San Francisco Botanical Garden connects people to plants, the planet, and each other.
San Francisco’s unique Botanical Garden inspires visitors with the extraordinary diversity of rare and unusual plants that can be grown in coastal California. Through its programs and displays, the Garden cultivates the bond between people and plants and instills a deeper understanding of the necessity to conserve Earth’s biological diversity. As a public/private partnership between a community-based nonprofit organization and the San Francisco Recreation & Parks Department, and a beloved San Francisco institution, we are committed to transparency, cultural diversity, inclusion, and environmentally responsible practices. We are proud to be a public public garden, accessible to all and grateful to the funders who help sustain us.
San Francisco Botanical Garden will be cherished locally and recognized internationally for beauty, diversity of plant collections, educational programs and dedication to conservation.
We acknowledge that San Francisco Botanical Garden sits on the unceded ancestral homeland of the Ramaytush Ohlone who are the original peoples of the San Francisco Peninsula. We recognize that we benefit from living and working on their traditional homeland, and we affirm their sovereign rights as first peoples. Dedicated to connecting people to plants, the planet, and each other, the Garden upholds the significance of this cherished and revered place that celebrates Earth’s biological diversity in supporting the health and wellbeing of all people and the planet.
Eric Walther, the Garden's first director, was appointed by McLaren and remained in the position for 20 years. Walther experimented with a variety of plants from many parts of the world. Construction and planting were carried out with the help of the Works Progress Administration (WPA), a federal program designed to provide jobs for unemployed workers during the Great Depression.
Friends and associates of Eric Walther helped establish the Strybing Arboretum Society to support the development of the Botanical Garden and to provide educational programs. In 1959, landscape architect Robert Tetlow prepared a master plan, including features such as the great meadow, the fountain, and the basic layout of the present gardens.
1980's & 90's
During the 1970's, the Moon-Viewing Garden was designed, and the Helen Crocker Russell Library of Horticulture opened, becoming Northern California's largest horticultural library. We invite you to use this excellent facility to learn more about the history and plants of the Botanical Garden and of Golden Gate Park.
During the 1980's and 1990's, Director Walden Valen revised the plant collections plan to take better advantage of the mild coastal climate, expanding the collections from Mediterranean and other mild temperate climate regions.
In the early 2000's, director Scot Medbury led the renovation of seven gardens, including the Southeast Asian Cloud Forest, the first of its kind anywhere.
In 2004, Strybing Arboretum changed its name to San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum, and the Arboretum Society followed suit, becoming San Francisco Botanical Garden Society at Strybing Arboretum.
In 2015 the Garden celebrated its 75th Anniversary with a fantastic community day celebration as well as the the inaugural year of Flower Piano. In 2017, on Christmas Day Free Day the Garden experienced a record breaking 10,689 visits in a single day.
To improve visitor experience and position the Gardens of Golden Gate Park as one of the top cultural and environmental institutions in the country, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved an agreement that combines admissions, education, and engagement programs at San Francisco Botanical Garden, Conservatory of Flowers, and Japanese Tea Garden under the San Francisco Botanical Garden Society.
Army-trained engineer William Hammond Hall made a strong beginning, creating a detailed site survey and a preliminary design for the Park. Appointed Engineer of the Park, over the next five years, he leveled and stabilized the sand dunes and established a nursery to supply the first 60,000 trees.
The development of Golden Gate Park into one of the world's great parks is due largely to the vision, skill, and long life span of John McLaren, who served as the park's superintendent from 1887 to 1943.
The Garden became a reality in 1926 when Helene Strybing, the prosperous widow of a San Francisco merchant, provided the funds in her bequest to establish an arboretum and botanical garden in Golden Gate Park. The funds gradually became available in the 1930s to break ground.
The Garden opened officially as an arboretum and botanical garden, designed around a central axis that still exists between the central fountain and the Zellerbach Garden of Perennials. Paths radiating from the central axis lead to collections of plants from around the world.