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A whimsical journey on the wings of a butterfly

By Susan Eastman

Lana says the garden has given her life a more natural rhythm. The butterflies that visit change with the seasons and arrive in waves. Chrysalises dangle from plants, and butterflies emerge to consume nectar, hunt mates, and begin the cycle again. Her heart thrills at that process. "There must have been 20 to 30 queens out in the yard this afternoon," David reports. "They were everywhere." The Edwardses have counted 45 species of butterfly in their suburban habitat. The family's yard was featured in the summer 1996 issue of NABA's American Butterflies and in a USDA publication titled Backyard Conservation, published in 1998.

Lana relishes her role as caretaker of this ephemeral and beautiful insect, of knowing that the plants in her yard support life. "There's just something wonderful about walking into your yard on a sunny day and seeing butterflies," she says. "It is uplifting." Butterflies make her feel happy, so she naturally wants to surround herself with them. "To me, they represent peace and tranquility."

Butterflies have also gotten her out of the house, Lana says. She is treasurer of the Atala (Palm Beach County) Chapter of NABA, attends lectures the club sponsors, and goes on club field trips to area parks. And she and Alana take annual butterfly vacations. Mother and daughter recently returned from a NABA conference in Oregon and a week-long butterfly tour in Northern California. "It was fabulous," Lana says. "Every day was something new." She climbed a rocky mountainside to see the rockslide checkered spot. "Jeff Glassberg has not even seen that butterfly yet," she says.

Alana doesn't see anything strange about her mother's lepidopteran obsession. "I don't think it's weird because I'm like that too," she says. "Some people do find our passion more of an obsession. I always say I'm worse than a born-again Christian when I start talking about butterflies."


On a sweltering Saturday in early July, Alana led a group of ten people, including her parents, down a dusty road in the Highlands Hammock State Park near Sebring. Sponsored by NABA, the group was counting butterflies as part of a national campaign.

Focused on the count, she continued through stands of sand pine and oak scrub while others were waylaid by the flora and fauna. That's what makes walks like this interesting, Lana says. "Is that a Bachman's sparrow I hear?" called out wildlife biologist Marian Bailey, who works for the Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge in Boynton Beach. Bailey hoisted her binoculars to her eyes and scanned the oak scrub for the bird. After finding it, she commented, "I didn't know whether it was found here, but I was walking along just now thinking that this is the perfect habitat for the Bachman's."

A little farther along the road, Hal Weidemann eyed a three-inch-long millipede gliding across his path. "Look at this guy," he hollered out to the others. Several of the party stopped to admire the millipede. "He flows, he flows," Weidemann commented. "Like a river." Weidemann, a 79-year-old retired metallurgical engineer, has logged more than 6000 hours as a volunteer at the Loxahatchee in the past 20 years. He created the park list of native plants and butterflies and conducts nature walks for visitors. As they reached a bend in the road, Weidemann pointed out a clump of pawpaw and a sweet bay tree, where the huge Eastern tiger and spicebush swallowtails lay their eggs.

As the group walked down a dirt road surrounded by pines, Alana spotted eight black butterflies in a muddy area of the road. "Look, we've got puddling," she cried. In addition to sucking the nectar from flowers, some butterflies feed on carrion, animal feces, and draw minerals from the soil in muddy water, which is known as puddling. The group confabs.

"They're just sucking up all those nutrients," said Lana, delighted at the sight. Several people creep up on the butterflies for a closer look.

"There's not much water there," Weidemann observed.

"Yeah, but the ground is kind of damp," commented someone else.

"It's the minerals they're after," repeated Lana.

Alana moved closer, hoping to take a photograph. But, as she approached, the butterflies flitted into the air. The group let out a collective sigh. "I counted four spicebush and four palamades," Alana announced, then turned to the others and scrunched up her face. "I'm sorry I got too close."

When Alana was growing up just north of Delray Beach, she wasn't what you'd call outdoorsy. She doesn't remember seeing butterflies in her family's yard, and she didn't give the creatures much thought. Outside of shopping, a sport in which both she and her mother engaged, Alana didn't have any real hobbies. At college, Alana majored in Spanish because she had traveled to Mexico and learned the language. She figured she'd teach after she tried her hand at modeling. With classic good looks straight from a Ralph Lauren ad, she found work as a runway and catalog model, including stints for Land's End catalogs.

After returning to Florida and graduating from FAU, Alana taught Spanish for two years in Boca Raton. But she began to wonder whether teaching was the right career. This questioning coincided with an increasing interest in butterflies. "When you get involved in butterflies, it draws you into plants, and you get more and more drawn into the environment," Lana says. "That's what happened to her."

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