Festival of Butterflies Recap & Late Summer Treasures

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Festival of Butterflies Recap & Late Summer Treasures

Categories: Blog, Garden Guru, Newsworthy

I hope you got to see the phenomenal moths of this year’s Festival of Butterflies. Here’s a quick overview in case you missed them; we hope to have them back again next year.

Rothschild’s Silkmoth (Rothschildia lebeau) from Costa Rica was spectacular with its four windowed wings and pink frosting highlights.

 The Luna Moth (Actias luna) (left) from North America and the African Moon Moth (Argema mimosae) from Africa were both in good view in our display. Yes they are related and similar species of “moon” or “comet” moths occur around the world and are among the favorite of all moths. Luna Moth was hands-down the favorite native moth by those viewing our native moth collections in the Caterpillar Experience.


 The stars of the Conservatory display were the HUGE female Atlas Moths (Attacus atlas) which had wingspans of 12 inches. I never did capture the astounded faces of visitors seeing this huge moth for the first time! The female has larger wings to transport its larger body full of hundreds of eggs for the next generation.

The male Atlas Moths were much smaller with more elongated wingtips — the wingtips apparently look like snake heads as a defense against predators. This Atlas Moth had a particularly rich cherry brown coloration.

Here are some other scenes to recap Powell Gardens 15th annual Festival of Butterflies: 

A Blue Morpho (Morpho peleides) visits overripe fruit treats in the conservatory and color echos stunningly with a bromeliad bloom, which was just one of many tropical plants on display. (photo by Betsy Betros)

Blue Morpho’s colors are from grooved scales on their wings that refract light — that is why they appear to shimmer. The scale structure on their wings has helped us create better digital photography technology (like your camera phone!).

When Blue Morphos land they usually keep their wings closed and show this unique pattern of browns and eye spots. Many visitors pause to see if resting butterflies will open their wings for a photo opportunity.

Our Bird-of-Paradise bloomed for the show in the conservatory. It’s stunning flower is the national flower of South Africa, where it grows wild. (photo by Betsy Betros)
This Rothschild Silkmoth (Rothschildia lebeau) is from Costa Rica. Its Spanish name translates to “Four Windows” as the center of each wing has a large eye spot that is like cellophane.  (photo by Betsy Betros)

This is a picture of one of our figs (Ficus carica) outside in the Heartland Harvest Garden but you can see that under a leaf is a Zebra Swallowtail resting during one of our rainy spells during the festival. Most butterflies find shelter like this during rain or inclement weather. (photo by Betsy Betros)

Visitors perused our collection of butterflies and moths on display in the Caterpillar Experience room. (photo by Betsy Betros)

Brett Budach (volunteer) visits with guests about some of our many live caterpillars on display in the Caterpillar Experience. (photo by Betsy Betros)

Here visitors are enamored by our Carolina Sphinxcaterpillars; a.k.a. “tobacco hornworms.” We had the complete life cycle of these unique moth from egg to caterpillar, pupae and moth on display. (photo by Betsy Betros)

Our Caterpillar float created by volunteer Master Naturalist Linda Williams was the hit of the daily festival parade around the Fountain Garden. It is in the likeness of the Cecropia Moth caterpillar, which is the largest moth in North America.  (photo by Betsy Betros)

We still are a botanical garden and the grounds abound with flowers even after the blazing heat and drought we have experienced. Here are some pink and white Queen Anne’s-lace (Daucus carota) blooming near the Chapel trolley stop.

This Vertigo (TM) Fountain Grass (Pennisetum hybrid) outside the cafe is also a stunning plant surviving the harsh season and being one of the finest foliage grasses we’ve ever seen.

Crape Myrtles are another flowering plant that relished our HOT weather and are currently in bloom around the gardens. This is the cultivar ‘Hopi’ near the south side of the Visitor Center.

Sweet Coneflowers (Rudbeckia subtomentosa) are a native wildflower that has also done well through this hot, dry spell and are in bloom in the “insectary” gardens around the Fountain.
Although the 2011 Festival of Butterflies is in the books, there’s still plenty to see. Enjoy the beauty and bounty of the gardens–from a trip to the Heartland Harvest Garden’s observation silo to a splash in the Fountain Garden, peak bloom of waterlilies on the Island Garden, to a bit of solace in our E. Fay Jones designed chapel — what better place to spend one of the last days of summer!