October 06, 2016

The Zoro Garden in San Diego's Balboa Park

monarch lantana 1

Butterfly season is winding down here in the north.

This sad fact had me thinking about my first butterfly encounters of the year. They happened during our March trip to San Diego for a family event. On one of the days, I had a couple of hours to explore Balboa Park--obviously, not nearly enough time--but I tried to make the most of it. (My first post about Balboa Park highlighted the Inez Grant Parker Memorial Rose Garden.)

I knew next to nothing about Balboa Park before arriving. So, I basically started walking around--briefly glancing at the map to figure out the general direction and highlights I wanted to see.

Remember, I had recently landed in San Diego from the Midwest, where winter was just breaking its icy grip. Those of you who live in colder climates know the feeling--it's like coming back to life again after sleeping for several months.

african daisy

Anyway, suddenly the world was full of color. Every blooming plant seemed like a gift, including these African Daisies (Osteospermum spp.).

pride of madeira

And these Pride of Madeira (Echium candicans) blooms, covered in bees.

As I meandered my way along the paths, suddenly I noticed butterflies everywhere--Western Tiger Swallowtails, Painted Ladies, Monarchs, and others. Following the butterflies, I descended a stairway into an area surrounded by rock walls, Ficus and Palm trees, and winding, circular paths.

Zoro_Garden

I didn't realize it at the time, but I had entered the Zoro Garden. I wish I'd taken more photos, but it was under reconstruction while I was there. The above public domain photo provides a glimpse of a small portion of the six-acre sunken grotto garden before the reconstruction.

Even during my visit, with construction, butterflies were everywhere.

tropical milkweed

And then I noticed this.

stripped milkweed

And this (see the caterpillar?).

Those familiar with this plant know it's ravaged Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica). And when it's "ravaged," that's a good thing. It means Monarch caterpillars have had a feast and are nearby. And if you're lucky, you'll also see Monarch adult butterflies.

monarch on fern

I was lucky that day. There were many Monarch butterflies in the Zoro Garden.

monarch lantana 3

monarch lantana 2

I was so pleased to see them sunning on the ferns and nectaring on the blooms--mostly on Lantanas (L. camara), which confirmed my plan to include more Lantanas (annuals north of zone 7) in my own garden.

passion flower

I also noticed some incredible Passion Flower vines and blooms (a host plant for Fritillary caterpillars/butterflies). I believe this is Crimson Passion Flower (Passiflora vitifolia).

lizard rocks

This cute lizard was sunning on the rocks.

lizard

I'm thinking it was a Western Fence Lizard?

I lingered in the area taking in the butterflies and the sun and the blooms. I really had no idea about the significance of this garden until later, when I did some research.

Let's just say it has an interesting past. In an effort to keep this blog rated "G" (or at least "PG") I send you to a link about the Zoro Garden's history.

A friend with connections to Balboa Park's gardens says Zoro Garden has a promising future, as well--building on its recent past serving as a butterfly garden with host and nectar plants for the various stages of butterfly life cycles. Here's a brochure about the species you might find in the garden.

To get a sense of the Zoro Garden--where to find it (it's tricky) and what it's like to walk into it--here's a video someone posted to YouTube:



On my way back to the San Diego Zoo to meet family members, I noticed more Tropical Milkweed, more butterflies, and more caterpillars.

cat on milkweed

monarch cat 1

monarch cat 2

cats

It was a good day.

39 comments:

  1. A very good day for a butterfly fan. Balboa Park is gorgeous and quite large so it's a wonderful find that you happened on the butterfly garden. Good to know they maintain it too.

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    1. Yes, indeed. I'd heard about Balboa Park, but never spent much time there until this trip. Well, I still didn't spend much time there, but at least I had a little time to explore. Yes, it sounds like the butterfly garden is being updated. :)

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  2. It looks like a fabulous place to go see butterflies. I also like to see the plants that seem so exotic, to me.

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    1. Yes, it is. You'd like it! San Diego is a great "spring break" destination.

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  3. Amazing! And I love some of those west coast plants that are so big and dramatic.

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    1. Yes, it's really nifty. The plants are crazy fascinating! And, yes, big and dramatic. The climate and the plants are so refreshing after a Midwestern winter!

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  4. Wonderful to see a garden kindly for butterflies.
    There was a new striped caterpillar in my garden today that I meant to photograph and ID ...

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    1. Indeed. It's so refreshing to be casually walking around and suddenly surrounded by butterflies. That was really awesome. I'll look forward to your information about the striped caterpillar. :)

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  5. Great photos, Beth. I loved my visit to Balboa Park last January--it's an amazing place with so much to see and experience. A "good day" indeed!

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    1. Thanks, Tina. Oh, January would be a nice time to be there, too. The only problem for me would be I'd have to come back to more winter here. I suppose you had signs of spring in Texas when you got back? I agree: There's so much to see at Balboa Park!

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  6. Hi Beth, I haven't been at the Zoro Garden for a long time, but I am glad that you enjoyed it so much. It must have been the right time for the butterflies and caterpillars to be around, because when I visited last time there wasn't any.
    You made me curious what the garden looks like after the renovation and I made a note to myself to see it, when I get a chance next time that I am in Balboa Park.
    The crimson Passion Flower bloom is amazing. Never seen one like that before!
    Warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. Hi Christina: You're so lucky to live so close. I expect I'll be back there sometime in the next few years since I have family there now. I hope we can meet each other--maybe we could tour some gardens! Yes, the Passion Flower was gorgeous!

