San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Museum opens oasis for butterflies, people

The traffic, noise and crowds of downtown San José seem worlds away in the serenity of the National Museum’s new butterfly garden exhibit. Visitors are greeted by colorful butterflies native to Costa Rica’s Central Valley as they pass through the garden on their way to the other exhibits in the museum.

Inaugurated last month, the exhibit is named after late Costa Rican biologist and naturalist Luis Diego Gómez, who headed the museum’s National Herbarium and Department of Natural History, and served as director of the institution from 1970 to 1985. Inside the 900-square-meter vestibule, bright orange Julia butterflies flutter from flower to flower while great southern white butterflies glide peacefully in the air. Monarch butterflies with their distinct black-and-orange markings rest on feeders of fermenting fruit, as blue morphos dance above the leaves of lush, green plants.

Butterfly 2

Monarch butterfly rests on greenery.

Francesco Pistilli

Cecilia Pineda, current director of the museum’s Department of Natural History, said many more plants and flowers native to the Central Valley will be brought to the exhibit in time. Right now, in addition to feeding on flowers, butterflies can drink nectar from fermenting fruit like bananas and guanábanas at one of the many feeders installed in the exhibit.

Guests can learn interesting facts about butterflies from the informative signs that line the pathways leading through the garden. For instance, there are more than 2,000 species of butterflies in Costa Rica, and 165,000 species of butterflies in the world, making them the second most diverse species in the animal kingdom.

The exhibit was created with ₡6 million ($12,000) in funds from the San José Parks and Recreation Department. San José Vice Mayor Gonzalo Ramírez said in a statement earlier this month that the city of San José should offer a better quality of life to its citizens by creating safe, welcoming and beautiful spaces, like the museum’s new butterfly garden.

Blue Butterfly

blue morpho

Francesco Pistilli

The National Museum is next to Plaza de la Democracia, between Avenidas Central and 2. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed Mondays). The cost of admission is $8 for foreigners, $4 for foreigners with student ID, ₡1,500 for nationals and residents, and free for national students, children under 12 and senior citizens. For information, call 2257-1433 or visit www.museocostarica.go.

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