Nature Day Trips – Florida – Butterfly World

Since spring is just starting and most of you are going stir crazy from being stuck in place due to the coronavirus COVID-19, I thought I’d start pulling out some of my nature pics that have been in my drafts folder for a while so you can go on some germ-free, socially distanced virtual trips and, perhaps find some places you’d like to visit once they re-open and we can all travel again.

Perhaps you noticed a new tab on my home page: Gardens & Parks. I put it there to keep track of what and where I have posted, but it can be a good travel resource for any of you who are planning a trip. I will keep it updated as I post new places. Some day, I may split this little hobby off into a separate blog, but most of you don’t seem to mind my crazy hodgepodge mix of crafts and hobbies.

Do you like butterflies? Lepidoptera is the order of insects that includes butterflies and moths. You’re a lepidopterist if you study or collect butterflies and moths. And if you’re one of the many folks who are afraid of them, you have lepidopterophobia and should probably skip down to the second half of this post! Fair warning, this post is quite lengthy and picture heavy, so grab your favorite cuppa, sit back and enjoy!

We recently had family visit and were pleased to get to take them to one of our favorite local attractions: Butterfly World in Coconut Creek, FL. It is the largest butterfly house in the world with 3 acres of butterfly and bird aviaries, botanical gardens and a working butterfly farm and research center. You can also see more pics in my two previous posts (as always, you can click on any colored text you find in my posts to be taken to see the page or website):

There are some 50 species and over 20,000 individual butterflies just waiting to enchant us with their beautiful colors and designs. Here are some of this trips highlights…

There are oodles of the Heliconius genus (aka Longwings), including many hybrids found only at Butterfly World:

Zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia) – You’ll see her caterpillar later on:

Piano key (Heliconius melpomene) butterflies. There is always classical music playing softly in the background, adding to the relaxing atmosphere of the park, but I always smile when I see a piano key butterfly just when a piano solo comes on! Don’tcha just wanna ‘tickle the ivories’ on her back wings?!!

There seems to be an endless variety of patterns and colors!

Here’s a G-rated pic of a pair of piano key longwings mating:

White crescent swallowtail (Eurytides thymbraeus):

If you enlarge this picture of a mist encrusted swallowtail, you can tell that the red ‘stay on path’ sign is reflected in the droplets on her eye and antennae:

If you look closely at this paper kite aka tree nymph (Idea leuconoe), you might make out the blurry Florida state bird that happened to be sitting on her wing (a joke as mosquitoes are huge and thick over by the everglades)… I wonder how she’s gonna scratch that itch?!!:

Sometimes, no matter how good your camera, you just have to rely on someone else to take the picture!:

The blue morpho below is missing part of a wing, giving us a peek of her beauty. Don’t fret, butterflies have been observed going about their daily activity with up to 70% of their wing surfaces missing. I once read an encouraging article that used that fact to illustrate how, similarly, many people display a resolute spirit — not giving up despite suffering from severe physical or emotional problems. How? The article sited 2 Corinthians 4:16 and Philippians 4:13 if you want to look them up. I also found a beautiful 6 minute video that talks about this about 2 minutes in… you can see it by clicking HERE (Learn Endurance from Creation is the video’s name.)

Among the most dazzling butterflies are the blue morphos (Morpho peleides) with their metallic looking iridescent wings that span 5-8 inches. Their color comes, not from pigment, but from the structural patterns on the scales of her wings. If you want to see a fascinating 5 minute video explaining this, you can click HERE on to see the video I found that’s titled “The Wonders of Creation Reveal God’s Glory – Light and Color“… about 2 minutes in, it shows how the iridescent color is created.

Not all morphos are blue… these white morpho (Morpho polyphemus) seem particularly attracted to something on this cattleya orchid’s pot. This was clearly taken before coronavirus and social distancing became everyday words in our vocabularies!:

Another real stunner is the male Cairn’s Birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion) butterfly, with a wingspan of about 6 inches, in vibrant colors and a heavy fur coat:

I’m going to sneak in a picture of this leafwing that I took at home a while back. His camouflage is pretty amazing!