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  7. My son Atticus watched a Monarch caterpillar this late summer. Everyday we would go to the wooded area with all the milkweed and find it. We would check on the progress. Atticus was so surprised at how (fat) big the caterpillar got.

    Great photos! Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks! That's such a great experience for kids! I hope to share it with my grandkids someday (I think I took Monarchs for granted when my kids were little, although we did appreciate butterflies together). Atticus sounds like he has naturalist tendencies. :)

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  8. What a wonderful place - I can just see you following the trail of butterflies through the garden. Your link made me laugh - not many gardens have such a checkered past :)

    And I must say, your photo of the African Daisies is spectacular. I think I tried to grow some way back when (i.e. 20 years ago) and wasn't overly successful - I may just have to give them another go.

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    1. Yep, it was awesome to be walking along a path and suddenly see many butterflies all around! Re: the history--it's not the worst thing to happen in a place, but I wanted to be as sensitive as possible about presenting it. ;-) You and your family would love Balboa Park, Margaret!

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  9. Gorgeous photos! This place certainly does have a colorful past; I'd much rather observe the butterflies than its previous residents:) I can imagine how you must have felt arriving here in the middle of winter. I used to visit my daughter in Phoenix every winter and felt the same way. One of my stops was always the Desert Botanical Garden, and one year I was lucky enough to be at the Butterfly Pavilion when they were releasing butterflies that had just arrived--quite an experience!

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    1. Thanks, Rose! Yes, a garden focusing on butterflies--host plants, notches to capture rainwater, nectar plants--is an awesome garden. :) Arizona would be a good winter/spring break destination, too!

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  10. Glad you had the chance to explore this garden. I've seen only a couple of monarchs this fall, this month being when a handful usually visit my garden. Hoping the hurricane doesn't set them back.

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    1. Gosh, I hope the hurricane doesn't set them back, as you say. I suppose it might affect the eastern migration group that winters in Florida. I didn't see as many Monarchs this summer, either, but I did find more eggs than last year and raised/released 11.

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  11. Amazing place, really enjoyed the video. You're opening all new horizons for me. Though I've never left WI in the wintertime, I remember the same feeling of wonderment when almost 40 years ago we went into the 'Domes' in Milwaukee when they had their Easter display. It was so magical, almost overwhelming.

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    1. It's interesting: Even though I live in Wisconsin, I don't think of March as winter. We're starting to see signs of life here in Madison in March. So if I can get out of here in February or early March, the rest of winter doesn't seem too bad. I remember visiting the Three Domes years ago, too. Apparently, they're having some restoration needs. I hope budgets will be sufficient to keep them operating.

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  12. What a treat, it sounds wonderful. I have never seen a passion flower like that before. And those butterflies, absolutely stunning.

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    1. Yes, the Passion Flower was incredibly beautiful, and the vine was covering a large area across the top of a high wall. I saw hummingbirds, too, but I was preoccupied with the Monarchs and had limited time. Balboa Park is amazing!

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  13. For me there is something very sacred and miraculous about a butterfly . . . especially the Monarch. maybe because I recognize the caterpillar and have watched the chrysalis stage. Amazing, isn't it. . .
    Wonderful photos Beth!

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    1. Thanks! I agree, Lynne--I always think seeing a butterfly is a message from beyond. Yes, the whole life cycle of any type of caterpillar/butterfly is amazing!

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  14. What a nice post. The butterflies are a treat at anytime or any place. I never was to Balboa Park either yet having been in San Diego. On my trip to PA I passed quite a few Monarchs going South. In Maryland I saw more Monarchs than eagles. The other photographers were amazed at how many were passing us.

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    1. Thanks, Donna. Yes, I agree: Any day with butterflies is a good day. That's good news about the large numbers of Monarchs in Maryland! You would love Balboa Park!

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  15. Wow, those are some fat Monarch butterflies. Great post. I love the Echiums, also. I understand that in winter California Monarchs roost near Santa Barbara. I've thought of taking a trip there somet time.

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    1. Thanks, Jason. Yes, there are so many Echiums planted around the San Diego area. I know they're not native to the area, but the bees sure do love them--both native bees and honey bees. Santa Barbara would be a great destination, too!

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  16. Incredible closeups of the caterpillars - love the lizard, too!

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    1. Thanks, Heather! I have a thing for little lizards. It's one of the highlights of visiting a warmer climate. ;-)

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    1. Yes, it was interesting ... and beautiful!

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  18. How beautiful, and how great to see so many monarchs and caterpillars! That's funny about some of the history of the park. I didn't get any Monarch caterpillars this year, sadly, but I did see several more Monarch butterflies this year than last.

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    1. Yes, it's so wonderful to be exploring a new place and suddenly have many butterflies flying around you. I had the opposite experience with Monarchs this year--I didn't see as many, but I found more eggs. Interesting.

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  19. What an interesting past this place has! Thanks for the entertaining link. Ah, California sunshine in the winter, what a treat!

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    1. Yes, indeed! You are welcome. This place has some history and a promising future, too. Loved the California sun, and when I got back home spring was starting to make an appearance. That's why I love to travel to warm places in February and March!

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  20. I lived right near the entrance to Balboa Park many years ago. Sadly, it was before I was bitten by the gardening bug. I don't think they had really developed gardens there yet.

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