- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
Two icons, the American flag and the monarch butterfly, are flying high today.
The American flag, or "Old Glory," symbolizes our democracy. The 13 stripes represent the 13 colonies that declared--and won--independence from Great Britain. The 50 stars in the field of blue denote our 50 states.
The glorious monarch, Danaus plexippus, reigns supreme in the world of butterflies, in that it's the most recognized butterfly and its seasonal migration routes to its overwintering sites in coastal California and central Mexico--and its return every spring--are legendary.
How did it get its name? Swedish taxonomist Carl Linnaeus the father of modern taxonomy, named the butterfly "Danaus," for a great-grandson of the mythical Greek god Zeus, and "Plexippus," reportedly one of the 50 sons of Aegyptus, the twin brother of Danaus.
Fifty states. Fifty sons.
The common name, "monarch," is thought to honor "The Prince of Orange," who later became known as the King William III of England. (The butterfly is predominately orange and black.)
Fortunately, the majestic monarch butterfly isn't known as "The Prince of Orange" (or "The Princess of Orange.")