Rainforest in a Bubble

The California Academy of Sciences, located in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is one of the world’s largest natural history museums. Among the many exhibits, the museum contains a remarkable 4-story rainforest housed in a dome. Inside the glass sphere, a spiral ramp allows visitors to explore the rainforest, starting on the ground and heading into the tops of the trees.

Visitors at the rainforest exhibitViewing the rainforest exhibit from different levelsView of 4 story glass dome with rainforest exhibit

This Rainforests of the World exhibit features the flora and fauna of Indonesia, Costa Rica, and Madagascar. It’s no surprise that orchids abound. Here are pictures of a few examples: a Phalaenopsis species, an unusual Calanthe orchid from tropical Africa, and a jewel orchid with fascinating leaves. All enjoy the constant warm temperatures and high humidity inside the dome.

Phalaenopsis flowerCalanthe flowersJewel orchid leaves

More than just a flower show, the exhibit provides an opportunity to see how orchids grow in the wild. The first photo in this next set shows how orchids grow as epiphytes, or air plants, along with bromeliads, ferns, and vines. By using their roots to hold on to trees, epiphytes take advantage of brighter light than they could receive on the shady forest floor. The 2nd photo shows an orchid attached to a branch. While some roots hold fast to the bark, others stick out in the humid air to catch moisture and nutrients. The 3rd photo shows orchids attached to a tree trunk. In the wild, the white roots hold on to the vertical surface, even in the face of strong winds and violent storms.

Air plants attached to tree branchOrchid growing on branchOrchids growing on tree trunk

That’s a small sample of the flora, and here are some of the fauna. Butterflies pollinate some species of orchids in the wild. These beauties paused long enough for our cameras. In the final photo, the bright colors of a poison dart frog advertise its bad taste to predators. They all play their parts in complex webs of life of tropical rainforests, and also this remarkable rainforest in a bubble.

Blue Morpho butterflyTropical butterflyCosta Rican poison dart frog

Explore posts in the same categories: Conservation, Misc, Orchids in the Wild, Photos, Warm Growers

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9 Comments on “Rainforest in a Bubble”

  1. Brad Says:

    Hey, nice post, really well written. You should write more about this.

  2. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » More from the California Academy of Sciences Says:

    […] AboutOrchids Basic Orchid Care for Beginners AboutOrchids Home « Rainforest in a Bubble […]

  3. Robin Ng Says:

    Wow!!! I’ve seen pictures of the Academy’s “green roof” on the news, but they didn’t show how brilliant it is inside! Thanks for the virtual tour.

  4. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Conservatory of Flowers Says:

    […] It’s a quick walk from the orchids at another shining jewel of the park, the Academy of Sciences. […]

  5. Joy Blake Says:

    I love those jewel orchid leaves. The lines look like there painted on.

  6. val Says:

    Great pictures! I like the shots showing how orchids attach to branches. They show really clearly how they grow in the jungle with their roots holding on

  7. GreenThumbGuy Says:

    I love it! It’s the world’s biggest terrariium! Your pics are great. I can really get a sense of how they constructed the whole thing and how large it is.

  8. Terry Says:

    I just want too take some time too Thank everyone for doing what you do and make this community great im a long time reader and first time poster so i just wanted to say thanks.

  9. AboutOrchids » Blog Archive » Jurassic Park Says:

    […] tree ferns are often rainforest companions with orchids, but the closest orchids to these are at the nearby Academy of Sciences and Conservatory of Flowers […]