This Mama Llama scored major brownie points with my son Forrest and daughter Jenavieve. My pride and joy happily accepted my invitation to spend an afternoon at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, one of Virginia’s treasured gems.
The popular Henrico attraction just outside Richmond has over 50 acres of spectacular gardens to explore and admire. My favorite feature is the Conservatory, a fancy word for greenhouse, hothouse, or hothouse.
In 2019, USA Today voted Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden as the fourth “Best Botanical Garden” in the Nation out of 20 nominees. That same year, Better Homes & Garden Magazine recognized him as one of “8 Most Instagram-Worthy Botanical Gardens in the US”
I livened up our moment of complicity a little by putting on butterfly wings. Isn’t it every mother’s job to embarrass her offspring? Ha!
As I flitted through the parking lot, a gentleman said, “Bonita mariposa. Jenna quickly translated, “Pretty butterfly.”
Butterflies and moths mesmerize me with their majestic elegance and beauty.
I went snap-happy in the Butterflies M&T Bank LIVE! exhibition presented in the north wing of the Conservatoire. It is really beautiful ! People of all ages enjoyed watching the colorful insects feeding and fluttering about.
Visit the butterflies live! for the first time with his family, Buddy Small from Colonial Heights approached me and said, “Why am I not surprised to see The Progress-Index Social Butterfly in the butterfly exhibit.
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According to Beth Rilee Monroe, Director of Marketing, most of the Garden’s 3,516 guests on April 16-17 visited the opening weekend of Butterflies LIVE!. The first butterfly exhibition featuring tropical species was held in 2009 as part of the Garden’s 25th anniversary celebration.
“We were able to bring the exhibit back to 2012, and it ran every year through 2019. During the height of COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021, the exhibit was closed,” Monroe said. “Everyone is so excited to have the butterflies back this year.”
Being the social butterfly that I am, I chose Mary Lincoln’s mastermind over the awesome exhibit. The Exhibitions Coordinator was happy to share her knowledge.
Several times I had to step over a butterfly. It made me wonder how often they expire under a shoe.
“As we greet our guests, we tell them about the butterflies and remind them to keep an eye out for the butterflies on the floor,” Lincoln said. “Being proactive in this way helps minimize the incidences of trampled moths.”
Butterflies LIVE! guests enter and leave in small numbers through a vestibule. It is mainly used to monitor winged escapees.
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“The vestibule is important because most of our butterflies are non-native species, and we need to make sure they don’t escape into our local ecosystem,” Lincoln said. Because butterflies love to hitchhike on items such as clothing and bags, we must be sure to check guests before they leave. It can happen a handful of times every day.”
As Grace Huntoon of Williamsburg stood in line to exit the exhibit, she said, “Every time I step on a rock, I feel like I’m biting into a butterfly.”
I watched a butterfly keeper capture a “hitchhiker” in the hallway. Then, he waited patiently for the wanderer to fly away from the net at his own pace.
Chesterfield County Public School teacher Cathy Kunkel of Midlothian was unable to leave Butterflies LIVE! until a butterfly finishes landing on his back.
“Years ago we brought our first graders here from Thelma Crenshaw Elementary School,” Kunkel said. “Every spring we raise butterflies in our classroom. It’s ‘never’ no wonder for them.”
“It’s really cool to see different species of butterflies from around the world. I’ve witnessed some interesting things working with them,” Lincoln said. “Once we brought out a butterfly that had male markings on one side and female markings on the other. This is quite rare and is the result of a minor chromosomal abnormality. The technical term for this is bilateral gynandromorphia.”
Ninety different species will be represented throughout the duration of the exhibition, which runs until October 10. Guests will more than likely see different varieties of butterflies on each visit.
The exhibit includes a butterfly nursery. Guests can see butterflies emerging from one of the many pupae inside the wooden display.
Years ago I discovered a caterpillar in a black, green, yellow and white striped suit feasting on my bronze fennel. I placed the herb thief in an aquarium. It stopped eating, hung upside down from a twig, moulted into a chrysalis, and weeks later emerged as a magnificent black swallowtail swallowtail.
Butterflies LIVE! also includes huge Atlas butterflies [Attacus atlas], one of the largest moths in the world found in the forests of Asia. Butterfly educator Nathan Kristofik pointed out how the markings on the top corner of their wings resemble the head of a snake. The predators get confused and they live another day.
Coming out of the Conservatory, I noticed a man watching two baby carriages sitting on a butterfly-shaped bench.
“We brought our grandchildren here for Easter to see the butterflies,” said Angel Gonzalez from Chester.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
“It was really fun. There were a lot of flowers, plants and butterflies that I had never seen before,” said Mai-Londen Edwards of Mechanicsville. “I’ve had three butterflies land on me so far.”
Seven-year-old Charlotte Coillot, while crouching down to get a good look at a butterfly, said. “I love seeing butterflies. I prefer blue ones.”
With my lens I captured Jeffrey Coogle as he gazed intently at a variety of butterflies in a release box aka mesh cage.
“I’ve been here several times, but this is my first visit to the butterfly exhibit. It’s well done and worth the price of admission,” said Coogle of Richmond. “The butterfly on my daughter has been there for over five minutes.”
live the magic
Visit by Oct. 10 before the butterflies are gathered to dazzle guests at the Butterfly Magic exhibit at Tucson Botanical Gardens in Arizona.
Conservatory exhibits are included in regular daily admission: $17 for adults, $14 for seniors, $8 for children, and children under three are free.
If tourists are hungry or thirsty, they can stop by the Garden Café located in the Visitor Center every day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Between May 1 and June 26, the Robins Tea House with a picturesque view of the West Island Garden is another option on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The must-see destination has a dozen themed gardens, a library, a café and a huge souvenir shop.
I am not exaggerating; their Garden Shop is huge with a variety of merchandise to wear, eat, read, experiment with, and plant.
My sweet Jenavieve Rose bought me a butterfly charm from the garden shop. The accompanying card contained the following poem by AS Waldrop:
A butterfly is so beautiful, graceful and elegant that we see it; symbolizing the rapid changes in life, there are parallels between you and me.
It also symbolizes faith and embraces the journey along the way; May you be inspired by the butterfly as you go about your day.
Kristofik gave us an extra thrill. It was tight, but the four of us crammed into the closet-like emergency room. My mini social butterflies asked great questions.
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is located at 1800 Lakeside Avenue in Henrico. It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on November 25 and December 24 and 25. To visit lewisginter.org for more information.
– Kristi K. Higgins, aka The Social Butterfly columnist, is the food news and Q&A reporter at The Progress-Index. Do you have a current tip on local trends or businesses? Contact Kristi (her, her) at email@example.com, follow @KHiggins_PI on Twitter @socialbutterflykristi on Instagram and follow progress-index.com.