55 Music Concourse Dr.
Golden Gate Park
San Francisco CA
94118
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Sunday

11:00 am – 5:00 pm
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Sunday

10:00 – 11:00 am
Closures
Notices

Please note: The Academy will be closing at 3:00 pm on 10/24 (final entry at 2:00 pm). We apologize for any inconvenience.

Parking and traffic in Golden Gate Park will be congested the weekend of Oct. 3–5. Save $3 on Academy admission when you take public transportation.

Rainforests of the World 

June 23, 2010

Butterflies at CAS: Celebrating National Pollinator Week

HAPPY NATIONAL POLLINATOR WEEK! Four years ago the U.S. Senate dubbed the final week of June “National Pollinator Week” to bring attention to the issue of declining pollinator populations. Largely due to habitat loss, pollinators such as butterflies and bees have been dropping. Pollinators not only aid many plants in reproduction, but are also food for other animals. The world would be in a very sad state without them! This blog post is dedicated to sharing information about the butterflies here in our Rainforest dome, what the Academy is doing to support native pollinators and what YOU can do at home to celebrate National Pollinator Week to help preserve pollinators!

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Butterflies in the Rainforest Dome
To celebrate the importance of critical pollinators in all living habitats we are turning our attention to some of the loveliest pollinators in our Rainforest exhibit, the butterflies.  Our butterflies come to us all the way from beautiful Costa Rica. Cooperative butterfly farmers in Costa Rica have obtained special permits to allow them to rear native butterflies on their land. 

epiphytes

Photo by: Chris Andrews

epiphytes

Photo by: Meghan Schurfrieder

This program helps support local farmers and encourages them to protect pollinators and their critical host plants in the surrounding rainforest.  Farmers plant host plants on their land to feed caterpillars.  Once the caterpillars transform to pupae the farmers collect some to send to us. Here are some pictures of Costa Rica Entomological Supply staff displaying pupa collected from local farmers:

epiphytes

Photo by: Kristen Natoli

epiphytes

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

Pupa is the name we give that tricky stage when the caterpillar transforms into a beautiful winged butterfly.  This transformation takes place inside a protective casing called the chrysalis.  The chrysalis keeps the soon to emerge butterflies safe as they are shipped to the Academy each week.

Malachite (Siproeta stelenes) pupa:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Large Owlet (Opsiphanes tamarindi) pupa:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

At the Academy the pupae are carefully unpacked and placed in temperature / humidity controlled chambers.

epiphytes

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

Each morning biologists check the chambers for emerged adult which are then released into the Rainforest exhibit. Here is a picture of one of our biologists releasing butterflies for the morning:

epiphytes

Photo by: Kristen Natoli

 

By planting native flowering Costa Rican plants and providing various feeding stations throughout our Rainforest Dome, the butterflies here always have nectar and pollen sources.

Golden Helicon (Heliconius hecale) on flowering Hamealia petens:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Banded Orange Longwing (Dradula phaetusa) on flowering Salvia coccinea:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Magnificent Owl (Caligo atreus):
epiphytes

Photo by: Sarab Stewart

The butterflies do not reproduce in our exhibit.  We make sure to avoid planting any host plants for their caterpillars to prevent them from reproducing.  Our mini Rainforest is not big enough to accommodate voracious caterpillars munching their way to adulthood!

The Academy and Native Pollinators
In addition to supporting the butterflies on exhibit, the Academy also supports local pollinators in Golden Gate Park. Our Living Roof is home to nine species of native annuals and perennials.

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Although our Living Roof has only been in existence since 2008, a study by San Francisco State University biology students in 2009 showed that Bay Area native insects were already more prevalent on our roof than other areas in Golden Gate Park. Read all about the study HERE.

Our Business Entrance side (along Middle Drive) also has many Bay Area native plants that pollinators such as bees, butterflies, moths, flies and hummingbirds love!  Plants which include Lupinus spp., California Poppies (Eschscholzia californica) and Monkeyflower (Mimulus spp.) are some of our local pollinators’ favorites!

Here is a picture of one of our many mini gardens along Middle Drive:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Check out the corbicula, or, “pollen basket” on the leg of this bumble bee at our garden!:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

What You Can Do
Whether it be in celebration of National Pollinator Week, or because you just love pollinators as much as we do, try planting some flowering Bay Area native plants in your backyard, sidewalk planters, balcony, or front lawn! Planting native species not only attract native wildlife but are also less maintenance compared to plants that are normally grown in different climates. Here are some of the plants that do well in areas of San Francisco:

Bees cannot resist lovely Seaside Buckwheat (Eriogonum latifolium):
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Hummingbirds adore Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus ):
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Not just an eye-pleaser, Ceanothus spp. are also loved by pollinators:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Be sure consider some of the following when choosing your plants:
How much sun/shade does your area have?
What kind of soil do you have?
How hot does your area get?
Pollinator Partnership is a great resource to get started.
With our help, pollinators will be here to stay! In the spirit of National Pollinator Week, meet our butterflies up close in the Rainforest Dome, and put some flowering native plants in the ground for the wonderful pollinators at home!


Filed under: Butterflies,Plants — Paphiopedilum @ 8:57 pm

June 17, 2010

It’s all about Epiphytes

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Epiphytes are amazing. They are prime examples of how adaptation leads to survival in an environment where plants are constantly competing for resources. Plants may not appear to be as active as other organisms, but there is a whole lot going on in their world!

