Dinosaur diet featured in ‘Plantosaurus Rex’

Hungry dinosaurs are on the prowl at the Conservatory of Flowers — and if you’re lucky, you won’t be lunch.

“Plantosaurus Rex,” which runs through Oct. 21, is a chance to see what the big guys ate. It’s a small exhibit, but one that brings to mind the strange and wonderful plants drawn by Dr. Seuss. The giant ferns, exotic cycads and monkey puzzle trees would be right at home in the land of the Lorax.

This is a show that will appeal mostly to younger children who may also enjoy wandering through the permanent plant collection in the Victorian building. More than 800 plants are on display, along with a giant dragonfly, a baby stegosaurus and other creatures.

Children will enjoy pushing the buttons tucked among the prehistoric plants. One causes a pterodactyl to shriek overhead; another one activates a rumbling volcano. Hit the third button and hear tyrannosaurus rex let out a throaty roar. You won’t be able to see its head, though — it has broken through the conservatory roof in search of better snacks.

Lau Hodges, director of operations and exhibitions at the conservatory, says the story of the dinosaurs is a great way to draw plant lovers of all ages. Kids are especially interested to know that gingko biloba — now a common street tree in San Francisco — has changed very little in the past 100 million years.

“What I’m always trying to do is get the next generation to be interested in plants and their conservation,” Hodges says. “Getting kids excited about plants — I’ll do whatever it takes.”

The exhibition of prehistoric plants looks at the Mesozoic Era, also known as the Age of the Dinosaurs. It is separated into three sections: the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods.

The last section highlights an important milestone in plant evolution: the emergence of flowering plants. Some of the earliest angiosperms, or flowering plants, include magnolias, orchids, water lilies and grasses.

Hodges says it was a deliberate choice to have very few signs in the exhibit so that visitors will feel they are outside as they stroll along a wooden platform. Visitors should make sure to pick up the special “Plantosaurus Rex” brochure at the conservatory entrance if they want any detailed information. Docents also will be on hand to answer questions and show fossil specimens.


Plantosaurus Rex

Where: Conservatory of Flowers, 100 John F. Kennedy Drive, Golden Gate Park, S.F.

When: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Sundays; closes Oct. 21

Admission: $5 to $7 general; $3 to $5 seniors and students; $1.50 to $2 children 5 to 11, free for 4 and under

Contact: (415) 831-2090, www.conservatoryofflowers.org

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