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TO JULY 16
Butterflies are meant for summer freedom—not for city living, as I learned some 20 years ago after a family vacation in Vermont. All season long, I’d been fascinated by the pale-green monarch caterpillars growing plump on milkweed leaves beside the porch, and as the apple blossoms in a neighboring orchard were replaced by tart green fruit, black swallowtail butterfly larvae jerkily spun their pupae in thickets of Queen Anne’s lace. I took a chrysalis home to New York for the winter, buying potted hyacinths to feed on when it hatched in February, but, alas, a sixth-floor Greenwich Village apartment is no place for a Papilio polyxenes. This summer, though, you can take your city kids to marvel at the fluttering insects in the live butterfly exhibit “Wings of Fancy.” In a glassed-in conservatory, you’ll find row after row of living chrysalises twitching and hatching before your very eyes. Monarch pupae hang like jade pendants with crowns of gold; palamedes swallowtails take shapes like something from a Frank Gehry design, all hard angles and swooping curves in dusty mauve and brown. The hatchlings—swallowtails, fritillaries, crimson-patched longwings—take a moment to pump up their wings and are soon flittering about the humid room in search of nectar. (A female black swallowtail is pictured.) Butterflies taste with their feet as well as their proboscises, and the curators have stocked the garden with species the creatures love to touch and feed upon, the better to display the relationship between plants and the insects’ life cycle. On view from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, to Sunday, July 16, at Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. $3. (301) 949-8230. (Garance Franke-Ruta)