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Atala butterfly eggs hatch at Historical Museum

By Staff | Sep 5, 2019

Eggs of a species of butterfly that was considered to be extinct in the ’50s, hatched at the Cape Coral Historical Museum’s certified butterfly garden earlier this week.

The center’s master gardeners added the eggs, and some caterpillars, of the Atala butterfly rediscovered in the Miami and Broward County area in 1979. The tropical butterfly also are found on some of the islands in the Caribbean.

“Rotary Park here in Cape Coral managed to get Atalas eggs and they have started the garden down there,” master gardener Carolyn France said.

The Atala butterfly needs two things before they can be introduced to a new habitat – the host plant coontie, and a nectar plant.

The coontie is a nice evergreen native that looks like palm fronds, France said.

“That is what the newly hatched caterpillars feed on and the female lays the eggs on the leaves,” she explained. “We got our eggs and caterpillars from Rotary Park three or four weeks ago and this week we had butterflies. We saw two Tuesday that had just emerged from the chrysalis. They had two that were drying their wings and a couple more flying around. It’s a pretty big area.”

The nectar plants are a variety of small white flowers, such as the sweet almond and pentas.

“They seem to like white flowers,” she said.

France said they are really excited about having the Atala butterfly among the multitude of species of butterflies flying in the garden.

The garden was started about 15 years ago by Joan and Warren Bush. When Joan became ill, and Warren could not take care of the garden anymore, other master gardeners stepped in, including France.

“I have been volunteering there now for seven years. There are a couple of the original volunteers still and there are a few new people,” France said.

The garden features Florida Friendly Landscaping, which means all of the plants are either native, or non-invasive “friendly” plants.

The garden features the designated butterfly garden.

“When we took over the garden it was in bad repair because Warren wasn’t able to be there in a year or so. We started cleaning and adding plants to it with the foundation they started. The butterflies just came,” France said.

The Cape Coral Historical Museum has monthly Florida Friendly garden tours on the second Wednesday of the month from 1 to 4 p.m. October through April. The tours are free and open to the public.

There are also gardening workshops scheduled in 2020, which will include “Rain Barrels” from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 21; “Rose Gardens” from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18; “Natural Gardens” from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, March 17; and “Butterfly Gardens” from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 21.

For more information, visit www.capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org/Programming.

The Cape Coral Historical Museum is at 544 Cultural Park Blvd.