Plants that attach themselves to a host plant (or other object) without parasitizing them are called epiphytes, or, “air plants.” Many orchids, ferns and bromeliads are epiphytes, and there are lots of them in our Rainforest Dome. Although there are countless reasons as to why epiphytes are amazing adaptors, here are my top three:

1. Awesome Design to take Advantage of Fewer Resources
Everything from an epiphyte’s roots to its flowers and fruits are specially designed to help it survive where resources such as water, light and nutrients are scarce. Rainforest canopies are dense with foliage, making it difficult for any new plants to obtain sunlight for photosynthesis. Because epiphytes have adapted to live on the branches of tall trees and vines, they are able to access sunlight that plants on lower levels of a rainforest canopy cannot.

Being able to live on other plants also requires specialized roots. Epiphytes have a strong, thick root system that not only allows them to grow on almost anything, but is extremely efficient in absorbing morning mist, rain and moisture from humidity. Unlike most plants that live in soil, epiphytes’ roots obtain nutrients from leaf litter and other debris that accumulate on the branches and vines they live on.

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

The stems and leaves of epiphytes are also modified. Bromeliads have stiff, upturned leaves that allow pools of water to be stored. Some species of bromeliads can hold up to 2 gallons of water! Other types of modified leaves include our Staghorn fern (Platycerium madagascariense). It has very thick and waxy leaves to retain moisture. Many epiphytes’ stems share similar characteristics.

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

2. Clever and Successful Reproduction Strategies
With so many awesome adaptations, the best part about survival for an organism like an epiphyte is to reproduce! There are so many other plants in a rainforest that getting a pollinator to take notice is a feat in itself. The solution? Get a pollinator’s attention! Take a look at some of the amazing blooms the epiphytes in our Rainforest Dome have produced over the past year:

Masdevallia erinaceae:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Epidendrum piliferum:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Bulbophyllum blumei:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

These pictures were taken just days ago of two Brassia species:
epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

So… did those flowers get YOUR attention? Epiphytes put large amounts of energy into producing breath-taking blooms, fruit, perfume and nectar to lure pollinators. When pollination is successful, many epiphytes produce mass numbers of seeds that can be transported by wind.

3. Relationships with surrounding organisms
The characteristics of epiphytes allow them to play many roles in their environment. Epiphyte pollinators such as insects, birds and other small animals use epiphytes as a food source. In our Rainforest Dome, our Bananaquits (Coereba flaveola) are constantly checking flowering plants for nectar:

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Dead flowers, twigs and leaf litter that accumulate on the roots of epiphytes are a source of nesting material for many of our birds as well. Here is a picture of one of our Saffron Finches (Sicalis flaveola) collecting materials from an epiphyte:

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

In fact, past Rainforest Blog posts have been about this very topic! In Dec. ’09, our second Rainforest Blog post featured our Euphonia (Euphonia violacea) pair nesting in an epiphyte. In March ’10, our blog post described the role of bromeliads in the reproduction of strawberry dart frogs (Oophaga pumilio). Epiphyte adaptation strategies have led to surrounding organisms adapting to live amongst them, bringing coexistence and interdependence around full circle.

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

epiphytes

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Whether you’re admiring an orchid in a store window or all of the epiphytes in our Rainforest Dome, we hope you love and appreciate them as much as we do! They are truly amazing adaptors!


Filed under: Plants — rainforest @ 2:29 pm

June 14, 2010

Warning: Bright Coloration, Sunglasses may be Required!

During our scheduled Rainforest Exhibit closure last week, we were busy improving our terrariums. On the Madagascar level (2nd level) of the Rainforest, look closely for some new additions!

Madagascar Reed Frog (Heterixalus madagascariensis)
Reed Frog

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Madagascar Painted Mantella (Mantella madagascariensis)
Painted Mantella

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

The Painted Mantella is closely related to the Green Mantella and Golden Mantella. These species of frog exhibit Aposematic (warning) coloration. These bright colors serve to warn potential predators that the frog is distasteful due to various toxins located in the frog’s skin. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because most people have heard of an identical scenario with the more well-known Dart Frogs of Central and South America.

Auratus

Photo copyright of: Brian Freiermuth

Despite similar looks and behavior, the Dart Frogs and Mantellas are not closely related to each other, but evolved separately, occupying comparable ecological niches, continents apart. This phenomenon is called Convergent Evolution.

Come compare them for yourself as you visit the Madagascar and Costa Rica galleries in the Rainforest exhibit!


Filed under: Herpetiles — rainforest @ 11:35 am

June 9, 2010

What rainforest animal cools off through urohydrosis?

If you guessed Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), you’re absolutely right!

turkey vulture

Photo by: Rachael Tom

If you are a frequent visitor to our rainforest you might be thinking “I’ve never seen a vulture in there.” You’re right again! Our vulture lives out in the West Garden adjacent to the building. However, turkey vultures range from southern Canada to the southernmost tip of South America. They inhabit a huge diversity of habitats, including tropical rainforests.

They are scavengers that feed almost exclusively on carrion and are one of the few birds that have a developed sense of smell. In fact, that excellent sense of smell allows them to utilize rainforest habitat, as they have an alternative to searching for food by sight only. Other neotropical vulture species that don’t have that developed sense of smell will observe turkey vultures and follow them to food sources.

turkey vulture

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Turkey vultures have a unique defense mechanism – they will regurgitate their meal in an effort to startle a predator and quickly reduce their body weight so that they can fly away faster. Turkey vultures also have an interesting way of keeping cool during hot days – they urinate on their feet! This is called ‘urohydrosis’, and causes the white coloration seen on their legs.

turkey vulture

Photo by: Rachael Tom

You can see the Academy’s turkey vulture on exhibit in the West Garden daily between 10:00 am and 2:30 pm and meet the biologists that care for him Tue-Thurs at 2pm. Here is a picture of him preening his feathers to look his very best for your next visit:

turkey vulture

Photo by: Rachael Tom

Filed under: Birds — rainforest @ 2:54 pm

The Rainforest Team

   

Academy biologists share the inside scoop on the Academy's 'Rainforest of the World' exhibit.

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