The yellow-edged giant owl butterflies (Caligo atreus – of the family Nymphalidae) have huge eye spots that remind people of owl eyes. But this was the first time I noticed how the tip of her wings also looks like a snake’s head.  Plenty of protective camouflage!  This is the largest butterfly species in the Americas, with a wingspan of up to 8″

You know my love fore water drop pictures…here you can see how some water droplets magnify the scales on this beautiful malachites’ wings (Siproeta stelenes), while others reflect the surrounding foliage:

To see a video from Butterfly World’s Instagram page with even more butterfly varieties, click HERE.

Let’s move on to the butterfly buffets aka flowers… here’s a view inside the tropical rain forest atrium:

I think the red flowers in the background above are Allamanda blanchetii. Queen’s wreath (Petrea volubilis), aka purple wreath, is our southern version of wisteria with its drooping lavender cluster of flowers (called a raceme). Since its leaves are stiff and feel like sandpaper, it is also called sandpaper vine. I love the flower within a flower look!

Love this tropical rhododendron… it’s like pure sunshine packed into a flower:

A bloom of the aptly named Chinese lantern tree (Abutilon pictum) aka flowering maple or red-veined Indian mallow from the Malvaceae family:

The lipstick tree (Bixa orellana) aka annatto is next. According to the sign, ‘The dye bixen obtained from the seeds is used all over the world as a red dye for coloring rice, cheeses, soft drinks, oil, butter, margarine and soups. It is also used as a dye for textiles and as a condiment. It is the original Amerindian war paint. It has also been used as a sunscreen and insect repellent. The red covering on Gouda and other cheeses is made from bixen. It also has many medicinal uses.’ When I was in the Amazon jungle in Colombia, back in the early 80s, the local indigenous tribes showed us how they used the seeds both as lipstick and to color their grass skirts. One plant can produce up to 600 pounds of seeds! Most of the seeds are gone from the open pods in this picture, but if you look close, you might see a couple that are left.

Jaboticaba (Plinia cauliflora), a native to Brazil, is part of the myrtle family (Myrtaceae) and its edible grape-like fruits grow right on the trunks of the tree. This fruit was one of my favorite treats when I lived in Paraguay!

The vine maze is packed with many varieties of passion flowers. I love how they look like dancing ladies!! And, of course a cool drink made from the passion fruit is quite refreshing!

The information sign says: ‘Passionflower plants, flowers and fruits are used for many purposes such as perfumes, pharmaceuticals and fruit juices. Butterfly world uses passionflowers to raise beautiful heliconius butterflies, which eat them as caterpillar food plants. Early Spanish and Portuguese missionaries believed each part of the passiflora represent a different aspect of the passion of Jesus Christ, hence the name passion vine… passionflower plants are used by the caterpillars of zebra longwing, julia and gulf fritillary butterflies.’

Passiflora ‘Royale’:

Passiflora ‘Inspiration” by Roland Fischer Passifloraceae:

Tiny Passiflora boenderi (named in honor of Ron Boender, the founder of Butterfly World) … the leaves have a row of egg-mimicking dots. See the Zebra longwing (Heliconius charithonia) caterpillar?

The tiny passion fruit of the Passiflora boenderi — as someone who saw this pic said, “it’s really thumb-thing!”

Mysore trumpet vine (Thunbergia mysorensis) aka Indian clock vine, dolls shoes or ladies’ slipper vine (not to be confused with ladies slipper orchids!) from the  Acanthaceae family. I love how it looks right before it opens (second bloom from the top on the right)!

A bumblebee happily foraging for food on a giant milkweed (Calotropis gigantea) (EVERYTHING’s bigger in the tropics!). Oh! There’s another really interesting two minute video you might want to see about how bumblebees manage to control their flight in the video I found HERE: Was It Designed? The Bumblebee’s Flight Control

There are two aviaries with plenty of colorful birds like this Lady Gouldian finch:

Even if you haven’t taken the time to watch any of the other videos I’ve linked in this post, you’ll want to make time for this less-than-two-minute impressive video I found on why bird colors never fade and how researchers are trying to mimic this for paints and fabrics that never fade. You can see it by clicking HERE: Was It Designed? Bird Colors That Never Fade

Budgies (Budgerigar) are among the smallest of the true parrot species. In case you didn’t know, all budgies are parakeets, but not all parakeets are budgies.

