Text: R.J. Weick
The sound of a million butterflies in flight is often indescribable. It is a sensory feast, where the soft sound—like the gentle rush of water from a distant waterfall—is paired with visual delight as iridescent and distinctive-patterned wings swoop and tumble through the air in erratic flight.
It is an experience the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park is once again bringing to the 15,000-square-foot, five-story Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory in Grand Rapids, Michigan this spring, from March 1 through April 30, 2020. The 25th annual “Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming” exhibition is one of the largest temporary and tropical events of its kind in the nation and will see approximately 60 species of butterflies and moths from regions such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, Philippines, and Kenya.
Set against a backdrop of ferns, vines, lime green foliage, flowering plants, and a balmy environment of 85 degrees Fahrenheit with 70 percent humidity, the “Butterflies Are Blooming” exhibition also weaves the story of the Wardian case into the event. Invented by Dr. Nathanial Ward in 1827, the Wardian case was an early precursor to the modern terrarium where jars and containers were sealed to protect plants in the city of London.
“Step Into the Glass during this year’s ‘Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming’ exhibition and discover how the invention of the Wardian case changed the world,” said Lisa Roo, annual exhibitions lead designer and project manager at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park.
“This year’s theme offers our community a sense of wonder with magical glass houses from four feet tall to our iconic fifty-foot-tall Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. We offer our guests the unique experience of stepping into glass houses to see butterflies soaring, caterpillars munching, and learn how the Wardian case paved the way for modern terrariums and greenhouses,” Roo added.
With more than 1,000 pupae expected to arrive weekly from around the world, “Butterflies Are Blooming” tell a tale of transformation as caterpillars break free from cocoons to flutter and glide into the air. It is also a tale of invention and horticulture, as butterflies, moths, and caterpillar displays in and under glass will highlight Ward’s pursuit and discovery. The exhibition will feature butterfly species such as: blue common morpho, Clearwing, Lacewing, Zebra Mosaic, Small Blue Grecian, Postman, Tiger, Emperor, and Ruby-Spotted Swallowtail, among others.
Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming activities:
“Who am I?” A Butterfly Ballet
- Saturday, February 29 at 10:00 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.
- Sunday, March 1 at 12:00 p.m. and 2:30 p.m.
- Fee: $5.00 for members and $8:00 for non-members; Free for ages two-years-old and younger
- Choreographed by Attila Mosolygo, performed by members of the Grand Rapids Ballet Junior Company, and narrated by Errol Shewman
Scout Event—Butterflies and Ballet
- Saturday, February 29
- Special event for troop scouts featuring “Who Am I?” A Butterfly Ballet, butterfly-related art project, and visit to the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory
Outdoor Children’s Activities
- Sunday, March 1 through Thursday, April 30 during daylight hours
- Children’s Garden featuring outdoor educational events and activities like the Treehouse Village hunt, Butterfly Maze, Monarch’s Migration game, puppet shows, and stories
Tuesday Night Lights
- Tuesday nights until 9:00 p.m.
- Included with admission
- Search for butterflies and other nightlife in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory