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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Spring Flowers in Indiana

Hello again!

No, your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you… You ARE in the right place – just the background theme of my blog has changed. I was playing around trying to find one that would be better for showing photos and accidentally installed one, erasing my previous theme, which has already been discontinued and can’t be re-installed. This was the closest I could come up with until I find one I like. Thanks for your patience while I try to figure this out.

Meanwhile, I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the spring pictures I took while I was in Southern Indiana earlier this month. I made them low res so, hopefully, the page will still load quickly, but that makes them loose quality a bit. Someday I’ll figure out the right balance. Don’t forget you can still click on any picture to enlarge it.

When I arrived at the end of April, the first thing I noticed were the Redbuds, Dogwoods and Crabapple trees all vying for attention.

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A pink Dogwood:

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It’s easy to see that Crabapples are in the same family as roses (Roaceae):

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There were still some late tulips and daffodils hanging about:

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Bleeding hearts:

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The lilacs were so pungent, even I could smell them!

Close your eyes and breathe deep… maybe you will too. ; )

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The farmers were happy to see the end of the April showers and the locust trees blooming… local lore says that’s a sign that it’s time to plant!

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(Wild mustard and blooming locust trees)

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Of course there were already some edible perks of spring to be harvested… like morel mushrooms…

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And tender asparagus, fresh-picked daily…

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And fresh rhubarb pie…  YUM!

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Ok, I’ll stop making you jealous and get back to the eye candy with more spring flowers:

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A flowering almond bush…

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Weigela…

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I just love the colors of this hydrangea!…

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Allium…

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Pansy…

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Spiraea is another relative of the rose (Rosaceae)…

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Pansy…

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Of course, some flowers are considered a nuisance, but they’re still lovely:

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Raindrops make a difference in photos… which hibiscus do you like better?

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I just love these bearded irises!!…

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“Not even Solomon in all his glory was arrayed as one of these!”  – Mt. 6:28,29

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Did you know that azaleas are part of the Rhododendron genus? So all azaleas are Rhododendrons, but not all rhododendrons are azaleas. Confused? Rhododendrons tend to be larger and usually have 10 stamens, whereas azaleas have smaller leaves and usually have 5 stamens.

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It was fun to watch this rhododendron bloom over the course of 5 days:

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I fell in love with these lovely columbine flowers!! Perhaps you will, too…

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Well, I could go on and on with these gorgeous works of creation, but it’s time to to bring this to a close.

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A special thanks to my aunts and cousins who work so hard in their gardens tending these gorgeous plants for our enjoyment! I’m sure they keep as busy as these guys…

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Thanks for stopping by. If you enjoyed these flowers, come back in a few days and I’ll have some more pictures posted from some botanical gardens and arboretums we visited in North Carolina last week.

-D.Ann

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