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27 November 2014
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Thursday 24 May

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6.30 pm

Rare butterfly hatches at Chelsea

A rare Italian butterfly brought in as a chrysalis on an imported yew has hatched out on a topiary stand in the Great Pavilion.

The Scarce Swallowtail butterfly, native to the Mediterranean basin from Spain to Turkey, is only seen very rarely in the UK. It was first spotted by staff on the Romantic Garden nursery’s stand in the Pavilion as it crawled out of the branches of a topiarised yew, imported from Italy about three months ago.

“Yew isn’t its normal food plant,” says Richard Hobbs, an adviser to the nursery, who regularly takes groups on wild plant tours in Europe and recognised the butterfly. “It must have actually moved from its food plant, chosen this as a nice safe spot for the winter, and tucked itself away in there to pupate,” he says.

The butterfly stayed on the yew while its wings straightened out, and then flew onto some irises on the Claire Austin Hardy Plants stand next door. It attracted admiring crowds as it rested a while longer, before flying away to visit the rest of Chelsea.

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