The pair in the video below happens to be courting (for you young whippersnappers reading this, that’s the old-fashioned way of saying ‘dating’). Click in the middle of the video below ( or HERE) to see the couple doing their love dance (Do the budgie hop! Hop! Hop! Hop!)

I hope you enjoyed your virtual vacation today! I have several more ‘trips’ stored in my drafts folder and a few more cards and crafts. As I find the time and energy, I’ll post them for you. Stay positive. Stay safe, socially distant, disinfected and healthy!

-D.Ann

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Butterfly World Part 2 – Birds & Flowers

Hello again! I’m happy to be back and that you could stop by, too!

After a long break to try to let my wrist heal (perforated ligament and tendon inflammation), I’m slowly starting back. I’ll start with the rest of the pics from butterfly world. If you missed the first post featuring the butterflies, you can find it HERE. There are plenty of birds and flowers in the park, too! For those of us who are paper crafters, there’s loads of color inspiration! So go grab a cuppa something good, put on some classical music like they have playing throughout the park, and just enjoy the pics…

The skyflower aka blue trumpet vine (Thunbergia grandiflora)

These ground orchids (Epidendrum radican) are so cute!

This one is a jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) – I love hose shades of green!!

I must try a card the color combo in these orchids… brown, pink and pale yellow!

This vine is an Acanthaceae (Thunbergia mysorensis).

A bottlebrush bush (try saying that 5 times fast. lol!) aka Callistemon.

There is a huge variety of passion flower (Passiflora) vines. I don’t know how many of the 550 species they have, but it’s a lot!

They remind me of dancing ladies! And they go from these giant ones as big as your hand to the tiny ones, smaller than a thumbnail:

I love finding ‘faces’ in the bougainvillea flowers! : )

The aviaries are filled with canaries, finches, honeycreepers and more… most flitting around too fast for the lens to catch, but a few are otherwise occupied, like this cute parakeet couple and the peeping Tom. : )

The vibrant colors of the Macaws never cease to amaze me.

There is a Lorikeet encounter where you can feed them or just enjoy the amazing bright colors and shrill songs of these lovely parrots. (you can click on the arrow in the middle of the picture below to watch the short video.)

Lastly, one of my favorites… this gorgeous little shimmering hummingbird just sat there sticking his tongue out at us as if giving raspberry and saying, “Nyah, nyah I’m the most beautiful bird around and I know it!” (click on the arrow in the middle of the pic for the short video to play.)

That’s just a few highlights from this wonderful little park. And I didn’t even get the the museum. I hope you’ve enjoyed your tour!

I hope to start catching up now. I have several spring garden posts that I HOPE to get posted before next spring, but you know I roll in slow motion, so it may be a while. I seem to have a few cards backlogged, too. So there is more to come, Thanks for your patience! Hopefully you won’t have to wait too long.

-D.Ann

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Flower pics and Sandhill Cranes

I’m finally back and I’m glad you’ve stopped back by, too!

I’m going to start this post with a visit to northern Florida last November. I didn’t get to post the videos of the Sandhill Cranes. They’re such nifty birds, although the locals might complain about them tearing up their yards as they look for food. It was fun to watch a couple sing and dance together. (It is said that the female makes two calls for every one the male makes… I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about that! Ha!)

(You can click on the white arrow in the middle of the pictures to go to the videos. Turn up the volume for this first one.)

I guess, after a while, they must get sore throats and just dance…

Zooming ahead 3 and a half months later, we see the results of their fooling around…

It’s so fun to see wildlife wandering the streets of quiet neighborhoods! If you stand still and don’t bother them, they might even get within a feet of you… but remember they are WILDlife!! I love that their red faces look like hearts when you look at them straight on…

Next are some of the many nifty plants at my aunt’s house. First up is the Turk’s Cap Cactus aka Melon Cactus. It gets loads of those nifty pink fruits (right now there’s only one on the left side).

Atop the brown woolly ‘cap’ the flowers burst forth swathed in white wool…

The Kaffir Lily (Clivia miniata) is a member of the Amaryllis family…

And with a great sense of humor, her ‘Shrek’s Ears’ (Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’) – a type of jade plant – are planted next to ‘Donkey’s Tail’ (aka burro’s tail – Sedum morganianum)! lol!

