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Saturday, June 15, 2013

Relax at the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory

Whenever I close my eyes and envision my “happy place,” it closely resembles the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory. I was enchanted when I entered the 5,000-square-foot glass-enclosed greenhouse tucked away at the southern end of Duval Street, the main drag in Key West's historic district. More than 800 butterflies fluttered merrily about the bright tropical blooms, accompanied by melodious birdsong and a splashing waterfall. Designed around a Victorian theme with a soaring 37-foot ceiling, a koi pond and a white gazebo, the garden was a natural theater with one small drama after another.
Two large Blue Morpho butterflies shimmered as they danced a circular mating path along the pebble-line stream. Turtles jockeyed for the best spot to sun themselves on the footbridge. A pair of candy-colored striped Lady Gouldian Finches puffed up their feathers in a brief territorial dispute among the branches of a Jatropha tree. I had to watch my step, as Painted Button quail, small brown-and-white balls of feathers, were underfoot along the winding brick path. Flitting from red powder-puff flowers to fuchsia impatiens, the butterflies stopped just long enough for a sip of nectar and a photo-op. An orange-and-black longwing butterfly landed on my toe, and a woman walking by commented, “When a butterfly lands on you, it means good luck.” The butterflies come to the conservatory from farms around the world in the chrysalis stage. I watched as they brought out some hatchlings, and a Blue Morpho made his first flight into a new world.

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