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Winged Beauty By: Andrew Priest

Since last month, a garden in New York City’s American Museum of Natural History has been aflutter with hundreds of colorful butterflies from around the world. Through the spring, the AMNH’s Whitney Hall of Oceanic Birds will be home to as many as 500 butterflies from farms in both Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia, living in a vivarium that simulates and replicates their natural habitats. For them, that means live flowering plants to provide nectar, artificial lighting and temperature and humidity control.

The garden itself is an ever-changing attraction of its own, as the plants change each year to suit the butterflies that are present. “The garden will be replanted a little differently in both structure and the variety of different plants,” says Hazel Davies, AMNH’s director of living exhibits,

“We always ask to have a mix of different species from the farms, so it is possible they will send something that we have not had before.” But returning favorites include the Blue Morpho, the Owl and the Paper Kite Butterfly. A quick note for their visitors: Be careful when interacting them. “We ask people not to touch the butterflies or pick them off plants or feeders so as not to disturb them when eating or drinking,” Davies says.

If visitors are calm enough, the butterflies will come to them. And guests are encouraged to take photos. Vivarium tickets are available in 15-minute blocks from 10:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. For those seeking more when their time with the butterflies ends, there are exhibits on butterfly anatomy and metamorphosis, evolution and ecology, butterfly conservation and how to grow your own butterfly garden. What else is there at AMNH? It’s famous for the Great Canoe, a sailing vessel carved from a single cedar tree in the 1870s. There’s also a Tyrannosaurus rex and a nearly 16-ton iron meteorite that was found in Willamette, Oregon. Science in the city. It’s a great way to spend a chilly afternoon.

Tickets start at $23. amnh.org

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