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Nurturing approximately 1700 species of rare and exotic plants with the world?s largest and most comprehensive public collection of high-altitude orchids, the Conservatory of Flowers set in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California was an indirect gift of the philanthropist and wealthy businessman James Lick who bought a conservatory kit to be built on his own estate (in San Jose City) to house his collection of exotic plants which he imported from South America and different parts of the world. However, Lick died in 1876 even before the start of the construction of the conservatory. Nevertheless, a group of renowned San Franciscans purchased the conservatory kit and offered it as a gift to the City of San Francisco to be used in the above-mentioned park.

The construction of the conservatory was finalized in 1878. Although cast iron was popularly used at that time, James Lick?s conservatory was made of wood fabricated from indigenous California Coast Redwood. To put together the conservatory kit in the Golden Gate Park, the firm Lord and Burnham was commissioned. Since glass greenhouses were being developed at that time, the Conservatory of Flowers was made in this appearance. The structure?s layout looks like a shallow letter E with orientation extending from east to west. Both ends of the lay-out are L-shaped while the center is a 60-foot high octagonal pavilion transcended by a clerestory and dome. It has a wooden skeleton that supports the glass panes that make up the entire building. Arches were implemented because those utilize the mechanical properties of the material minimizing the amount of weaker ends of the wood making it more stable to hold the glass panels.

Aside from the array of exotic plants, that includes lowland tropics (such as balsa, bamboo, banana, chocolate, cinnamon, coffee, taro, and vanilla among others); highland tropics (such as high-altitude orchids found in Central and South America); aquatic plants; carnivorous plants; and potted plants usually displayed on benches, the Conservatory of Flowers also held exhibits. Some of the shows that attracted thousands of visitors to the conservatory are ?The Butterfly Zone? which featured a stunning display of more than 25 species of colorful butterflies and the ?Night Safaris? that let you explore with flashlights for night-time moths. Moreover, the most unforgettable occasion that attracted thousands of tourists in May 2005 was the blooming of Amorphophallus titanum, a corpse flower species, not a usual site at the conservatory.

The Conservatory of Flowers is one of the first municipal conservatories built in the United States, the oldest municipal wooden conservatory still operating in the country and the oldest structure in the Golden Gate Park. Owing to its honors coupled with historical, architectural and engineering values, the conservatory is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Places and is labeled as a California Historical Landmark, and a San Francisco Designated Landmark.
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