Popular exhibit returns to Franklin Park Conservatory
Blooms & Butterflies is back at Franklin Park Conservatory. The exhibit, which brings winged insects to the conservatory’s Pacific Island Water Garden, runs through September.
Visitors of the beautiful indoor gardens near downtown Columbus can watch hundreds of exotic butterflies flutter among the conservatory’s permanent exhibition of tropical plants and fragrant flowers. Also within the installation are glassworks by Dale Chihuly and a pond stocked with colorful Koi fish.
On a recent weekday afternoon I took my 2-year-old daughter Rosie to play among the butterflies. I thought she’d get a kick out of seeing a variety of the specimens up close.
But upon entering the exhibit Rosie seemed more terrified than overjoyed. “Hold me, hold me,” she cried as a blue, winged creature flew by her head.
Rosie had never seen so many butterflies all at once. Nor had she ever seen such big, boldly colored ones.
The exhibit features hundreds of the winged insects, many of which are brought to the conservatory in the pupa stage.
The four-stage metamorphosis of the butterfly begins with an egg that develops into a larva, or a caterpillar. The caterpillar spends most of its time eating before it forms a protective shield around itself called a pupa. Inside the pupa the caterpillar transforms and emerges as a butterfly. The adult butterfly then mates and lays eggs on plants, which starts the whole process all over again. The lifespan of a butterfly varies from one week to a year.
Conservatory visitors can watch butterflies hatch from their pupas and see them be released each day at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.
By the time of the release Rosie had grown more accustomed to her new found friends, but she still wasn’t ready to have one gently placed on her hand. Other children, though, lined up to give it a try. They were told not to grab the butterfly’s delicate wings because it could damage their exoskeletons and inhibit their ability to fly.
Photographing the butterflies is encouraged. I found it best to just stand still and wait for them to come to me. Doing so also led to a few landing on my back, causing Rosie to beam with delight.
By the end of our visit we were completely relaxed. The gentle beat of classical music and the gurgling sound of a waterfall were calming. This made the transition to Rosie’s naptime quite easy.
Franklin Park Conservatory, located at 1777 E. Broad St. within Franklin Park, is a landmark set amid 88 acres of outdoor botanical gardens and green space.
Built in 1895, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. It showcases exotic plant collections, special exhibitions, a signature collection of Dale Chihuly glassworks and a permanent light installation by renowned artist James Turrell.
The conservatory contains more than 400 plant species. Collections include orchids, bonsai and more than 40 species of palms in the Palm House.
The conservatory is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily, and 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Wednesday. The facility is stroller and wheelchair accessible.
For more information, visit www.fpconservatory.org.