Jatropha (aka nettlespurge or physic nut) blooms…

It’s amazing how a heavy dew changes everything… even some ‘weeds’ in the yard…

My favorite is this dew drop laden Periwinkle…

For those of you who are getting another round of cold weather, hopefully this will tide you over until your spring flowers start blooming like crazy real soon.

Thanks for stopping by today to enjoy these lovely creations with me!

~D.Ann

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A Visit to Florida’s Flamingo Gardens

Since some of you are stuck inside with the winter storm, I thought I’d send you some colorful sunny warmth to brighten your day! There is even a puzzle and you might find a few good laughs along the way. So grab a hot cuppa and sit back and enjoy your visit….

We had a delightful time visiting Flamingo Gardens yesterday. The gardens were established 90 years ago (2017).

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They are also on the Reciprocal Admissions Program with the American Horticultural Society.

Hint: If you plan on visiting two or more botanical gardens in the US in a year, it is worth checking to see if they are one of the 300 in the Reciprocal Admissions Program, as  AHS membership gets you in free.

Of course the parks’ namesakes are a huge attraction…

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Here’s a video of my favorite part of the flamingo section… getting to feed them!  (Just click on the ‘play’ arrow in the middle.)

What a delightful experience to get to hand feed these beautiful birds! They’re very careful not to bite the hand that feeds them.

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Another favorite section for cat lovers like me is getting to see the Endangered Florida Panther. The National Wildlife Society estimates there are less than 100 left in the wild.

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I wish my camera would do better on long distance photos. I am glad to see she has a nice large area to roam with plenty of green (unlike one of the nearby zoos). A distant cousin playing nearby was happy to let me pet her and get my ‘fur therapy’ in for the day.

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Also for cat lovers are these cool T-shirts in the gift shop… Other than the three cats and the background pair of eyes, can you find the hidden cat images? The manufacturer says there are 10 cougars on this shirt. You can click on the picture to be taken to their answer page.

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Another prominent feature of the gardens are the many peacocks roaming free.

Here’s an artsy shot of those gorgeous colors for you…

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Here’s one of those gorgeous guys resting among the banana trees.

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Speaking of banana trees… Their blooms are gorgeous!

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Each one of those flowers inside the main pod can eventually become a banana. as each petal unfolds, it releases a new bunch.

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BANANA!!

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(If you want to do an instaminions pic, just click the photo)

There is also an amazing aviary where you can walk around with the injured and recuperating birds taken under Flamingo Gardens’ wing. (See what I did there?!) It’s so neat to get up close and personal with some of of my favorite waterfowl, like the spoonbill:

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And pelicans:

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One of these birds is not like the others. Can you guess which one? lol!

One could walk around the aviary for a long time looking for just the right shot of a beautiful bird…

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And THEN you come across this sign:

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Bwah-hahahaha! (Now go back and look at the previous picture… on the branch below the bird he’s trying to picture. Yep…. it happens!!! Hahahaha!)

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Ok, so this barred owl is not impressed. There is a whole section in the park with a variety of birds of prey. There are also several displays of exotic birds, too..

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And, of course, there are plenty of plants and flowers. I only wish there were more name tags… I don’t know what this plant was.

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But the flowers at its base were pretty nifty:

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The shrimp plant is aptly named… (If you don’t know why, say, “Okay, Google, find “shrimp in the ocean.”)…

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Sometimes a little bit of sunlight can make all the difference in what you see:

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Visiting parks can be great for meeting people. I came across a really fun guy at the park:

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(Note: This blog claims no responsibility for bad puns!!)

Some plants just make for cool photographs…

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Beautiful ground orchids:

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Cattleya orchid:

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Well, I hope you had a fun visit to Flamingo Gardens! I sure did!! Hopefully, we’ll get to go again while the temperatures are more moderate. I won’t tell you it was pretty chilly at first in the low 60’s, but it warmed up quickly and was a lovely day… That’d just be cruel. : )

Stay warm, my friends, and have a lovely day!

~D.Ann

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