New Zealand Nikau palm

It’s been five years since my last visit to the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and I hadn’t actually planned on going back this year. But my arrival in the city on Monday was so hectic that all I could think about was a peacefull stroll through this beautiful and varied section of Golden Gate Park. Although I was a little concerned about shooting pictures of the same plants and trees I’d seen the last time, I needn’t have worried. These gardens are spacious enough that I was able to explore sections completely new to me and to discover plants I had never seen before in my life — like the Nikau palm trees, which are native to New Zealand.

I’m fairly familiar with California palms; they’re a frequent sight in Northern California, and I’ve photographed them many times. But it wasn’t until I encountered the Nikau palms that I learned the term inflorescence; these particular ones really caught my eye, with their multiple long, tapering fingers emerging from large pods and reaching out like pink and white tentacles.

The flowers of palm trees grow on an inflorescence.  An inflorescence is a flowering stem, a special branch which carries a great number of tiny flowers.  It is the reproductive portion of a palm tree.  Inflorescence in palms can be some of the most brilliant features of the tree, featuring vibrant colors and unique forms — The Merwin Conservancy

I found them fascinating but also just a little bit creepy — probably because they sort of remind me of a spider’s legs. But unlike spider legs, they’re clearly attractive to flies and any number of bees, which was understandable once I recognized the tiny flowers covering each individual extension. These amazing palm trees were only the first of many awesome discoveries during my latest visit to San Francisco’s Botanical Garden. I’ll be sharing more in the coming weeks!

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