Botanic Garden to host 8th bi-annual butterfly exhibit

By Ernest Dominick

Visitors who go to the Fort Worth Botanic Garden next week will have the chance to see an exhibit that comes only once every two years.
The exhibit, ‘Butterflies in the Garden: The Mayan Experience’  begins March 1 and will feature 10,000 live butterflies from 50 different species in a 10,000 square foot conservatory, said Lead Entomologist and Education Manager Gail Manning. Visitors can also buy hand-made textiles created by native artists in Mexico.
The event is also a joint fundraiser hosted by the Fort Worth Botanic Society, the Fort Worth Garden Club, the Botanical Research Institute of Texas (B.R.I.T), and the Botanic Garden. Admission is free for children 2 and under; $6 for ages 3-12; $10 for ages 13-64; and $8 for people 65 and older. Tickets can be bought on the Garden’s website.

Gail Manning seated in her office.
Gail Manning seated in her office.

Manning said the proceeds from the exhibit fund educational programs that teach people in the community how to improve and sustain their local environment.
“One of my goals for the exhibit is to inspire people to plant for native butterflies, and people can learn how to do that through our programs,” Manning said.
The butterflies cost the gardens roughly $30,000 to $50,000 each year, but Manning said she considers the money well spent. The exhibit brings in between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors each year.
“People really like it,” Manning said. “We even have people who ask why we don’t do it every year.”
Manning also said the exhibit is a powerful tool to draw large crowds in between late winter and early spring.
“The butterfly exhibit attracts people to the Botanical Garden at a time when our attendance is low,” Manning said.
Because the exhibit draws in so many people, Manning said she needs all the help she can get. This year, she has staffed 200 volunteers to assist her in preparing the exhibit.
Workers preparing the Garden Center for the Butterfly exhibit.
Workers preparing the Garden Center for the Butterfly exhibit.

Michael Kaufman, a TCU environmental science student, works as the Botanic Garden’s butterfly intern. Kaufman noted his past experience working with butterflies.
“My mom is an educator, and when I go home for breaks I volunteer for her classes as they raise butterflies,” he said.
Kaufman’s job includes pinning cocoons, catching new butterflies after they emerge, and releasing them into the exhibit.
Michael Kaufman on campus.
Michael Kaufman on TCU’s campus.

It may be Kaufman’s first year working for the Botanic Garden, but the building where the exhibit is held has been around for much longer. This year will mark its 30th anniversary of the Botanic Garden’s Rain Forest Conservatory.
Senior Horticulturist Steve Huddleston has been with the garden for more than 20 years and said he has enjoyed the growth.
Steve Huddleston in his office.
Steve Huddleston in his office.

“It really has filled out,” Huddleston said. “When I came in 1994 it wasn’t very lush, but now we’ve really turned it into a tropical rainforest and that is the effect that we want.”
Noting the original architecture of the exhibit, Huddleston said this year’s Mayan theme was chosen in recognition of the conservatory’s growth.
The butterfly exhibit will run from March 1 to April 6 at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden Center located at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd. Fort Worth, Texas 76107.
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