Winged insects add more color to Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens


“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination,” sings Willy Wonka as he leads a motley, golden-ticketed crew into his chocolate factory.

That colorful scene from “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” comes to mind as we enter the Pacific Island Water Garden at the Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Columbus.

But instead of seeing giant, candy mushrooms, gummy-bear laden trees and a chocolate river, we spy blue and orange butterflies fluttering through tropical plants, past Dale Chihuly glassworks and over a koi-filled pond.

“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.”

Blooms & Butterflies is back for its 27th year at Franklin Park Conservatory. The exhibit runs through May.

Visitors of the beautiful indoor gardens near downtown Columbus can watch hundreds of exotic butterflies zoom among the conservatory’s permanent exhibition of tropical plants and fragrant flowers.

The exhibit includes thousands of the winged insects, although not that many are flying around at once. Many of them are brought to the conservatory in the pupa stage. Visitors can view the chrysalises displayed in the Metamorphosis Lab, and might even see a butterfly as it emerges.

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.

Due to pandemic-related safety precautions, the conservatory won’t be performing daily butterfly release demonstrations this year. Instead, staff will be offering similar experiences virtually.

In compliance with local health and government authorities, all visitors are required to wear a mask at the conservatory and abide by social distancing guidelines. Make a reservation at the conservatory’s website.

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 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.

Columbus residents get in free on the first Sunday of each month. For more information, visit www.fpconservatory.org.