If Ben Hadn’T Identified It For Me, I Wouldn’T Have Known That The Smallish, Dull, Gray-Brown Butterfly That Flew Across The Path Was The Rare Florida Purple Wing. When It Stopped On The Bark Of A Crabwood Tree, I Got A Closer Look And Could See The Dusting Of Iridescent Purple-Blue On Its Open Wings. As The Wings Opened And Closed, Six White Dots Flashed In The Sunlight. Silbergleid, One Of The Scientist-Saviors Of Lignumvitae Key, Studied Ultraviolet Reflectance In Butterflies. Butterflies Can See A Part Of The Spectrum That Is Not Visible To The Human Eye. Perhaps The Wing Movements Of The Butterfly I Was Watching Were Communicating A Message To Another Butterfly In A Language I Couldn’T Understand And In A Wavelength I Couldn’T See.
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It’S Not Surprising That We Saw It On A Crabwood Tree; The Flowers And Rotting Fruits Of The Crabwood Provide Sugars The Butterflies Feed On. The Female Butterfly Then Lays Her Eggs On The Leaves Of The Crabwood, And The Leaves Become Food For The Larvae That Hatch From The Eggs. This Single Tree Species Provides For All Of The Needs Of The Florida Purple Wing Butterfly.
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To Me The Leaves Looked Like All The Rest Shiny, Green Ovals But Ben Showed Me A Rough Little Notch At The Base Of The Leaf That Feels Like The Tip Of A Crab’S Claw Hence The Name Crabwood. Over The Next Few Hours, I Learned How To Identify Many More, Including Torch Wood, So Called Because It Burns Easily Even When Green; Milk Wood, With Bark That Looks Like It Has Been Splashed With Milk; And Mastic, Once Used As An Ingredient In Chewing Gum. During Our Hike Ben Even Found A Species No One Realized Grew On Lignumvitae Key. It Was Not On Any Of The Species Lists Kept By The Park. On The Trunk Of The Tree I Noticed The Smallest Ants I Had Ever Seen, Barely Visible To The Naked Eye. Perhaps Even E.O. Wilson Himself, Famous Studier Of Ants, Did Not Know This Ant Species Was Here.
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Forty Years After The Lignumvitae Key University Council Was Formed To Protect This Rare Three-Hundred Acre Remnant, Much Has Changed In The Other Keys. As A Result Of Continuing Development And Deforestation, Habitat For Species Is Disappearing. Forty Years Ago, The Florida Purple Wing Butterfly Could Be Found From The Everglades Down To Lignumvitae Key. By 2005, It Was Found Only On This Tiny Island. If This Forest Had Not Been Preserved, It Is Possible That The Florida Purple Wing Would Be Gone Altogether.
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