, the admission price is $7 (adults), $5 for (youth ages 12-17, seniors age 65 and over, and college students with ID), $2 (children ages 5-11), and $15 for families (2 adults with one or more children). As of August 2011, the garden is free on the second Tuesday of every month, as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.

Interesting Fact: When looking for some of the oldest trees calling the San Francisco Botanical Garden their home, it is the Coast Redwoods holding this title, which were planted about the turn of the 20th century.

7 Responses to “Botanical Garden”

  1. Lyn
    March 11, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    What is the name of the plant that has long purple flowers in the Spring? Leaves are a bit scratchy, dull in sage green type color. Bees love the flowers. They grow very easily. Have a couple of them but no name! Can someone help? I have seen them in the Park. Thank You! Lyn

    • Name
      April 29, 2011 at 12:13 am #

      Probable the Purple Cone Flower. Try googling that and see if it’s the one.

    • Steve Fink
      August 13, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      I haven’t been to the garden in a while, but from the description, it sounds like Echium. Google Images has a bunch.

  2. Robin
    March 11, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

    How do I get educational materials for the botanical garden.

  3. Lawrence Huzi
    November 2, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    We visited the botanical garden in August of this year. I took a picture of a poppy that was purple outside the botanical garden, the leaves were not hairy, they were rather that of a succulent texture, what is the name of this variety. I could send a photo of this plant if you would like. We were very please of the park – it was FANTASTIC, we are from CT.

    Larry Huzi

  4. Philip Thomas
    January 29, 2013 at 11:48 am #

    Delay in sending in this Email,as i was unable to locate an Email address for SFBG.

    We were visiting San Francisco from Florida, and wanted to learn more about the flora of this region. We have visited this garden in the past and always enjoyed the variety and diversity. One sees and learns more when details are pointed out by an experienced docent. So when we visited the garden on the 18th of September, we were delighted to see a sign near the Main gate which announced a guided tour at 1.30PM, even though it was beyond the time we had planned to be there.
    So we returned to the designated area just after 1.00. PM, and after waiting till 1.40 asked the person at the ticket booth if the tour was still on. Her response was that she does not know, that the Docents are all volunteers, and that the tour would happen if they show up! She also informed us that the Garden does not have any way to contact them. We waited around 10 minutes more and left.
    We wish you had a better method of communicating any changes in scheduled events in a timely manner. We had a very helpful person at the ticket booth when we arrived in the morning, but the person at the same booth at 1.00 PM, was not interested or concerned. We were very disappointed.

    Elizabeth and Philip Thomas.

  5. George
    December 3, 2013 at 7:45 am #

    The San Francisco Botanical Garden Society is a huge scam. They paid a lobbyist more than $300,000 to get these fees in, and they also are putting in a $15 million building.

    You can enter for free behind the Hall of Flowers most weekdays until sometime after 3 PM. Facing the park, turn left at Lincoln and 9th (at the entrance to the park) and then turn right where you will see the gate wide open. (Sometimes they pretend lock it, so check carefully).

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