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More than 500 exotic plants fill tropical garden in Horniman Butterfly House

Butterflies may be the obvious stars of the show at the Horniman Museum and Gardens’ new attraction, but the newly planted Butterfly House – due to open to the public on Monday 14 August – will also be a delight for garden lovers, showcasing more than 60 plant species commonly found in tropical butterflies’ native habitats.

The plants featured in the Butterfly House have three roles. Some are structural – such as the fishtail palm (Caryota mitis) – and their size and density are vital to the creation of the habitat. Others, like passion flowers (Passiflora), are host plants, on which caterpillars live and feed. And the showiest are the nectar-providers – including glory bowers (Clerodendrum), hibiscus and jasmine – with bright blooms and scents that attract and provide food for the butterflies.

Wesley Shaw, Head of Horticulture at the Horniman Museum and Gardens, says: ‘We chose a wide variety of species from each category, and used an informal approach to the planting design, to create a naturalistic environment. Our big specimens – the palms and an umbrella tree – give us height, along with bamboo structures to support climbers. Jasmines and wax flowers (Hoya Australis and Hoya Carnosa) give out wonderful scent, and those vibrant colours are everywhere – from bright red star flowers (Pentas lanceolata) to the pinks and purples of Passiflora. Let’s hope the butterflies are as pleased with the result as we are.’

Now that the planting is complete, the flying residents are beginning to emerge, ready for the Butterfly House to open to visitors. Book your tickets at horniman.ac.uk/butterflyhouse.

From 14 August the Horniman Butterfly House will open seven days a week, all year round (except for 24-26 December when the museum is closed). Check the website for seasonal opening times. Tickets are Family £15, Adult £6, Child £6 (including 10% Gift Aid donation) from horniman.ac.uk/butterflyhouse from Saturday 5 August. Entry is free for Horniman Members and Benefactors.