The life cycle of the butterfly is in full view in the Butterfly House at Accent Trees and Nursery in Palmetto. The house is stocked with two kinds of plants, nursery manager Ann Glenn explains: larva plants, which caterpillars eat before they enter their chrysalis stage, and pollen plants, favorite foods once they emerge from the chrysalis as butterflies. (Visit www.monarchbutterflyusa.com for a kid-friendly explanation of a butterfly's life cycle.) "Caterpillars are very specific about what they'll eat," Glenn said. Monarch caterpillars will eat only milkweed; sulfurs prefer cassia; swallowtails like dutchman's pipe; and future gulf fritillaries and zebra longwings (the state butterfly) chow down on passion vine.
When they emerge from the chrysalis, butterflies like pentas, tropical salvia, coral honeysuckle, durantas, jatropha and porterweed.
The butterfly house is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and is closed Sunday. Take Interstate 275 across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge; get off at Exit 2 and take U.S. 41 south about a mile; turn right on 61st Street E. Phone: (941) 729-5959.
- JUDY STARK, Homes editor