Panamanian Butterflies: Inspiration for the Soul

By Cherrye Moore

Did you know the Greek word Psyche is the name of the enchanting Goddess of the spirit and means both soul and butterfly? It’s true, and anyone who has ever stepped on Panamanian soil knows there is no lack of inspiration for the soul here. In Panama’s native Cueva Indian language, the country’s name means an abundance of butterflies, abundance of fish, so it is no wonder the flowers create a safe haven for butterflies in Central America’s most industrialized country.
Nature lovers and butterfly aficionados will feel like they are in paradise inside the lush rain forests of Panama’s tropical jungles. With more than 1,500 species of butterflies, 950 varieties of orchids, and over 972 species of birds, Latin America’s most overlooked tropical paradise won’t be a secret for long.
The enchantingly rare blue morpho butterfly, which has a wing span of up to eight inches and is one of the largest butterflies

morphoin the world, is common on the isthmus. The iridescent blue hues and contrasting brown underside make this magical creature seem to materialize in the air, before quickly vanishing again into its surroundings.

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Panama’s biodiversity first attracted the Smithsonian naturalists during the Canal build out in 1910. Today, scientists from the world over come to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to access these diverse tropical environments, and numerous scientific discoveries.

Eldredge Bermingham is director of STRI in Panama City. Interestingly the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute is the only unit of the Smithsonian Institution outside of the USA. The institute promotes the understanding of tropical nature, its importance to human welfare, and trains students the procedures to conduct research in the tropics. The goal, promotes conservation by increasing public awareness of Panama's diversity and importance of tropical ecosystems.


Copyright© 2011, Pan Am Publishing S.A., Republic of Panama