The Butterfly Zone
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The Conservatory of Flowers' exhibition of live butterflies returns with double the number of butterflies and special new Night Safaris
March 18 – November 2, 2008
SAN FRANCISCO – Fly on over to the Conservatory of Flowers this spring because the butterflies are back, and there are more than ever. The popular exhibit "The Butterfly Zone" returns to San Francisco's beloved greenhouse March 18 – November 2, 2008 with double the number of butterflies and special new Night Safaris starting in May, that let you search with flashlights for nocturnal moths.
The exhibit is a unique opportunity to walk amongst a wide variety of brightly colored blossoms while free-flying butterflies flit from flower to flower, drinking nectar and getting covered in pollen. Visitors can see a dazzling array of more than 25 species of colorful butterflies including Zebra Longwings, Julias, Swallowtails and Monarchs. These goodwill ambassadors of the insect world provide a fascinating demonstration of plant pollination in action, and the exhibit offers handy explanations of the critical role pollinators play in the life cycle of plants.
Amazing facts about butterflies abound as well – did you know butterflies taste with their feet? It's true! They use taste receptors in their feet to determine whether or not the flower they are standing on will make a good stop for a drink of nectar. And were you aware that the Monarch migration is over 2000 miles? Scientists still don't know how the last generation of northbound Monarchs understands how to fly all that distance south to the exact spot where their great great great grandparents began.
The Butterfly Bungalow in the middle of the gallery is a crowd favorite, allowing visitors to observe one of the most critical stages of the butterfly's life cycle – the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly. At the Bungalow, you can see the chrysalides, hardened exoskeletons formed by the caterpillars. These intriguing structures are as various as the creatures that created them -- some jade colored with lovely gold spots, some sporting prominent and unusual horns. Inside, one of the great mysteries of nature is taking place -- a total metamorphosis during which the caterpillar liquefies completely and its cells reorganize into a butterfly. Many visitors will be lucky enough to catch the moment when one of these transformed and winged beauties emerges.
Butterflies may be the highlight of this exhibit, but pollinators come in all shapes and sizes including moths. This year, the Conservatory is providing visitors a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with these nocturnal pollinators after dark. Special Night Safaris every first and third Thursday starting at 8 pm May 1 to October 2 let families explore with flashlights to look for the mysterious, green Luna moth. This night-flying behemoth is one of the largest species in North America with a five-inch wingspan. Alive for only one week with the sole purpose of reproducing, the Luna has no mouth and must live on the energy it stored as a caterpillar. Night Safari goers can also hunt for the Great Southern White and can see flocks of butterflies roosting in the rafters for the night. The entire building will be open to investigate as well.
Director Brent Dennis hopes that these memorable encounters with butterflies and moths will inspire visitors to care for the world's pollinators. "We'd like to think that the delight people experience when they are surrounded by these living beauties will make them think twice about using toxic insecticides or paving over habitat," he says. "Our food supply and survival really do depend on the birds and the bees. Maybe getting eye to eye with a butterfly is just the thing to encourage change."
The exhibit is open Tuesdays – Sundays from 9 am to 5 pm and is included with admission to the Conservatory of $5 general; $3 youth 12-17, seniors and students with ID; $1.50 children 5-11; children 4 and under FREE. Night Safaris start at 8 pm on first and third Thursdays of the month May 1 to October 2, 2008 and are included with admission. On these evenings, the conservatory will close at 9:30 pm. The public should call (415) 666-7001 or visit www.conservatoryofflowers.org for more information.
The Conservatory of Flowers is a spectacular living museum of rare and beautiful tropical plants under glass. From Borneo to Bolivia, the 1,750 species of plants at the Conservatory represent unusual flora from more than 50 countries around the world. Immersive displays in five galleries include the lowland tropics, highland tropics, aquatic plants, potted plants and special exhibits. Opened in 1879, the wood and glass greenhouse is the oldest existing conservatory in North America and has attracted millions of visitors to Golden Gate Park since it first opened its doors. It is designated as a city, state and national historic landmark and was one of the 100 most endangered sites of the World Monuments Fund.