SF Botanical Garden reassures public after Reddit post causes panic over rare plants' fate

Photo: SF Botanical Garden
By Camden Avery - Published on October 08, 2019.

Plant lovers around the city were in a panic after a volunteer for the San Francisco Botanical Garden announced on Reddit on Sunday that the garden's nursery — which hosts regular plant sales — would be closing in the not-too-distant future for a two-year remodel.

The volunteer expressed dismay that the nursery's demolition could be a death sentence for some rare plant varieties that exist nowhere else in the world, causing an uproar from readers on the r/plants subreddit.

But the wave of public concern was unjustified, according to the Botanical Garden's executive director, Stephanie Linder. 

The nursery's rare plants will find a new home in Golden Gate Park during the remodel, and they'll eventually be brought back to a state-of-the-art facility, with room for even more endangered specimens, according to an SFGate story

That's thanks to a $2 million matching gift from Tableau Software founder Patrick Hanrahan and his wife, computer animator and Botanical Garden board member Delle Maxwell, which will account for a big remaining chunk of the new nursery's estimated $6 million budget.

"If we can raise all the money by the end of the fiscal year and secure all the permitting and approval, we would like to start decommissioning and the demolition process next summer," says Linder, who says building a new nursery will take 12 to 18 months. 

Before the Reddit post broke, the garden was about a month out from making the renovation announcement formally, so concept plans and renderings for the new nursery aren't quite ready for review, Linder said. 

"We have a general concept plan" for what it will look like, she said, "but we are in the process of further developing that. We do need to do further work before we would be sharing it broadly."

A shopper at an SF Botanical Garden plant sale. | Photo: SF Botanical Garden/Facebook

Linder said the nursery's plant inventory would be fully assessed before closing the facility, and endangered plants in need of special care would either be planted out in the permanent collection on the garden's 55 acres, or housed under SFBG's care in the Golden Gate Park plant nursery.

Contrary to the Reddit post, members of the public will not be allowed to house garden specimens. 

"If there's anything that can't go to the Golden Gate Park nursery," Linder said, "we have relationships with other institutions," like the Conservatory of Flowers.

The nursery's more commonplace plants will continue to be sold down at upcoming plant sales — the next one is set for this weekend, October 12 and 13. 

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