ISSUE 41  |  West Coast Cool

Coastal Treasure: Shelldance Orchid Gardens in Pacifica, California

October 14, 2015 3:00 PM

BY Dalilah Arja

In Pacifica, a foggy coastal Northern California town, Shelldance Orchid Gardens has been tucked away on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean since 1976. Named after the abundance of shells in the area, Shelldance originally sold bromeliads exclusively. After a short while, the offering was expanded to include orchids. To make space for new inventory, owners Nancy Davis, Michael Rothenberg, and Bruce Rothenberg sold 20,000 bromeliads to the Singapore National Botanical Gardens.

Since opening, the owners have been advocates for preserving the surrounding landscape, and have saved the gardens from plans to build a Caltrain commuter railroad line through the nursery. Now, Shelldance is home to one of the largest collections of rare and exotic plants. Let’s take a look around. 

Photography by Alexandra Sklar for The Merchant Home.

Above: Shelldance Orchid is divided into five greenhouse “garden rooms.” Pictured above is the North Wing with a variety of plants on display, including bromeliads, tillandsia, orchids, and an array of succulents. 

Above: Seashells dangle on a thin cotton rope. 

Above: A large tillandsia tinged in pale red. 

Above: A mounted staghorn fern. Curious about staghorn ferns? See DIY: How to Hang a Staghorn Fern.

Above: Spanish moss is draped throughout the greenhouse.  

Above: Shelldance Orchid Gardens is located at 2000 Pacific Coast Highway in Pacifica, CA. 

For more plant shops in California, see:;