Jewels on the Wing

When my spirits need lifting, just watching a butterfly dip and float through my garden is enough to make me smile.

While visiting a dear friend in Phoenix this winter, we spent a few hours with her at nearby Scottsdale’s Butterfly Wonderland. I couldn’t stop smiling.

We paused as we entered to observe chrysalises of different shapes and sizes hanging in a glass-fronted emergence gallery. Brand-new butterflies clung to their empty cases as they pumped body fluids into the veins of their colorful wings.

After their wings had stiffened, their owners took their first slow flights around the gallery. Then they were released into a large, glass-enclosed atrium filled with lush tropical vegetation, a trickling stream, flowers and fruit for them to feed on, and hundreds of other flying jewels. Controlled temperature and humidity mimicked conditions in the butterflies’ native rain forests.

People of all ages explored the paths while tropical beauties skimmed our heads like stained glass in motion, lighting on our hair and clothing as if we were just more exotic plants in their new environment. Even active little boys hushed their voices and stood quietly when a butterfly fluttered near.

In addition to the conservatory which houses the butterflies, Butterfly Wonderland offers a 3-D theater featuring a film showing the life cycle and migration of the Monarch butterfly. A live ant colony and a bee hive allow visitors to view these amazing insects going about their daily activities.

If you live in the Pacific Northwest, you needn’t travel all the way to Arizona to enjoy time among the butterflies. We have several butterfly gardens nearby (go to this link for the information below and more: )

BRENTWOOD BAY, B.C. Victoria Butterfly Gardens. The 12,000-square-foot conservatory on the Saanich Peninsula north of Victoriahas, on average, 2,000 butterflies flying freely in a garden of tropical plants that includes more than 400 orchids. $8. 1461 Benvenuto Ave.; 877/722-0272.

ELKTON, OR Butterfly Pavilion. See monarch and painted lady butterflies in all stages of their life cycle in a screened open-air pavilion; look for their wild cousins in a 4.5-acre garden planted with butterfly-friendly Oregon shrubs and trees. Closed Mon; free. 15850 State 38 W.; 541/584-2692.

Oregon Zoo. The zoo’s Winged Wonders exhibit runs through Labor Day. Wander among more than 20 species of North American butterflies; in midsummer they’ll be joined by Central and South American species. $2, plus zoo admission ($10). 4001 S.W. Canyon Rd.; 503/226-1561.

Pacific Science Center’s Tropical Butterfly House. Washington state’s only year-round butterfly exhibit is a walk-through display; expect butterflies to surround you. Free with science center admission ($10). 200 Second Ave. N.; 206/443-2001.

Vancouver Aquarium’s Graham Amazon Gallery. Visit the walk-through Amazon aviary (mid-Jun to mid-Sep) and you get a bonus: clouds of free-flying tropical butterflies. $14. Stanley Park, 845 Avison Way; 604/659-3474.

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