Botanical Gardens

What is a Botanical Garden?

SF State has established several botanical gardens on its grounds. Each garden has a central theme and showcase plants from all over the world. Science classes use these gardens to learn about different plant mechanisms, which have evolved to allow plants to survive in a wide range of habitats. Botanical gardens differ from our habitat gardens because habitat gardens are planted for the sole benefit of the local animals, pollinators or plants. Whereas these gardens are planted for scientific study and educational purposes.

Coastal California Demonstration Planters

Coast gumplant (Grindelia stricta) named for the sticky sap that protects developing buds

Plant-Butterfly Interactions

An adult female butterfly or moth must lay her eggs on a host plant species that provides suitable food for her young. Some caterpillars are generalists and will eat a wide variety of plants, while others prefer to eat only a single plant species. Urbanization has reduced habitat diversity and favored the survival of generalist species. The loss of their critical food source means that many specialists are not threatened with extinction.

An Arid Life at the Water's Edge

Plants in this container garden are native to the central California coast, and include local San Francisco flora. Those that grow near the coast must endure summer drought and salt spray. They often adapt by forming tough, hairy, or succulent leaves and an overall compact form. Annual wildflowers survive the dry season by completing their life cycle and setting seed by late June. These seeds germinate when the winter rains arrive.

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Bike Path Garden

Native bee in blue eyed grass on bike path slope

Understanding Our Local Plant Communities

A plant community is an assemblage of species that interact with each other and their environment, dictated by factors such as soil, climate, topography, and fire. This sloped garden has 5 Coastal California habitat types: Mixed Evergreen, Coastal Prairie and Grassland, Riparian, Coastal Sage Scrub, and the Channel Islands. This garden is used to demonstrate California communities to students. However because of its location next to eucalyptus trees this garden also provides an important lesson on the effects of invasive plants. The litter from eucalyptus toxic leafs is more concentrated at the bottom of the garden. So these plants are underdeveloped and smaller compared to the top of the slope. Although this was an unattended result it allows students to see firsthand the effects of these trees on California’s landscape. Many plants here provide resources such as nectar, pollen, fruit, cover, and nesting material for our resident wildlife. Also becasue these are native plants after this garden is established it will not require watering.

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Succulents Garden

Green succulents, which have thick leaves arranged in a rosette pattern. Appear to be a bunch of green flowers. Adaptations to Drought

In our summer-dry Mediterranean climate water is at a premium, and this garden showcases plants from arid regions around the world. Some plants prevent water loss by covering their leaves with a thick protective cuticle. Succulent plants survive the dry season by storing water in modified leaves and stems. This strategy has evolved multiple times, resulting in plants that look similar but are only distantly related. The largest succulent on campus is the Agave Americana or the Century Plant. This plant can grow up to 6 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It only flowers once after 10 years and then it dies.

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Mediterranean Style Gardens
A world map with purple highlighted areas other california, Chiliean, Southwestern Australia, South Africa and around the Mediterranean sea. The purple areas all represent Mediterranean environments.

One of California’s best features is its warm agreeable weather or Mediterranean climate. It’s characterized by mild temperatures, long growing seasons and relatively low rainfall. Many other coastal areas showcase this type of favorable weather including Australia, South Africa and Chilean. For this reason our campus has established botanical gardens each one representing a different Mediterranean environment. Although these places seem extremely foreign and exotic compared to California landscape. In reality each of these communities have developed analogous plant mechanism, solely based on our similar weather patterns. Also because these are sub-tropical plants all these gardens are able to thrive in San Francisco climate with little intervention. This save time, energy and has the potential to teach students about adaptations in unrelated plants.

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A California Artist's Garden

Art, Fashion and Native plants

This garden comprises of plants traditionally used for natural dyes and textiles. Prior to the creation of modern day fabrics, indigenous people made clothes from the material found in the surrounding environment. Whole native societies could be identified based solely on their clothing. This garden is a tribute to the deep the connection between people, plants and art.

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