Monday, April 2, 2012

Totally Texas -- Butterflies all a-flutter

Texas Discovery Gardens Butterfly House

Dallas Fair Park, Gate 6

3601 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.


The outdoor plantings at Fair Park’s Texas Discovery Gardens are in full bloom, but an even more dazzling show is inside -- in the glass-walled butterfly house where exotic butterflies roam a duplicate of their rainforest habitats.

I returned recently for the magic of being surrounded by clouds of elfin fliers. The butterfly house -- officially the Rosine Smith Sammons Butterfly House and Insectarium -- is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily at this time of the year. Its admission charge ($8 adults, $4 children) includes entry to the gardens, but Tuesday admission is half-price for the butterfly house, or free for the outdoor gardens only.

(Outdoors, check the water features for tadpoles and mosquito fish. The gardens are maintained organically, so there’s wildlife.)

The butterfly house imports farm-raised butterflies in their pupal (chrysalis) form for educational purposes only. Especially if visiting with children, consider arriving by noon for a daily talk and release of newly emerged butterflies.

Bring your camera and check for photo tips. Watch your step -- and your back. Butterflies perch on the walkways and on their human admirers, as if inviting pictures. And for the non-squeamish, take a look at the caged arthropods outside of the butterfly house. The little boys in my life love the likes of spiders and tarantulas.

Dallas isn’t the only metroplex site with butterfly fever. At the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens, the Butterflies in the Garden exhibit continues through Sunday, April 8, in the conservatory at 3220 Botanic Garden Blvd., off University Drive. Admission to the gardens is free, but there is a charge for tickets to the conservancy. See for details.

If you want to watch native Texas butterflies outdoors but close to home, check out the
pocket-sized but lovely butterfly garden in front of the Bath House Cultural Center, 521 East Lawther Drive in Dallas. Created and maintained by the Dallas County Master Gardeners organization, it includes a variety of water wise plantings. The blue-purple blooms of scabious (pincushion plants) were recent butterfly favorites.

And for tips on planning and planting your own butterfly garden, get tips from the Dallas County Lepidopterists’ Society, These guys actually like the sight of chewed leaves. It means there are caterpillars around.  

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