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Butterfly paradise.

Each of us has his own version of paradise. Few of us do anything to reach it. Fortunately for butterflies and butterfly lovers, one woman has created her paradise on a slice of land in Pine Mountain, Georgia.

The Day Butterfly Center -honoring the founder of Days Inns, the late Cecil B. Day, Sr.-is the idea of Day's wife (now Deen Day Smith). During a trip abroad in 1986, Mrs. Smith visited butterfly displays in London and Scotland. She returned from the trip determined to build an even better butterfly center in America.

Mrs. Smith envisioned Callaway Gardens, a 2,500acre horticultural and recreational resort 70 miles southwest of Atlanta, as a natural spot for the center, but convincing Callaway's board of directors wasn't easy. Callaway's CEO and president, Hal Northrop, says, "When Deen Day Smith approached me with her idea, I didn't know exactly how to respond. How can one justify millions of dollars for butterflies?' I kept asking myself."

Mrs. Smith arranged for Northrop to see in Europe what she had seen. After his trip, he recommended that Callaway's board of directors fly with the idea. "The rest is history," Northrop says "The Day Butterfly Center fits in with our emphasis on recreation and conservation. It has been a well-received addition to Callaway Gardens."

Callaway Gardens is the creation of Cason Callaway, a textile industrialist and naturalist. He planted his gardens for what he saw lacking in the future -conservation of nature. The $5.3 million Day Butterfly Center sits on a 4 1/2-acre section, 1 1/2 acres of which are devoted to outdoor gardens used to teach visitors how to plant butterfly gardens in their own backyards.

In the Day Butterfly Center's 15,000-square-foot building, visitors can watch a butterfly documentary in the theater, walk through the lobby adorned with a handmade carpet embroidered with Georgia's state butterfly, and shop for souvenirs at the gift shop. In the art gallery visitors can view a rare collection of original 19th-century butterfly watercolors by Chevalier de Freminville and illustrations of birds, butterflies, and other insects by the 19th-century Englishman John Abbot.

The center's focal point is the glass-enclosed octagonal butterfly conservatory -at 8,000 square feet, the largest of its kind in the world. Entering the conservatory is like magically stepping into the center of a diamond. The 854 glass panes splinter sunbeams around shadows cast by African palms, imported ferns, and brilliant flower beds.

A computer maintains a constant temperature of 78 F. A tropical humidifying system designed exclusively for the center creates occasional rainbows on cold winter mornings. The 60 species of butterflies and moths take to the conservatory like refugees seeking shelter.

Most butterfly houses in Europe, the South Pacific, and America are primarily commercial showcases. Visitors must view either live butterflies in a screened-in room with a confining eight-foot ceiling or pinmounted butterflies beneath glass. Most of the world's 50-odd butterfly sanctuaries farm the butterflies for sale. But the Butterfly Center's conservatory is designed, conceived, and constructed specifically for the butterfly. Rather than merely seeing" the butterflies, visitors can "experience" them in a habitat similar to nature's offering.

The butterfly's traditional habitat-the great outdoors-can be described as a paradise lost. In the past 50 years, the butterfly has forfeited ground to sprawling regions of con- crete and steel in the United States. "Xerces is dead!" San Franciscans lamented in 1943 when their local butterfly became extinct. For centuries, the Xerces Blue butterfly abounded on the San Francisco peninsula until the combined effects of industry, development, and ornamental landscaping depleted food sources of its larvae. The Xerces Society-in Portland, Oregon-bears the name of the extinct butterfly and speaks out for invertebrate preservation.

A shrinking natural habitat is the butterfly's greatest problem, especially in the tropical rain forests of South America. Logging, farming, and development uproot approximately 100,000 acres of rain forests per day. Left unleashed, earth-moving machines will strip the world's lush tropical rain forests bare within 100 years and endanger each delicate element of the region's ecosystem.

These are not the only headaches butterfly lovers must bear without benefit of aspirin. Butterflies' most numerous natural predators other than birds-widespread use of pesticides, severe weather (such as hurri, canes), and large-scale collecting of already rare species-are combining to drastically reduce their numbers.

The predicament poses environmental threats many countries are recognizing. Butterflies, the world's second-leading pollinators, are now protected in the United States by the Endangered Species Act, through which a recovery plan is formulated for the conservation and preservation of the butterfly and its habitat.

Callaway Gardens' vice president and director of gardens, Dr. William Barrick, became the Day Butterfly Center's project director. He put together a unique "design team" of professional players from fields of varied expertise. Barrick secured Frank Elia, a lepidopterist, as manager of the center; Henri Jova, whose firm designed the Carter Presidential Center, as design architect; and the national-award-winning Robert Marvin as landscape architect. Construction on the project began in the autumn of 87.

"They have done the best job of any in the country, " claims Melody Allen, Xerces Society's executive director. "The staff and Frank Elia were asking scientists around the country for input before they built the center. The center has the ideal butterfly environment. It's a great combination of money and conscience. "

Since the Day Butterfly Center's September 1988 opening, more than 750,000 visitors have seen the conservatory's 1,000 butterflies. More than one million visitors are expected to walk its brick paths in the next year and see the free flight of living butterflies in the airy conservatory.

Separate from the conservatory are two aviaries, where the center's manager raises 65 percent of the conservatory's butterflies. One large tent is a flower-laden breeding area for the butterflies; the other is a foliage-rich area for hungry caterpillars.

At the Day Butterfly Center-this paradise regained-living butterflies should be around for many generations to come.

Gardening for Butterflies

The following tips summarize how to create a successful butterfy garden.

* Plant in a sunny area.

* Landscaape your garden with the nectar-producing flowers that butterflys prefer.

* Use group planitings for large splashes of color rather than isolated plants.

* Provide food plants for cater- pillars.

* Include shallow puddles or damp areas for "puddle clubs".

* Use biological controls or insecticidal soaps for pest management.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Day Butterfly Center, Pine Mountain, Georgia
Author:Day, Burke
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Jul 1, 1989
Words:1056
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