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 10 a.m., followed by a walk in the gardens at 11 a.m. 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 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 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).
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.
Tours: (415) 661-1316 ext. 312
Story Time: (415) 661-1316 ext. 303
Bookstore: (415) 661-1316 ext. 308
Library: (415) 661-1316 ext. 303
Hours: The Garden is open daily, starting at 7:30 a.m.
The Garden closes one hour after the last entry, which is the following:
Fall & Winter Last Entry:
- October – early November: 5 p.m.
- 1st Sunday in November – January: 4 p.m.
- February – 2nd Saturday in March: 5 p.m.
Spring & Summer Last Entry:
- 2nd Sunday in March – September: 6 p.m.
Helen Crocker Russell Library Hours: 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; closed Tuesdays and major holidays
Garden Bookstore and Plant Sale Arbor: Open daily, 10 a.m.–4 p.m.; closed on major holidays
Free admission for San Francisco City or County residents.
Must show proof of residency (such as a valid California I.D., utility bill and photo ID).
For visitors, the admission price is:
- $9 (adults)
- $6 for (youth ages 12-17, seniors age 65 and over, and college students with I.D.)
- $2 (children ages 5-11)
- Free (toddlers aged 4 and under)
- $19 for families (2 adults with one or more children)
Garden Free Days:
- Daily: 7:30–9 a.m. (enter via the Main Gate)
- Second Tuesday of every month
- Select holidays: Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years 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.