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Blooms, butterflies bring spring to conservatory

Popular exhibit, now in its 18th year, features butterflies of Brazil

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It may not look quite like spring outside, but the weather is warm and flowers are showing off their spring colors in the popular Blooms and Butterflies exhibit at Franklin Park Conservatory.

The exhibit, which is found in the Pacific Island Water Garden, features daily butterfly releases at 1 and 3 p.m. According to interpretations specialist Chris Kline, a butterfly gardening talk will be added at 2 p.m. daily.

The butterflies travel quite a ways before landing at the conservatory. They come from butterfly farms in Costa Rica and are shipped in boxes to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Denver for inspection to ensure no parasites or diseases are present before making their way to Columbus.

The number of species currently on display is around 40, but Kline said that will change once a permit is reviewed and the conservatory gets approval, allowing up to 60 species to be on display.

The chrysalides arrive at the conservatory in foam containers inside boxes. Kline then takes them out and pins them to a board, which is put in a window, and they hang there until they emerge as butterflies.

Lori Kingston, the conservatory's marketing director, said the process emulates what would happen in nature.

The chrysalides are placed in a hanging position "so that gravity helps them emerge," Kingston said. "In nature, they would drop from a leaf or twig."

Depending on the size, temperature and shipping time, it takes roughly two to three days for a butterfly to emerge from a chrysalis, Kingston said. The environment is climate-controlled to replicate the tropical areas where the butterflies would normally be found. They usually spend more time in the display windows allowing their wings to dry out before they are able to fly and be released in the Pacific Island Water Garden area.

The butterflies, native to Brazil, have a dual purpose, Kingston said.

"They're not only good for entertainment or display, but also pollinate plants," she said.

After they are released in the garden, most of the butterflies have a three- to four-week life span. Others, such as the monarch, which are migratory, live for closer to six months, Kline said.

Also on display in the Pacific Island Water Garden is the amorphallus konjac, a large, exotic Asian plant with a pungent smell. Commonly known as the voodoo plant or devil's tongue, the plant's large purple flowers are in bloom and should be on display in the garden for another week or two, Kingston said.

About a dozen of the plants can be found throughout the garden area, along with additional information about the species on display.

Other plants in the Pacific Island Water Garden area include maidenhair ferns, ground orchids, giant elephant ear plants, banana palms, screw pine and creeping fig.

In the center of the garden is a large red, yellow and orange Chihuly hanging glass piece, called Sunset Tower. It is among several Chihuly glass installations in the garden, and butterflies often can be seen clinging to it, as it serves as a focal point in the garden.

The Blooms and Butterflies exhibit runs through Sept. 2.

Admission to the conservatory is $11 for adults, $9 for students with valid ID and seniors, $6 for children ages 3-17. Children ages 2 and younger are admitted free. On-site parking is free.

Franklin Park Conservatory is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily with extended hours until 8 p.m. Wednesdays.

For more information, visit fpconservatory.org.

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