Spring butterfly exhibit at Desert Botanical Garden a whimsical experience

A butterfly flies at the Phoenix Botanical Gardens. (Photo by Rachel Nemeh) A butterfly flies in the Spring Butterfly Exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden. (Photo by Rachel Nemeh)

The air is alive with fluttering wings in the Spring Butterfly Exhibit at the Desert Botanical Garden. The exhibit has been open since March 1, but with the current weather, which won’t last much longer, now is the best time to go.

Housed in the Marshall Butterfly Pavilion, it features hundreds of the colorful insects. Species ranging from the familiar Monarch, to the strikingly large Pipevine Swallowtail, call the seasonal feature their home.

The most commonly seen are the aptly named Zebra Longwingand the bright orange Julia. These species are prolific flyers, but they especially like sitting motionless on flowers with trays of orange slices set out every few feet.

When they’re not preoccupied sucking up juice and nectar with their delicate proboscises or resting on the mesh walls of the pavilion, the butterflies greet visitors by floating around their heads or landing on their outstretched fingers.



The possibility that one of these frail beauties could choose one of us as its next perch is the main draw to the exhibit. You can see butterflies anywhere, but in what other setting do they land on you?

Many people shy away from their lilting pursuits, but the sensation of having a "Painted Lady" or "Red Admiral" land on your arm is a barely perceptible tickle, and nothing to be afraid of. Plus, it makes for a great photo.

Desert Botanical Garden volunteer, Joel Rosenfeld, suggests that anyone interested in getting personal with the butterflies should “wear brightly colored clothes,” as the flower-like hues attract their specifically tuned eyes.

According to Rosenfeld, even if this doesn’t do the trick, the visual splendor of the exhibit is an experience in itself. He said, “This is the most beautiful place in Phoenix.”

The exhibit has been opened since March 1. (Photo by Rachel Nemeh) The exhibit has been opened since March 1. (Photo by Rachel Nemeh)

The Spring Butterfly Exhibit is indeed beautiful, and the butterflies seem to be happy where they are. This is because, as employee Sophie Rogers says, “About half of the species are native to this area.”

The price however, might make some people reconsider their visit. A four-hour general adult admission to the Desert Botanical Garden costs $22. With a student discount, this goes down to $12. Children cost $10, and if they’re under three, they’re free. Once you’re inside, the Butterfly Exhibit is an extra $3.50 per person.

So if you’re only interested in the butterflies, consider growing some flowers by a window, because even the reduced price of $15.50 is too much for this relatively small exhibit.

If strolling through diverse gardens of plants interests you though, the student price at least makes a little more sense. The Desert Botanical Garden is home to countless examples of the beauty and variety of native Arizonan flora.

Another current feature is the exhibition “Chihuly in the Garden.” This is a collection of brilliant glass sculptures intermingled with the plants, providing a surprising and appealing contrast to the natural scenery.

So as an addition to all this, $3.50 is a reasonable price to pay for a semi-rare butterfly encounter, and if you’re already in the garden, it’s a great way to spend an hour.

The Spring Butterfly Exhibit is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. until May 11 at the Desert Botanical Garden.


Reach the reporter at shmartin@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @shmartin09

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