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Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Miami, Florida

A love of butterflies at Fairchild Tropical Garden

This is a very personal post. I have always loved butterflies. It is the idea of butterflies even more than their beauty that is compelling. That they evolve into a new form, transform themselves from lower life to higher, crawling to soaring, that is the inspiration for a lifetime. They struggle at it, they persist, and the life cycle is glorious. So it can and should be for us as well. Butterflies have always been my personal icon and a reminder to keep at life and never give up!

Click any thumbnail to see a Lightbox gallery of fullsize images.

Paper Kite ButterfliesAsian Atlas MothBlue ButterflyDoris LongwingLongwing
Wings of the TropicsLongwingPupilo Rumanzovia, the Scarlet MormonMating pairMoth
Wings of the TropicsWings of the Tropics

Thousands of butterflies on jeweled wings

Three thousand butterflies are on display at the newly opened Wings of the Tropics conservatory at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden in Miami. Every day shipments of butterfly pupae arrive from tropical regions of Central and South America and Asia where they are nurtured to hatching and then released to delight and inspire you. It is a photographer’s dream location. Last month I was privileged to spend two sessions on a hot Miami day together with best friends from our Miami years exploring and photographing. My friend is one of the backbone volunteers, one of the knowledgeable many who help to make your visit special.

My friend Marjory

Long ago I kept an annual garden membership, spent countless hours there with members of Tropical Audubon and the Friends of the Everglades on the boards of which I served, and had my own key to the side gate. Most memorably I was the friend and professional collaborator of Marjory Stoneman Douglas, best known for her book Everglades River of Grass but who was so much more. She wore her wisdom solidly and her floppy hats with charm and determination whether she was fighting for the women’s vote, the Baby Milk Fund, or to stop development in the Everglades. She lived with passion and a strong embrace for life. Years later I introduced Freda Tschumy to Marjory toward what became the iconic Sit By Me sculpture of a bronze Marjory seated on a wooden bench near the Fairchild gatehouse. Marjory died in 1998 and was recognized by Congress with the 1.5 million acre Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness Area of Everglades National Park where her ashes were released. We two shared many years of late afternoons in her writer’s abode on Stewart Avenue, aftershocks in San Francisco, an appreciation of ice cream and Willy Terwilliger, new hats and gloves for our audience with Queen Elizabeth II, afternoon tea at the Waldorf, three days and nights as resident guests of the Clinton White House, and an abiding love of nature’s beauty. She wrote and I photograph inspired by a single attitude.

Scientific research and great beauty go hand in hand

One of the world’s greatest botanical gardens was created by the inspired collaboration of a renowned plant explorer, a successful Miami businessman and plant collector, and the leading landscape architect in South Florida’s 1930s boom years. Opening in 1938 on the coral ridge south of Coconut Grove, it was then and is now dedicated to the study, assembly and showcasing of outstanding tropical and subtropical plant varieties of practical use and great beauty. Its long history demonstrates work of scientific rigor, propelled by strong personalities and Miami’s intellectual elite, including my friend Marjory. Read more at http://www.fairchildgarden.org

In July 2015 I wrote about some of the great botanic gardens in North America with a list of personal favorites in Botanical Gardens to Love. Find your own local favorite!

  • Jo Preston - QE II? White House? Layers upon layers of you; thank you for this beautiful writing, and the beautiful photos of course. Can’t decide which is more inspiring to me. I remember the butterfly theme from the first time I met you.

    Ever evolving, see you soon if it does ever warm up enough for a summer motorcycle ride. JoReplyCancel

  • Paul Richardson - Very nicely done. So beautifulReplyCancel

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