You may have seen the billboards along I-75 or the brochures in any tourist destination along the Suncoast that entice you to the Butterfly Rainforest. It took me far too many years to act on those prompts but now I’m so happy I have. The Butterfly Rainforest at the Florida Museum of Natural History is part of the University of Florida, so now that I have my very own Baby Gator, I get to stop by this lovely space after making the drive and it is a pleasure! They change the flowering plants and butterflies regularly, so there is always something new to see.
The Butterfly Rainforest has more than 1,000 butterflies and usually more than 50 types of butterflies and moths here at any moment and I cannot begin to identify them all for you – you will have to go see them for yourself for that detail. But I do love to admire the great variety of colors, sizes, wing shapes, and even antennae. It’s really a beautiful sight – here’s a peek:
Butterflies are well known to be sensitive creatures. Their lifespan in the exhibit is typically just two to five weeks. Obviously, visitors cannot intentionally touch any butterflies – although they will occasionally light upon an unsuspecting visitor – because their wings can easily be damaged. Keep in mind the weather when you plan to visit because butterflies are sensitive to that as well. If you wish to see them all flying about and actively feeding, try to get there when temperatures are above 65 degrees Fahrenheit. On a chilly day (for Florida), they will still be there, but not flying about or feeding nearly as much, mainly conserving energy by staying still in one spot. This is great for taking pictures but you do need to be more observant because their movement may not catch your eye and many are very talented at blending in with their surroundings. It’s easy to pass by some beautiful specimens simply by walking through too quickly to enjoy the opportunity to really see the surroundings.
In addition to the butterflies, there are a few other creatures that share this beautiful space, namely a group of somewhat quirky small flightless birds that may scurry behind the shrubs or cross the path in front of you, a few even smaller flighted birds, koi fish in the lovely water feature that streams throughout the exhibit, and an occasional impressively camouflaged reptile. I loved the sounds of the birds – I find it relaxing. There are a couple of benches along the way to rest and simply take in the sounds and beauty.
I have a notoriously black thumb which wields the power to kill even “lucky” bamboo so while I greatly admire and appreciate plant life, I have learned to do so respectfully and from a distance, for their benefit. This place has beautiful abundant plant life, flowers, vines…. anyone who knows plants will also appreciate that aspect of this beautiful rain forest environment.
If you happen to find yourself in the Gainesville area of Florida, do yourself a favor and make the stop here. You will not only find yourself surrounded by beautiful butterflies, but there’s the entire Florida Museum of Natural History to experience! You can’t miss that!
It’s also right next to the art museum, but that will have to be a separate post entirely because I haven’t made it there yet. Just know that there is a lot here to make Gainesville a wonderful place to spend the day.
And don’t forget to check out nearby Paynes Prairie State Park to see the wild horses and bison!