The Smithsonian Butterfly Habitat Garden

The Smithsonian Butterfly Habitat Garden

The Smithsonian Butterfly Habitat Garden is an 11,000-square foot area that supports a variety of plant species which have specific associations and relationships to life cycles of butterflies indigenous to the eastern United States.  Built in 1999, the garden contains four distinct habitats, consisting of wetland, meadow, wood’s edge and urban gardens.  Each of these habitats is planted with alluring flowers, foliage, grasses and water features that provide sustenance, shelter, or other necessities for the butterflies.  The plants are chosen and maintained to demonstrate the partnerships between plants and butterflies.

The garden is just a block long with two parallel paths leading through it, and many see the walkways as just a quick cut-through to the street on the other side.  But a slower pace is worth the time.  The garden contains a multitude of artfully enameled signs with text and illustrations that identify the plants and interpret their particular relationships with different butterflies

The appeal and significance of the garden is found not only in the beauty of the plant species themselves, but in the butterflies which are attracted to and dependent on them.  The Butterfly Habitat Garden offers the added bonus of being able to observe the regular visits from several dozen different types of butterflies, which vary from year to year depending on their populations.  The winged visitors include Monarchs, skippers, swallowtails, and Red Admirals.  And with tours available on a regular basis from June through September, repeat visitors can view the actual butterfly life cycle and gain insight into the miraculous metamorphosis of the butterfly species.  During the winter months or other times when butterflies are not readily available in the outdoor garden, there is a butterfly exhibit within the nearby National Museum of Natural History, where guests are allowed to go inside the controlled environment “Butterfly Pavilion” which houses butterflies year round.  The ironically named Orkin Insect Zoo is also located in the museum, and is also worth a visit.

The Smithsonian Butterfly Habitat Garden is located on the east side of the Natural History Museum building, at 9th Street between Constitution Avenue and the National Mall (MAP) in downtown D.C.  The garden is accessible and free to the public, and is always open.

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[Click on the photos above to view the full size versions]


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