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by Grace Chapman, Director of Horticulture, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Wall of mounted butterfly specimens from around the world.

Although the weather is getting chilly in Richmond, VA, I want to highlight a recent trip to a warmer place.  A couple of months ago, I was down in Florida to watch the UF vs. South Carolina game (Go Gators!).  While I was there, I visited the Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History.  I had heard about the exhibition because their director, Jaret Daniels, came to visit this summer as a consultant for our 6-month-long Butterflies LIVE! exhibition at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.  Since I was traveling to Gainesville anyway, I couldn’t help but take the time to see the Butterfly Rainforest in person and get some ideas for our butterfly show next summer.

 
 

The butterfly rainforest is a 6,400-square-foot screened exhibit.  Since it is exposed to typical Florida weather conditions it exhibits a more natural environment for the butterflies and sub tropical plants.  They typically have over 1,000 butterflies on display and up to 60-80 butterfly and moth species at one time.  They also have a collection of small birds.  They had great signage that explained things about butterfly lifecycles, habitat, and identification.  There were also docents present at all times to answer guest questions.

Full sheet color photos helped visitors identify the butterflies present in the exhibition

Full sheet color photos helped visitors identify the butterflies present in the exhibition

One of my favorite parts was the area where they hung chrysalides to let the butterflies emerge. It was in a glass case that the public could view.  It is amazing that the chrysalides can be as beautiful and intricate as the butterflies themselves.

The emergence room was visible to visitors.

Chrysalides were labeled with a name and photo of the butterfly that they would become.

Chrysalides were labeled with a name and photo of the butterfly that they would become.

 

I was toured around by Jaret Daniels, and  gathered great ideas to improve our  Butterflies LIVE! exhibition next year.  I would definitely recommend visiting the Butterfly Rainforest if you are in town for a football game or just passing through Gainesville!

The museum houses thousands of pinned arthropods in addition to the live butterflies.

They have a very diverse collection of wild-collected pinned butterfly specimens.

I was surprised to meet “Albert” in the museum as well. The University of Florida used to have live Gators as mascots. This scull was from one of the last live mascots who died in Lake Alice in 1974.

Note: This blog was first published on Grace Chapman’s personal blog, Sewn & Grown.

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