The butterfly garden

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On the same early August day that I visited the Smithsonian’s Heirloom Garden, I also enjoyed a long walk back and forth through the Butterfly Habitat Garden, located on the east side of the National Museum of Natural History.

The garden is made up of plants that have specific relationships to the life cycles of eastern U.S. butterflies. As you walk along, you pass sections that mimic habitats important to the insects: wetlands, meadows, edges of woods, urban gardens.

It’s a long corridor really, bordered by busy 9th Street, N.W., on one side and the museum’s parking lot on the other. Yet, stepping in, you feel enveloped in another world, one that combines a little city polish with naturalism.

I offer these pictures from last summer as more inspiration for those in cold climates who are deep into their nursery catalogs and graph paper, planning for spring.

I haven’t labeled all the plants because the Smithsonian’s interactive map at this link has plant lists for each habitat.  (However, they do not include the grey-green plants in the first and seventh photos  [It’s dinosaur kale, possibly Brassica oleracea var. acephala ‘Lacinato’ or ‘Cavalo Nero’] or the tall plants with the small, purple, fuzzy blooms in the tenth.  [It’s Ironweed, Vernonia.  Thanks James Golden.]  Can anyone identify them?  I feel they are just on the tip of my brain.)

To see much larger versions of the slideshow photos, click on ‘Continue reading’ below and then click on the first thumbnail. You’ll be able to scroll through the images in succession.

The original, and smaller, butterfly garden was built in 1995 with a grant from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee, which raises money for Smithsonian projects by putting on the Smithsonian Craft Show. This year’s 30th anniversary show is April 19-22 at the National Building Museum. Check it out. (In 2000, the garden was expanded with a gift from the Garden Club of America.)

7 thoughts on “The butterfly garden

  1. Purple – Vernonia – Iron weed (so it appears). Can’t make out the texture of the grey leaves. Are they crinkly? Some kind of kale?

    I’m having a similar urge to post spring and summer photos. First snow last weekend (excluding the most inappropriate snow/ice storm of Oct. 28!).

    1. Thanks!. Ironweed it is. (Also the title of a 1982 novel by Pulitzer Prize-winner William Kennedy — aren’t search engines great?)

      The grey leaves do look crinkly. It looks like a kale or cabbage relative. I feel I have seen it before, but I just can’t bring a name to the surface.

  2. Beautiful! It’s on my to-do list. I don’t know why I often ignore doing things in DC when it’s so close. Perhaps that’s why–things are so close that I feel like I can always get to them “next weekend.” You’re inspiring me to see some of the beautiful gardens around here.

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