The Rapidian Home

Butterflies blooming foster enjoyment of nature

Frederik Meijer Gardens host "Butterflies are Blooming" exhibit to attract citizens to enjoy tropical flora and fauna.
A tree nymph butterfly rests in the tropical observatory

A tree nymph butterfly rests in the tropical observatory /Jacqueline Bull

The Exhibition Quick Info

March 1-April 30

1000 East Beltline Avenue Northeast, Grand Rapids, MI 49525

See for hours and rates




It is 85 degrees with 70% humidity. There are the sounds of a tall waterfall and trickling water. Big lush tropical flora spring out and drape across the landscape. This is Grand Rapids early March and April if you happen to be visiting the “Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming” exhibit at the Frederik Meijer gardens.

The exhibition is in its 20th year. The exhibition attracts more than 170,000 visitors across the country every year. It is the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibition in the nation. The event is March 1-April 30. The event is held in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. The conservatory is a permanent feature of the gardens and has over 500 species of plants from around the world. Outside of the butterfly season, tropical birds hop and fly around the five story conservatory.  

The event has 50 different species of butterflies fluttering about the large natural habitat. About 800 chrysalides are delivered weekly. They are released after they emerge from their cocoon and visitors can watch them take their first flight. The butterflies are from many places around the world. There were many from South America and Central, Asia and Africa. 

Upon entering the conservatory, each family, group or couple are given a brochure guide to the butterflies. The guide is sorted by continent. The guide has pictures of all of the different species with names and descriptions. Many families took this as a way of scavenger hunt, identifying the butterflies they saw and seeking out the ones they hadn’t yet.  

Many of the butterflies perch on the critically acclaimed orchid wall. The orchid wall is an ever-changing 3500 piece collection. Another hotspot is the waterfall and the feeding spots. The feeding spots are colorful beads in a tray of honey water. 

When the attendance becomes considerable, the line into the conservatory weaves through other gardens and exhibits. Waiting to go in, one might walk through the Earl and Donalee Holton Arid Garden. The arid garden features many different desert plants like cacti and succulents. The line wove through the arid garden and allowed the guests to get acclimated to the temperature and also be entertained while waiting. The next step in the line goes through the seasonal display greenhouse. The greenhouse was filled with caterpillars on various flora.  

Families with toddlers, young children, older children, teens, and the elderly all enjoyed the event. Young couples looking for a quiet and sunny excursion strolled through, older couples were looking to enjoy nature, and families with young children learn about the butterflies and enjoy the kid-themed activities. 

Many visitors are with cameras, waiting patiently for a particular species to sit still to be photographed. 

The butterfly exhibit only lasts until April 30th, but the gardens have events year round. This event in particular attracts people in droves to do something as simple and lovely as observe butterflies in a greenspace. 

Seeing the large green lushness of the conservatory just coming out of the dead of the winter might seem unusual for Grand Rapids, but the city and Friends of Grand Rapids Parks are hoping to make the greenery a little more commonplace. In 2011, the City’s master plan established a 40% tree canopy goal for the city. That would mean many more trees and greenspaces in and around the city. Friends of Grand Rapids Parks created the Urban Forest Project in response to the amendment. 

According to their website, "We seek to offer a diverse menu of opportunities for citizens to learn about and directly impact the City's urban forest." There are many ways to get involved with the Urban Forest Project like becoming a citizen forester or tagging trees in your neighborhood to the city map. One of the most exciting opportunities to get involved is being able to apply for a mini grant for your neighborhood. The mini grants are available to create community orchards. Imagine having some apples with your neighbors in between your morning coffee and afternoon errands. 

While it is not possible to enjoy tropical butterflies and 85 degree weather year round, the attendance and enthusiasm of these events is showing that Grand Rapids citizens value their green spaces and nature. There are many ways to lobby for more of these experiences in your neighborhood. Support and involvement from the community can help make the canopy goal a reality and be able to foster those experiences and relationships that green spaces and nature can offer.n  

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.