Stock Island and Key West

Key West and Stock Island

by David L. Lysinger


The entire island of Key West is, for all intents and purposes, a giant butterfly garden! Gardening is taken very seriously in “Paradise” which accounts for the fact that so many flowering plants, both native and exotic, have collectively become a substantial and varied nectar source for butterflies. There are also enough caterpillar host plants distributed throughout the island, to help make Key West a butterflying utopia. It is a great place to observe butterflies…and have an occasional Margarita.

Mangrove Buckeye, Junonia evarere, on Sea Lavender, Big Pine Key, Florida
Photo by David L Lysinger

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park offers a lot for the butterfly watcher. On a good day, the butterflies of “Fort Zack” will keep you busy identifying them. The open sunny areas are good places to watch for Mangrove Buckeye, Junonia evarete, Common Buckeye, Junonia coenia, Cassius Blue, Leptodes cassius, Ceraunus Blue, Hemiargus ceraunus, Gray Hairstreak, Strymon melinus, and small sulphurs. Tropical Buckeye, Junonia genoveva, has occasionally been found. There is a linear berm with a central path planted with native trees that affords good looks as things go fluttering by. Nearer the beach is a planting with several Bay Cedar, Suriana maritima, bushes which at times are magnets for Martial Scrub-Hairstreak, Strymon martialis, Mallow Scrub-Hairstreak, Strymon columella, and Fulvous Hairstreak, Electrostrymon angelea. In late 2005, rarities Lyside Sulphur, Kricogonia lyside, and Common Checkered-Skipper, Pyrgus communis/albescens, were seen in the Park.

There are picnic tables, grills and a short nature trail. A refreshment stand near the beach offers snacks, cold beverages, sundries, and souvenirs. Guided tours of the fort are available daily.

Fort Zachary Taylor Historic State Park is located at the end of Southard Street on Truman Annex in Key West.
305 292-6713

Statira Sulphur, Phoebis statira, nectaring on Firebush, Key Biscayne, Florida
Photo by David L Lysinger

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Martial Scrub-Hairstreak, Strymon martialis, on Bay Cedar, Big Pine Key, Florida

Photo by David L Lysinger

Indigenous Park

In September 2004 Indigenous Park set the butterflying world abuzz when two super-rare Many-banded Daggerwings, Marpesia chiron, were photographed there. This garden, comprised mostly of plants native to the Florida Keys, can host all of our large sulphurs including Lyside Sulphur and Statira Sulphur, Phoebis statira, along with many more common species. Check the large Bay Cedar trees near the park entrance for hairstreaks. This might be a place to keep an eye open for the next Caribbean rarity that shows up on our shores.

Indigenous Park
1801 White Street
Key West 33041
305 292-8157

Florida White, Appias drusilla
Photo by David L Lysinger


The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden

The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden, located on Stock Island, (the first island north of Key West) can be alive with butterflies. And, it could get better with age if appropriate butterfly plants are added as the Garden continues its remarkable growth and prosperity. The Garden is (or was) the last stronghold for the federally endangered Stock Island tree snail, Orthalicus reses, a 1-2 inch tree climbing mollusk with brown and tan markings. Butterflies to watch for are Florida White, Appias drusilla, Great Southern White, Asica monuste, Orange-barred Sulphur, Phoebis philea, Giant Swallowtail, Papilio cresphontes, Polydamas Swallowtail,  Battus polydamas, Cassius Blue, Leptotes cassius, Ceraunus Blue, Hemiargus ceraunus, Malachite, Siproeta stelenes, Mangrove Skipper, Hammock Skipper, Phocides pigmalion, Long-tailed Skipper, Urbanus proteus, and Dorantes Skipper, Urbanus dorantes. And, although believed to now be extirpated, optimists can look for Zestos Skipper, Epargyreus zestos. The garden was probably the last bastion for this big, showy skipper before it disappeared from the butterfly radar screen. The last known sighting was in January 2004.

The Key West Tropical Forest and Botanical Garden
210 College Road
Key West, FL 33045
305 296-1504