Terra Sigillata

i-4dad23615c9a9a2021306bf8d8488b6c-FLKEYsouthernmost.jpgIn our last few hours bidding farewell to the Conch Republic, we stopped at the Southernmost Point marker. Regular commenter and blogger leigh (the path forward) reminded us to “get a picture of the family pharmboy at the southernmost point marker, that’s classic cheesy fun.” Well, dear leigh, we found that the marker does not currently look like the photo to the right – as of Saturday, the buoy is only repainted with the bands of color and devoid of any identifying lettering.

In fact, this classic comment appeared in the Citizen’s Voice section of the Key West Citizen on Sunday, 14 December – sadly, the author of this biting wit is unknown:

“I drive past the Southernmost point every day and I’ve been monitoring the massive makeover of the monument that’s been ongoing now for what seems a fortnight. I can’t imagine what form of proletariats are undertaking this undertaking, but it occurred to me that one besotted boatswain mate could blast that buoy down to bare metal and have it primed with blue death and red lead, enameled and lettered in three to four hours. Tops.”

i-ebb2afc4770fca2869e00154a20d84dd-Southernmost Cuban 300px.jpgThis did not stop any of the turistas from taking their own photos there – I asked PharmGirl if she and the PharmKid wanted a picture, too, but she looked at me as though I were the victim of delusions.

Instead, we looked at the plaques around the marker that included this description of the history of Blacks in the area and a dedication to Cubans who perished in trying to leave the island and make it to Key West seeking freedom. This put the tomfoolery around the marker in sober perspective.
i-0accbf1f42df4c21edaf2ec9da60c8f5-Blacks Southernmost 515px.jpg

Key West Butterfly Museum & Nature Conservatory

i-2da54a071df04b1d032d9cd773d56448-KY Butterfly Museum 260px.jpgBut if you are in the area, do yourself a favor and go up a block on South St then make a left onto Duval to the Key West Butterfly Museum & Nature Conservatory. Voted as the #1 attraction in the Key West by the People’s Choice Awards, this butterfly house more than lives up to the claim and the rave reviews at sites such as TripAdvisor.com. I’ve been to a few butterfly conservatories and while some may be larger, this one is simply outstanding, especially with respect to the density and variety of butterflies.

The entrance is through the gift shop with adult admission $10 with kids under 3 free, an allowance generously made for the 6-year-old PharmKid ($1 off coupons can be found everywhere). The attendant very nicely explained butterfly etiquette to PK (it’s okay to let the butterflies land on you but don’t grab the butterflies, yell at the butterflies, step on the quail, or pick the flowers) in non-threatening kidspeak – however, some older kids inside didn’t quite get it and could’ve used some more threatening instructions which PharmGirl was very close to giving.

The conservatory opens with a display room with a 15-minute video on a continuous loop and then enters the glass-roofed conservatory full of 50 to 60 species of butterflies and some of the most impeccably-tended tropical plants I have seen. As shown in a previous post, the ground is inhabited by quail which keep the ant and other ground pest population to a minimum.

i-d17c8f2e1d7e0896aab66b0d29cd4147-Key West Butterfly Museum.jpgRelaxing new-agey music plays and there are several benches where one can sit for a spell and take in the beauty of the plants, trees, butterflies, and stream. A hatching center is on display full of chrysalises and makes for fun observation.

The gift shop (available online) features a great selection of anything you could ever want to buy related to butterflies as well as general resources of nature in the Florida Keys. The associated Wings of Imagination gallery offers butterfly display cases whose specimens are collected from farmed butterflies that have lived out their natural life of two to four weeks.

The gallery and conservatory is the brainchild of Sam Trophia and his partner, George Fernandez, who moved to Key West in 1993. Trophia’s development as a lepidoptorist began at age 9 in upstate New York when he watched his first caterpillar metamorphose into a butterfly (South Florida Sun-Sentinel article here). Beyond the conservatory itself, Trophia’s vision gave rise to The Trophia Butterfly Foundation. The foundation is dedicated to restoration and enhancement of butterfly habitat across the Florida Keys and community projects such as the establishment butterfly gardens at senior centers and public schools and, most recently, at the Key West National Weather Service station. In February they will sponsor a trip to Mexico with a University of Florida lepidoptorist to tour the migration grounds of the monarch butterfly.

Information for visiting the Key West Butterfly Museum & Conservatory can be found here.


  1. #1 leigh
    December 23, 2008

    aw, that’s too bad the marker was under renovation when you visited. and thanks for the mention 🙂

    the butterfly museum sounded like a great visit. we talked about stopping there on our last day, but the weather was threatening and we wanted to get to the mainland before it got too nasty.

    unfortunately, i ended up driving across the seven-mile bridge in a very ugly storm anyway. [shrug] an interesting experience!

  2. #2 Chemgeek
    December 24, 2008

    I’ve enjoyed your Key West posts of late. My wife and I are planning on spending our 11th anniversary there next December (we would have done it on our 10th, but we just had a baby). We will definitely check out the sites you mentioned.

  3. #3 Abel Pharmboy
    December 26, 2008

    @leigh – I thought it was pretty funny watching everyone taking their pictures even though the buoy was half-finished. We flew straight out this time instead of driving back to Miami – indeed, the weather could be a little rough a few months earlier.

    @Chemgeek – thanks so much for your comments. I know these were pretty self-indulgent and put them up mostly to chronicle our journeys and promote local business, but I hope there was at least a little science in them for the diehard readers (although our traffic did plummet quite a bit). Congratulations on the new baby! We went the first time together when PharmGirl was 3 mos pregnant but definitely had a far better time when PharmKid was abou 18 mos old. Definitely do it if you can swing the cash and time off. December is a terrific time: after the hurricanes but before the wet season. Temps of 72-78F and we had sun every day with perhaps the threat of rain one day. Bugs were extremely low – didn’t get my first no-see-um bite until Wed and couldn’t even find a mosquito.

  4. #4 Denise
    January 2, 2009

    All I want to know is did you get any fishing in 😉 😉 AND did you eat any stone crab claws :rockon:
    Happy New Year to you and yours 🙂

  5. #5 Jillyfish
    January 5, 2009

    I am SOOOOOO JEALOUS that you were able to see the Butterfly Museum!! You lucky duck! Stetson (Kennedy) has long spoke of it’s many wonders and his desire for me to see it. He has even tempted me by offering to treat my sister, Lynn (lives in West Palm Beach) and myself to a day there …….. if we would just take the short drive from her house! ….I’m gonna have to MAKE THE TIME to go there DANG NAB IT! I need ideas for Stetson’s own butterfly garden that he has envisioned for years now.

    Sheesh, NEVER enough hours in a day.! Ha! Ha!

    Looking forward to the time you bring your guitar and play with Alvah Allen (remember he played “Beluthahatchee Bill” at the “Evenning with Stetson Kennedy”) on the deck at Stetson’s home. Hope that time will come in 2009!!!!!!! And I know Alvah shares your enjoyment of playing folk music. He also plays Steve Blackwell’s tunes. What a great sound ya’ll would make!

    So, all ya’ll come on down to Beluthahatchee soon! Dang Nab It!

    Your Friend Always,
    The Jillyfish

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