Blooming Butterflies

Zebra Butterfly (dwm photo)
Every summer Olbrich Botanical Gardens makes it easy to see more butterflies than most of us have ever seen.

Blooming Butterflies opened July 20 it closes August 13.  Each week, chrysalises are flown in to Madison from butterfly farms around the country.

They hatch and the winged colors live out their lives in the Bolz Conservatory.  Most butterflies live only a month or so.

Top - Pipevine Swallowtail
Lower - Julia
Right - White Peacock
Before the doors opened, I walked around the grounds, finding and getting photos of a Monarch Butterfly as it rested on a leaf.  I hope to share those and more butterfly photos on Tuesday.

Inside, at least 18 types of butterfly flitted around the tropical paradise.

It's a large space.  Palm trees reach for the vaulted glass roof.  A water fall provides a feature and habitat for birds who live there year-round.  There are 650 plants, including orchids.

Additional flowers line the walking paths on the floor and at tree top level.

The hot spot was in the sun.  The butterflies (did you know they are cold-blooded?) use the sun to warm up.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (dwm)
I captured ten of the beauties with a camera.

There is a fairyland quality to the experience of being so close to these moving pieces of art.

A butterfly is so delicate, it seems to defy reality.  Even in the protected environment of the conservatory I saw a couple butterflies with torn wings.  Some flew on limply, others remained tied to earth.

Above the leaves, a Julia Butterfly basks in the sun.
The sun and the surroundings tend to make the butterflies easier to approach.

Easier, not easy.

My photographer isn't quick enough to capture butterflies in flight, so he hopes they will pose for more than a second or two.

Judging what alerts butterflies is beyond me.  I don't know if they can hear or see me coming.

It's possible they can see shadows or shapes or sense the space around them changing.

Black Swallowtails flit around.
The immersive experience with such a variety of tiny winged creatures is captivating for young and old alike.

The Zebra butterfly (top right) was one of the last ones I saw. It seemed to glide effortlessly while most of the rest seemed to bop up and down on waves of air.

The Zebra, with it's white strips on black (or is it black stripes on white?), is a sleek aircraft.  The ones flying around me appeared to have yellow stripes, yet when I'm looking at them again, look white.

Newly hatched Monarchs (dwm)
The Eastern Tiger Swallowtail reminded me of a photo adventure back in Indianapolis at a picnic.  I noticed the graceful yellow wings around thistle blossoms and went to check it out.

The butterfly posed for 15 minutes or more, gently flying from one bloom to another while allowing me to focus my camera from less than six inches away.  Those remain some of my favorite shots.

You can still get yours at the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, the butterflies are blooming until August 13.