San Jose for plant biologists

From Vitis vinifera to Sequoiadendron giganteum

San Jose, the site of Plant Biology 2019, may be in the heart of Silicon Valley, but all the natural bounty of Northern California can be found only a short drive away. August will be a perfect time to explore the viticulture, redwoods, and the numerous parks and gardens the Bay Area has to offer. A Google map of the attractions listed below can be found here.

Copyright 2019, J. Mach

With its Mediterranean climate, Northern California is a prolific producer of a wide variety of wines. The area produces a particularly large number of Cabernet Sauvignons and Pinot Noirs. However, you don’t have to travel all the way to Sonoma or Napa Valley for a superb Northern California wine experience.

o  San Jose is located in Santa Clara County, home to over 25 wineries. Most of the wineries of the area lie on eastern slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountain range, which separates Silicon Valley from the Pacific Ocean. It is one of the oldest wine regions in California, established by Spanish missionaries and French and Italian immigrants that settled in area in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Popular destinations include Ridge Vineyards and House Family Vineyards, which offer beautiful views of the Bay Area and are about 35 and 25 minutes from the convention center, respectively. Be prepared to drive winding, mountainous roads.

o  If you don’t have time to venture out of the city, you’ll find several tasting rooms a short drive from the conference center.  Coterie Cellars and the J. Lohr Vineyards and Wine Tasting Room are less than a 10-minute drive (or rideshare) from the conference center. Even closer, Devine Winery Tasting Room is just a 13-minute walk from the conference center.

o  The world-renowned, Northern California wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties includes more than 400 wineries and numerous options for fine-dining and boutique shopping. Napa and Sonoma are about an hour and thirty minutes to two hours from San Jose, perfect for a weekend getaway.

o  Check out these additional resources to help plan your Bay Area wine-tasting trip:

Copyright 2019, M. Rogus

After wine grapes, Northern California’s most notable vegetation must be its redwood trees, the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) and the Giant Sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum). Coast Redwoods are the tallest trees on earth. The Bay Area has a vast network of county and state parks, as well as a system of Open Space Preserves for hiking among Coast Redwoods and other native vegetation. Below are a few popular destinations.

o  Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest state park, with more than 80 miles of trails and elevation ranging from sea level to 2,000 ft. The park boasts the largest continuous stand of ancient coast redwoods south of San Francisco, with some trees that are 1,000-1,800 years old, more than 300 feet tall and 50 feet around. The park is about an hour drive from the convention center, but drive times may be longer during the summer and on weekends.

o  At the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve, “one can visit serpentine grasslands, hard, rocky, and steep chaparral, dense stands of bay trees, or quiet, shaded oak woodland forests. For the more hardy explorers, there are deep ravines and riparian corridors, some containing seasonal or year-round water flow.” ( The preserve is about 30 minutes from the conference center.

o  Purisima Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve is a second-growth forest of redwoods, with trees about 100 years olds. The main feature of the preserve is Purisima Creek Canyon. Some trails offer glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. The preserve is about a 40-minute drive from the conference center.

o  A favorite of tourists to San Francisco is Muir Woods National Monument. Muir Woods is an old-growth forest, with the tallest tree standing at about 258 feet. Trails are asphalted or boardwalked with the main trail being wheelchair accessible. Reservations are required. The visitor center is about an hour and 30 minutes from the conference center.

o  For those that aren’t opposed to heights, about an hours drive from San Jose, Mount Hermon Adventures offers Redwood Canopy Tours via zip line, as well as an aerial ropes course, both set 30-80 feet in the air among the redwoods.

o  For detailed maps and information about where to hike among the redwoods, check out

Urban green spaces, including parks, gardens, and well-manicured estates, are scattered throughout San Jose and the Bay Area.

o  A 10-minute drive from the convention center is the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden. In 2010, the garden was voted “America’s Best Rose Garden” by the All American Rose Selection.

o  The Japanese Hakone Estate and Gardens are a 23-minute drive from the conference center and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Plants include wisteria, bamboo, camellia, azalea, and more.

o  The Arizona Garden, located on the campus of Stanford University, is a small but impressive garden of large cacti and succulents. The University grounds are also worth exploring, with over 400 species of trees. Stanford is a 30-minute drive from the convention center, or you can take the CalTrain from the San Jose Diridon Station to the Palo Alto station.

o  The Filoli Estate was built between 1915 and 1917 in the Georgian-Revival style. The estate includes an English Renaissance-style garden and a fruit orchard. Tickets are required and guided garden and house tours are available for an additional fee. Filoli is a Site of the National Historic Trust for Historic Preservation and is a 30-40 minute drive from the convention center.

o  Golden Gate Park is a 1,017 acre urban park in San Francisco. Plants found in the park include acacia, Coast Live Oak, redwoods, eucalyptus, Monterey pine, Monterey cypress, and tree ferns. In addition to numerous groves and meadows, Golden Gate Park also encompasses the San Francisco Botanical Garden, the Conservatory of Flowers, a Japanese Tea Garden, a rose garden, the California Academy of Sciences, and the de Young Museum. Segway, bicycle, and electric scooter tours of the park are available. Golden Gate Park is an hour drive from the convention center, but could also be reached by a combination of CalTrain or BART and rideshare.

Copyright 2019, J. Mach

There are several options for good coffee near the convention center.

o  Philz– A Bay Area staple. For a cool pick-me-up on a hot August day, try the Iced Mint Mojito Latte (does not contain alcohol).

o  Academic Coffee– An aptly named spot for “new-wave” (i.e. light roast) coffee.

o  Voltaire Coffee house– Coffee roaster with breakfast options like waffles, bagel sandwiches, and avocado toast.

Before visiting any of these locations, please check their websites for additional information regarding hours, fees, reservations, and parking availability. Check travel times before leaving, as they can vary significantly. Plan for abundant sunshine.

Blog post written by Whitney Dolan for Peridot Scientific Communications/Plant Editors.

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