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Meijer Gardens' 25th Annual Butterfly Exhibition Explores an Era of Discovery and Highlights the Story of the Wardian Case

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Thousands of butterflies fly freely in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory March 1 through April 30.
Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming at Meijer Gardens

Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming at Meijer Gardens /Photo by Tara Fletcher Photography

Exhibition Programming

  • “Who Am I?” A Butterfly Ballet 
    Saturday, February 29, 10 am and 12:30 pm
    Sunday, March 1, 12 pm and 2:30 pm 
    Fee: $5 members/$8 non-members; Free for ages 2 years and younger. Regular fees apply for general admission to Meijer Gardens.
    Choreographed by Attila Mosolygo, performed by members of the Grand Rapids Ballet Junior Company and narrated by Errol Shewman.
    Developed in collaboration with Grand Rapids Ballet, this unique performance highlights characteristics of butterflies through dance. Don’t miss this thoroughly delightful butterfly ballet. Told through the eyes of a newly emerged butterfly, the story will captivate young and old alike. With colorful costumes, spectacular music and exquisite choreography, this enchanting performance will provide a unique and memorable experience. Participate in interactive dance activities before the performance and take advantage of photo-ops on stage with the dancers afterward. Register online at or call 616-975-3184. Who Am I? A Butterfly Ballet is generously sponsored in part by Karl & Patti Betz and Jesse & Gia Budrick.
    An American Sign Language interpreter will be provided for the 10 am performance on February 29. Reservations for this service are required. To reserve your space, call 616-975-3184 or 616-975-3147, or email [email protected] by February 24.


  • Scout Event – Butterflies and Ballet
    Saturday, February 29
    This special event provides a unique and memorable way to experience and learn about butterflies. Troops will attend a performance of Who Am I? A Butterfly Ballet, presented by the Grand Rapids Ballet Junior Company which includes colorful costumes, spectacular music, and exquisite choreography. Scouts will also create a special butterfly-related art project and visit the butterflies in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. An optional fun patch will be available for purchase in the gift shop. Visit for more information or to register.


  • Outdoor Children’s Activities
    Sunday, March 1-Thursday, April 30, daylight hours only
    Lena Meijer Children’s Garden 
    Included with admission 
    Once you have observed caterpillars in the Seasonal Display Greenhouse and butterflies in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory, come out to the Children’s Garden for engaging outdoor educational events. Fly like a butterfly, wrap up like a chrysalis, curl up like a caterpillar, or crawl out of an egg using life cycle costumes and your imagination. Perform your own butterfly-themed puppet show or read about moths and butterflies in the Log Cabin. Search for butterfly and moth life cycle stages in a special Treehouse Village hunt. Ring the bell after successfully navigating through the Butterfly Maze. Become a butterfly in the Monarch’s Migration game. Enjoy a springtime puppet show or story-time; days and times vary. There is something for all ages! Activities vary daily; check the Information Center for activities and times. 
  • Tuesday Night Lights
    Included with admission
    Bring your flashlight on Tuesday nights until 9 pm to search for butterflies and see the nightlife in the Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. 


Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park’s annual Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition will bring more than 7,000 tropical butterflies to West Michigan beginning March 1. Butterflies Are Blooming is the spring’s most anticipated exhibition and the largest temporary tropical butterfly exhibition in the nation.

This year’s exhibition highlights Nathaniel Ward and the invention of the Wardian Case. In 1827, Ward accidentally invented terrariums while studying caterpillars and moths by placing them in jars. He noticed that plants were flourishing in these sealed jars and discovered that plants and insects better survived the harsh conditions in London, a city known for heavy pollution at the time, if they were enclosed in sealed containers. This discovery led to horticulturists being able to transport items around the globe and these early “fern cases” paved the way for modern terrariums, greenhouses and conservatories.

Approximately 60 colorful species of butterflies and moths journey from butterfly-rich regions of Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Philippines and Kenya to fly freely in the five-story tall, 15,000 square-foot Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory. At 85 degrees and 70 percent humidity, this balmy environment mimics the tropical regions that the butterflies call home. A rich carpet of ferns punctuated by bright fuchsia and mango colored blooms and lime green foliage creates an irresistible buffet in both sunlight and shade for nectaring butterflies. Plants that are flowering during the exhibition include pentas, orange plume flower, blue porterweed, jatropha, as well as Queen’s Wreath and Bleeding Heart Vines.

Species of butterflies expected to arrive include the blue common morpho, whose iridescence impresses in flight, as well as brushfoot varieties such as the Clearwing, Lacewing and Zebra Mosaic. Likewise, the longwings captivate with distinctive wing patterns as seen on the Small Blue Grecian, Doris, Postman and Tiger butterflies. Gliders like the Emperor, Ruby-Spotted and Orchard Swallowtails will also add to the diverse assortment. 

“Step Into the Glass House during this year’s Fred & Dorothy Fichter Butterflies Are Blooming exhibition and discover how the invention of the Wardian case changed the world,” said Lisa Roo, Annual Exhibitions Lead Designer & Project Manager. “This year’s theme offers our community a sense of wonder with magical glass houses from four feet tall to our iconic fifty-foot-tall Lena Meijer Tropical Conservatory.  We offer our guests the unique experience of stepping into glass houses to see butterflies soaring, caterpillars munching, and learn how the Wardian case paved the way for modern terrariums and greenhouses.”

More than 1,000 pupae arrive at Meijer Gardens weekly from around the world. Guests can watch as delicate chrysalides and cocoons are placed in the Observation Station, where these unique and fascinating creatures then transform and spread their wings for the first time.

The Caterpillar Room, located within the Grace Jarecki Seasonal Display Greenhouse, features monarch caterpillars. Here guests will have the opportunity to learn more about how plants, butterflies and moths live in and under glass. Caterpillars hungrily feed on milkweed host plants mixed in with the flowering spring plantings and ferns that encompass the perimeter of the Seasonal Display Greenhouse. A docent will be present to help guide guests and enhance the experience. A new Wardian case will be located in the adjacent Earl and Donnalee Holton Victorian Garden Parlor.

This much-loved exhibition attracts 185,000 visitors from all over the world each year. 

Extended Spring Break Hours:
Enjoy extended hours during Spring Break. Monday – Friday, April 6-10, 9 am – 9 pm.



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