The Rhododendron Dell (also referred to as Rhododendron Island) is officially called the John McLaren Memorial Rhododendron Dell – a colorful space in Golden Gate Park that pays homage to the dedication of the former park superintendent with his favorite flower. The Dell dates back to the early 1950s – initially outfitted with more than 850 varieties of the species. Rhododendrons in Golden Gate Park are truly a labor of love because growing conditions have made it difficult to sustain healthy, long-lasting plants in the past. However, recent renovations and advanced gardening techniques have ensured the existence of the blooms – which provide a visual delight in the springtime.

Brief History

It hasn’t been easy keeping the rhododendrons alive in Golden Gate Park. From the very start, garden caretakers learned the hard way that direct sun eventually burns the plant to death and strong winds can prevent the flow of nutrients. Over the years, numerous efforts have been made to ensure the presence of rhododendrons in the park, including a handful of helpful volunteer efforts.

In 1995, the site suffered severe damage after a strong windstorm uprooted hundreds of mature
trees that shielded the plants from the sun. Many rhododendrons fell victim to the excessive heat. To make matters worse, a poor drainage system led to erosion. In 2010, a newly renovated space for the Rhododendron Dell was unveiled. Today, the gardeners of Golden Gate Park are also more successful in safeguarding healthy vegetation in the Dell.

Things to Do

During a visit to Golden Gate Park, why don’t you take time to say ‘hello’ to the statue of John McLaren, who greets visitors at the entrance of the Dell. The flowers take center stage during a trip to the Dell – so bring along a camera to take noteworthy snapshots. In March, the bold colors of pink and deep reds decorate the landscape. This is an ideal time of the year to capture the beauty of the blooms. Later in the year, after the flowers have already come and gone – a blanket of lush green covers the Dell.

The Rhododendron Dell is located close to the Model Boat Club, so after taking in the sights of the flowers – you may want to check out to see what’s happening at nearby Spreckels Lake.


The Rhododendron Dell is located in the center of Golden Gate Park along John F. Kennedy Drive – close to the Music Concourse. The Dell is a small traffic island that divides John F. Kennedy Drive and the 36th Avenue entrance.