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Tropical butterflies exhibit returning to Meijer Gardens in March

Hand launch monarch butterflies Saturday at John Ball Zoo
Posted at 9:00 AM, Feb 10, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-10 09:00:07-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — More than 7,000 tropical butterflies are coming to West Michigan on March 1 as part of the Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s annual exhibit, according to a news release Wednesday.

The largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibit in the country was cut short last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Into the Glass House” will once again highlight Nathaniel Ward and the invention of the Wardian Case.

In 1827, Ward accidentally invented terrariums while studying caterpillars and moths by placing them in jars.

He noticed that plants were flourishing in these sealed jars and discovered that plants better survived the harsh conditions in London – a city known for heavy pollution at the time – if they were enclosed in sealed containers.

This discovery led to horticulturalists being able to transport items around the globe and these early “fern cases” paved the way for modern terrariums, greenhouses and conservatories.

The exhibit at the Lena Meijer Conservatory will feature about 60 colorful species of butterflies and moths, along with plants like pentas, orange plume flowers, blue potterweed, jatropha, queen's wreath and bleeding heart vines.

“Step Into the Glass House 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. “This 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 are again offering 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.”

In addition to current early member hours – which happen on the first full weekend every month on Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and Sundays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. - Meijer Gardens will also open early for members only from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. every Sunday in March.

Extended April hours mean the Gardens will be open until 7 p.m. that month, and until 9 p.m. on Tuesdays.

On Sundays, the Gardens will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. for all guests.

Capacity restrictions are in effect because of COVID-19 and there may be a wait time to get in.