Butterflies in Bloom take flight at Dow Gardens

Spring is in bloom, and so are the butterflies at Dow Gardens! The well-attended Butterflies in Bloom event returns to the gardens this month through April 14, Butterflies in Bloom features thousands of colorful butterflies from around the world. Visitors are able to witness butterflies emerging from their chrysalis, feeding and flying in this interactive exhibit in the newly-remodeled conservatory. 

Elly Maxwell has been an entomologist at Dow Gardens since 2006. Her role is focused on insects, and in spring, she manages the biological and containment aspects of the seasonal butterflies exhibit. In addition, Maxwell manages pest control and plant health care with other gardens staff. She considers her personal strength in teaching and sharing, having hosted dozens of lectures, presentations and hands-on programs for learners of all ages. 

The first Butterflies in Bloom was held at Dow Gardens in 1998.
Maxwell says the Butterflies in Bloom event is a great example of the center’s mission to preserve, enhance and educate on horticultural beauty. The event first dates back to 1998, but had a few years off during COVID and the remodeling of the conservatory space. 

“In the cold and grey that is traditionally March in Michigan, guests can visit the tropical home of butterflies from around the world at the Dow Gardens conservatory,” Maxwell says. “We sustainably order around 4,000 chrysalis each year from Florida, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and throughout Africa and Asia. We are the only exhibit in the state that encourages guests to properly hold a butterfly.”

Typically, the event draws thousands of visitors from Midland and the state, in search of a warm colorful oasis. The exhibit is like transportation to a much warmer, tropical climate without the price of a flight. 

“The reality is that most Midlanders never get to visit Florida, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Africa and Asia, but our display brings pieces of those locations to Midland,” Maxwell says. “We have this opportunity for everyone to experience plants and butterflies from all of those countries.”

Butterflies in Bloom features thousands of colorful butterflies from around the world.
This year, as spring has had unusually mild temperatures, staff at Dow Gardens are seeing visitors come to see the exhibit earlier than usual. Maxwell enjoys seeing the children discover and enjoy the unique event, and also the lessons that translate to the world outside of the conservatory. 

“The experiences that touch my heart the most are of people who can see life metaphors in the process of metamorphosis, emergence, flight, blooming flowers, insect interactions, etc.,” Maxwell says. “Yes, the butterflies are beautiful and the science is captivating, but the experience is deeper than those things, too.”

Butterflies in Bloom runs from Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until April 14. There is also an extended viewing hour option offered on Fridays until 7:30 p.m., beginning March 15. Butterflies in Bloom is included in your regular admission ticket to Dow Gardens, or with the purchase of an annual admission card. Reservations are required. Tickets can be purchased online, via phone, or in advance of your visit. 

There is a 0.25 mile walk to the Conservatory, but there are accessibility days for visitors who may have additional accessibility concerns. These days allow for additional logistics to ensure guests can witness the exhibit with as few barriers as possible. Reservations are required. 

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Sarah Spohn is a Lansing native, but every day finds a new interesting person, place, or thing in towns all over Michigan, leaving her truly smitten with the mitten. She received her degrees in journalism and professional communications and provides coverage for various publications locally, regionally, and nationally — writing stories on small businesses, arts and culture, dining, community, and anything Michigan-made. You can find her in a record shop, a local concert, or eating one too many desserts at a bakery. If by chance, she’s not at any of those places, you can contact her at sarahspohn.news@gmail.com.