|My beautiful family. Yup, Nellie wore a princess costume in her favorite color of pink.|
Alright, here is your warning, this blog is going to be long and mostly pictures of pretty things without much commentary. Scroll through fast or just check out my next blog which will be more garden focused.
The tour of the butterfly exhibit is set up so that you must walk through several other garden rooms before reaching the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory which is the large greenhouse structure. We ended up going through the exhibit three times due to a lunch break and a visit to the gift shop. I am going to take you through the exhibit as if we did it once without repeats. My first picture onsite was the one of my family. I thought I’d better make sure I took a picture of the important people before I got caught up in the plants and butterflies. We started in the Earl and Donnalee Holton Arid Garden, otherwise known as the place of pokey plants.
|Arid plants have the most fascinating architectural structure.|
|These barrel cactuses have the softest looking cushions on top… LIES!|
|Even in the desert there are beautiful colors.|
Off of the Arid Gardens there is a room with the Carnivorous plants. These amazing plants “eat” or rather dissolve insects (or other living things) that become trapped in them by various nefarious ways depending on the plant. This talent allows plants in this genus to live in fairly hostile acidic soil conditions with very poor nutrient content.
|Giant pitcher plant hanging from a tree. |
I do not have one of these types of plants; maybe Sir T will let me if the flies get too bad?
|Mom brought a magnifying glass for the kids to check out tiny things.|
|Sundew and Venus Fly Trap plants in moss. Wouldn’t this make a cute terrarium?|
Next was the Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse Caterpillar Room and the Monarch Butterfly exhibit. I like these rooms as they are planted with things that grow here in Michigan. They are just a month or three earlier in bloom time for the exhibit. It makes my outdoor garden heart happy. There were many butterfly weed plants with monarch caterpillars in various instar stages on them along with chrysalis waiting to hatch. An instar is kind of like a caterpillar year, it is the interval between molts. After it hatches it becomes an eating machine and goes through five instars. It is labeled first instar, second instar etc. depending on the number of molts the caterpillar has undergone. We saw tiny little guys and big ones who were well on their way to pupating.
|Inspecting caterpillars, chrysalis and learning the lifecycle of a monarch butterfly.|
|Hungry, hungry caterpillar. I love the light in this picture. Where’s Waldo test: |
There is another caterpillar in this picture. Can you find him?
|The two stages of the chrysalis. It is only in the very last part of the development of the butterfly that the casing turns clear. It will hatch very soon.|
|We visited the same clear chrysalis you see above about an hour later and the butterfly had come out. Gorgeous! Monarchs are part of the brush footed butterfly family so they appear to only have 4 legs instead of the required 6 that all insects have.|
|Everyone is still smiling at this point.|
After a break for lunch and two passes through the cactus and monarchs, we were now ready to tackle the jungle and see butterflies from around the world. There were many, many people here so I found people walking through my shot, apologizing and then being bumped by another. No one was rude; it was just packed with people. I also realized that I REALLY should go watch all the videos on how to use my camera. It took me almost 10 minutes to figure out how to turn off my flash – it is one of the functions on the main selector knob. I also had to readjust to a camera that actually auto focused again. It just didn’t always focus on what I wanted it to focus on with my telephoto lens. It was also hard to see on the small display if I had actually succeeded capturing the tiny butterfly legs or the veins in the butterfly’s wing. I think I managed to get a few good shots though.
|My first butterfly shot… a little off center but very much in focus.|
|Peek a boo. Isn’t that a cool shadow?|
|Checked out the butterfly release station and found my first blue morpho. The white one on the left side up high is a white morpho. I never figured out what the one on the right below the blue morpho was.|
ORCHIDS!!! Along with the butterflies there are numerous orchids in the exhibit.
|Orchids native to North America are called Ladies’ Slippers for obvious reasons.|
I would love to grow some of these in my yard but they are illegal to dig from the wild and are finicky in their needs. Since it takes seven years to grow a plant from seed, illegal harvesting has devastated wild stands and those who sustainably raise these plants cannot compete with the prices of stolen ones. Seeds run about $15 a packet and a single plant is over $100. Perhaps someday if I am able to rescue some plants from construction destruction (the only time it is legal to move them) I will be able to have some.
|I realized after I made the collage that I am obviously partial to pink and purple orchids.|
|A Postman butterfly perfectly coordinated with its orchid perch.|
|More color coordination – Small Postman with an orange orchid.|
|Beautiful arch of Phalaenopsis orchid flowers. I think there are 13 blooms on this one stem.|
|I like the colors in this one.|
|Tillandsia (air plants) were tucked in trees and on logs around the greenhouse. |
If you don’t know what these are, then you are missing out on the newest plant fad.
|The textures, colors and structures of plants are amazing.|
|Nellie found a Scarlet Mormon butterfly that matched her outfit. She was so excited!|
I did stalk my blue morpho butterfly as usual and I was blessed twice to have an opportunity to get its picture with the wings open. Early on in our first visit to the greenhouse I changed out my regular lens for my telephoto lens which was cold and it steamed up in the hot humidity. While I was wiping off the lens a blue morpho landed ON me. I grinned and stood really still as I became the center of attention for a few moments. My mom actually got a shot of it with her phone camera which was really cool. I got this picture off of FB, credit Kathy Slawson.
|Kinda hard to take a picture of a butterfly when it is ON my camera!|
I took a LOT of pictures of the several blue mophos that I saw in a rare moment of resting with open wings, but learned a couple of hard lessons when I downloaded them on the computer. First, the reflective blue is hard to focus on and I did a terrible job of doing it. Second, because my camera’s focal length is so specifically narrow, I might have a sliver of the butterfly in focus but the rest is not, making the entire photo unusable. I have to work on learning how my camera focuses.
|This shot was taken with my regular lens and while it is in good focus, it appears very small.|
|Here is a close up of the same photo but the quality is poor. |
I was able to switch out my lens for the rest of the shots before it flew away.
|Here is a perfect example of my very tight focus depth. |
I have the edge of the wing in perfect focus but the larger wing is not and thus the photo looks burry.
|This is much better but still not pristine as I just couldn’t get both of those amazing blue wings in focus.|
|I got it! Well, part of it. I just need to make a composite of the two pictures with each part that is in focus.|
The fact that I was able to take over 50 pictures total of a blue Morpho with its wings OPEN was a slight miracle considering how many people were there and the short amount of time I had over all. Enjoy the blue Shannon. Just enjoy the blue. I finished taking pictures and came back to find my family sitting on a bench. Done, they all look done. It was hot in the greenhouse and crowded and if you weren’t taking pictures, kinda boring. How many times can you walk around a little circle of plants?
|I think they are melting. Time to go home.|
|I was given some birthday money by my aunt (THANK YOU!) and I bought a couple fun things at the gift shop.|
I’ll leave you with one more picture and my gratitude for my mom who sponsored this trip and the patience all of them had with me and my clicking. It was a wonderful birthday present.
|I think there is a rule that you have to get your picture taken in the butterfly chair in the entrance.|