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Spirogyra is a butterfly farm and garden located within walking distance of San Jose, Costa Rica's capital. One of our goals is to keep this area, located in the last forested part of the city as a "green oasis' where people can learn about butterflies an their role in the environment and hopefully become sensitive and more aware of the importance of preserving one's habitat.
We proposed ourselves to establish a garden-park where to breed and develop butterflies. Here they will find a natural habitat in a biological adequate medium. Although this is not a new idea, perhaps in Costa Rica this is the only Butterfly Garden-park located right in down town San Jose; really a true tropical peaceful haven in the downtown area of the Capital of Costa Rica.
The vicinity with the "Bolivar Zoological Park" makes our installations even more attractive; not only do they have the beauty of their own biological environment - which is very special - but also, from time to time, on can hear the roars of the wild animals in our neighboring zoological park; this adds a complement of naturalness to our environment only to make this, our Garden-park, especially exclusive, unique and beautiful.
It is not difficult to imagine other cultures, either oriental, European or American, ready and able to design and create their own "garden-parks", similar to ours, where butterflies would naturally feel drawn to live in. In modern times, scholars, scientists and naturalists have created and maintained special habitats where to raise and study these beautiful insects.
When we established Spirogyra, we did it to protect and beautify what may be one of the last little forests existing in the midst of this crammed city of San Jose. At the same time we attempted to offer a vital space; an ecological corner; a place to relax, shady and with abundant vegetation which invites to think and to enjoy life.
In short, a garden-park of butterflies where to contemplate and photograph them; and also a place to learn about these beautiful insects located in a natural habitat to them. Let us say that its design invites in a pleasant and humble way, to know and also to give value to this magic introduction to our Costarican great biodiversity and biological wealth. Although a small country in it's geographical size; big because of the variety of its biological system.
Hours: Monday to Friday 9 a.m. - 2 p.m. / Saturday - Sunday 9 a.m. - 3 p.m.
What follows is a transcript from our visitor's guide:
Welcome to SPIROGYRA Butterfly Garden. Following the numbers during your visit, you will be able to observe the life cycle of butterflies, strategies to survive and their relationship with plants.
There are two categories of plants related to butterflies:
a) Host plants: Each species has it's own plant or group of plants related to each other for laying eggs. When the eggs hatch, the caterpillars feed on the foliage.
b) Flowering plants: Provide nectar to adults. Butterflies have an elongated mouth, like a straw, called proboscis, being able to feed only on liquids. Some of them add to the diet: stung, fermented juices, feces of mammals, sweat and lachrymal fluids.
1- Passiflora biflora. Toxic. Host plant of Heliconius erato, Heliconius charitoneus (zebra) and others.
Heliconius charitoneus Heliconius erato
2- Aritolochia spp. (Dutchman's pipe) Toxic. Host plant of Parides Iphidamas (Chinese) and Parides Photinus.
Parides Iphidamas Parides Photinus
Many Host plants developed toxins to avoid being eaten by herbivores, but some butterflies evolved along with them, assimilating these substances in their body. Therefore they are unpalatable to birds and other predators and show this by having bright or contrasting colors. Predators learn very fast to distinguish between edible and non-edible species.
3- Passiflora vitifolia (passion flower) Toxic. Host plant of Heliconius hecale and Heliconius cydno.
Heliconius hecaleHeliconius cydno
4- Heliconia sp. Host plant of Caligo Memnom, Caligo eurolochius and Caligo atreus (Owl butterfly)
5- Penta spp. (star) It's roll in the garden is to produce nectar to feed butterflies. Other plants for the same purpose are Stachytarphela spp.(cat's tail), Lantana camara (lantana Impatiens sp.) Butterflies learn to ingest nectar from just two or three types of flowers available in their surroundings.
6- Cassia tonduzzii (casia) Host plant or Phoebis sennae (sulfurs), yellow butterflies of different sizes. If you observe with attention you will see butterfly eggs, like small white scales, usually at the border of leaves. Do not be confused with other small protuberances called nectaries. These glands produce nectar attracting ants which in their whereabouts also attack eggs and caterpillars
7- COLLECTION: There are around 1200 species of butterflies and 12000 species of moths. Being insects, they have six legs and belong to the order LEPIDOPTERA (from Latin: lepi=scales, doptera=wings). The wings of these insects are covered with scales.
Characteristics of the three most important families of butterflies:
PIERIDAE: generally single color of white or yellow
PAPILONIDAE: flap their wings while sipping nectar
NYMPHALIDAE: very diverse group characterized by having the first pair of legs reduced, used by females to recognize the host plants.
8- COLORATION: The wings are formed by membranes attached to veins and covered by small scales, giving the color and design to the butterfly, by reflecting and / or refracting light. It is a defense mechanism. Butterflies "protected" by being toxic or having a bad taste are bright colored. Some non-toxic species have imitated these colors and designs to fool predators. Others have iridescent colors to attract mates. An example is Morpho peleides whose scales refract the light in blue tones as a sexual stimulus to others of the same species. Underneath it's wings, it camouflages itself in dark brown colors with multiple eye spots. Clear wing butterflies which live on lower layers of vegetation, have no or translucent scales on the wings.
It's an imitation, as a defense mechanism, of different species or the environment.
CAMOUFLAGE: It's a type of mimicry by imitating things like leaves in order to be similar to the surroundings. Another example is the owl butterfly that has two eye spots, one on each wing, resembling big eyes to scare predators or in case of attack, to direct the attention to less vulnerable parts of the body than the head.
MULLERIAN MIMICRY: Similarity between non-edible or toxic butterflies of different species so predators would identify them easily as not being a meal.
BATESIAN MIMICRY: Similarity between an edible butterfly to the non-edible group.
Euritides (edible) Parides(non-edible)
9- MOTHS (nocturnal butterflies, falenas):
It is a bigger and more diverse group than butterflies. There are around 12,000 species in Costa Rica. Are easily recognized by having a fatter body, fly by night and keep their wings open at rest. Also the caterpillar spins a cocoon before turning into a moth.