In 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.”
This 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.
Key West Butterfly Museum & Nature Conservatory
But 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.
Relaxing 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.