Thursday, February 18, 2010


A visit to the Key West Butterfly & Nature Conservatory was doubly a foregone conclusion: first, because this sort of thing is exactly what we love to do on vacation; second, because one of our friends who’s down here is Doug Taron (blog: Gossamer Tapestry) who is a major force at a Butterfly museum and laboratory in Chicago, with a specialty in the propagation of endangered varieties.

So, we headed off to the Conservatory after our visit to Papa Hemingway had ended. Being the celebrity he is in the world of insect studies, Doug was greeted warmly by Sam, the co-owner/operator/resident butterfly artist, who very kindly comped us into the heart of the operation –- the big all-glass conservatory.

Butterflies have a short life span –- some of them last only two weeks. Doug had hoped to arrange for a cutting of a plant whose pollen is the fountain of youth for one particular variety, extending its active reproductive life to five months. But it so happened that one worker mistook the Conservatory’s plants for weeds and destroyed them all. Cold weather has destroyed the desired plant at other butterfly sites, so Doug will have to return to work empty-handed.

The Conservatory is s magical place, its environment containing a wide variety of flowering plants and trees, flowing water in woodland settings with fish and other aquatic or amphibious animals, and birds carefully chosen to NOT feed on live butterflies. All serve a function in the life of the environment, including cleaning up the insects when they die.

The butterflies exist together with their visitors in the big conservatory, frequently landing on shoulders, heads and arms. These blue ones flashed brilliantly through the air.

Others landed at feeding stations placed at frequent intervals along the trails snaking through the environment.

A bit of insect camouflage.

Two miniature grouse, one very nicely disguised, on the environment's "floor."

Another butterfly resting on the back on one of the many turtles in the stream running through the exhibit.

Our other visit was to The Little White House of President Harry Truman, which is located on the Naval Base at the western end of the island. Truman was in a state of exhaustion at the end of his first year as President after having taken over unexpectedly from Franklin Roosevelt. His doctors recommended a working rest cure in Florida and the Base Commander's old building was chosen as his residence/office. The climate and atmosphere at the base worked wonders and Truman fell in love with the place, coming down from the capital ten more times during his presidency for working vacations.

The second time he arrived, it was to find the large house transformed by a Miami interior decorator who had created a relaxed, informal and comfortable but very chic suite of rooms for both domestic and official purposes. Truman's devotion to the place has led to its being made available to several later Presidents (Eisenhower, Kennedy, Carter, Clinton) and other officials of various administrations to use for official business or simple vacations. Much of the final phase of the Second World War, the reorganization of the military (creation of the Defense Department; the integration of the armed forces which Truman insisted on despite overwhelming resistance by white Americans), and the rebuilding of war-devastated Europe was planned and implemented from this modest but very important building.

What an amazing post... I am living vicariously through your adventures.
And I just happened to hear that you were at breakfast with another handsome blogger this morning. Be careful who you hang around with.
Gorgeous photos! Sounds like you're having a great time!
Stephen, I have confidence you've had a cornucopia of adventures all your own.

Arnie, I'm being careful to hang round with handsome bloggers (and non-bloggers, being an equal-opportunity flirt); there are plenty of both here.

Walt -- yes, we've enjoyed ourselves
here very much indeed.
While I love these posts, I can not believe you have your computer turned on!
But glad you do, how about your mate?
travel safely
You must be pleased with your butterfly shots, Will. In the meantime, another blogger with a name not a million miles away from yours arrives in London and comes to a concert and a talk, thanks to the select communication on the blogosphere.
One would think this is Gossamer Tapestry with all these lovely butterfly photos.

I very much enjoyed our time together - pleasant journey to you both !
Beautiful pictures indeed. How come my pictures never look as good? Must be my cheap Kodak.

I do love butterfly conservatories. I didn't know there was one in Key West. Next time I'm down there I'll have to check it out. We have a small one here in northern Massachusetts (Westford I believe). Ever been?

Terrible that a worker destroyed those plants. It really extends they're lift to 5 months?
Terrific shots will. Looks like you had a grand time.
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