August 27, 2012

A Monarch Emerges

A week ago, on August 18th, while sorting through some swiss chard leaves that I was about to wash in preparation for blanching and freezing, I was surprised by this small, elegant, jade-colored chrysalis attached to a leaf. At first I didn't know what it was, since this is its back and it is usually photographed from its gold-banded front. It is the chrysalis of a Monarch butterfly, and I'm very glad I didn't boil it. I put it back in the garden, propped up in the swiss chard.

 9:52 AM

Well, yesterday it happened again. I found another chrysalis on the swiss chard, just in time before it was boiled. It looked a little further along in its growth than the previous one, and I put it back in the garden. I was very surprised this morning, when I went to check the two chysalises, that the one I found yesterday had turned black overnight (the previous one just has dark spots and I think it will not mature). This is an indication that the butterfly will emerge soon.

10:38 AM

A little later and I could see the Monarch's orange wing showing through as the chrysalis became more transparent. From online research, I thought I had at least a half hour before the butterfly would begin emerge from its small container, so I went in the house to do some chores for 20 minutes. 

11 AM

 Oh! how sad I was to return at 10:58 (the first photo I took of the butterfly had that time stamp) to see that I had missed the process of unfolding from the chrysalis. But what a beautiful creature, and how amazing that it emerged from that one inch, delicate shell so quickly.

12:03 PM

An hour later it had tentatively begun to open its wings as they dried and hardened. It moved higher on the leaves until it was close to their top. By 1:30 it was gone, flown off on its adventures. It is a delight to see these bright butterflies flitting here and there, high in the air, and down to sip on flowers. Their  transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly is a magical one and lends their existence an air of mystery and metaphor. They are freedom; they are possibility.


  1. Your photography nicely captures the natural environment in splendid colors. Outstanding.
    - Julien

  2. Thank you Altoon. I have never seen this sequence before.
    Such wonderful magic to see if you look.

  3. beautiful! where are you? maybe that monarch is now on its journey to its winter habitat here in Mexico, where I live. They represent souls come to visit for All Saints/Todos Santos/Dia de Los Muertos; what amazing creatures and blessed we are to know them!

  4. Thanks for the comments; I'm glad you all enjoyed this post as much as I enjoyed sharing my experience.
    Rebecca, I'm in northern Vermont. This butterfly may be of the generation that heads down south; I wonder if it will get to Mexico.

  5. How beautiful Altoon to have captured this. I like to think of the Monarch as my birthday butterfly, being born at the time of year they proliferate, so this was a special treat to see, thank you!

  6. This is a spectacular post! Such beautiful photographs and editing...a visual narrative of transformation.

  7. thanks, Mona and Patricia; and Mona: Happy Birthday!

  8. Especially movIng as we've had hardly any Monarchs this year...but the Cicadas are deafening!

  9. Beautiful words! Beautiful images!