There’s an impossible rainforest a little ways off Route 116–a place where an international collection of insects, plants, and strange little reptiles somehow coexist in a great greenhouse.
Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens was recommended to me a few times (particularly as a good place to visit during the coldest parts of winter!) and I’ve finally taken the short journey to Deerfield to view these winged wonders for myself. Though the ticket price is quite something (particularly if you’re no longer a “student”), there’s no denying that what waits behind those windowless “butterfly airlock” doors is incredibly impressive: whether you’re a six-year-old child who’s still entranced with fairies or a twenty-two-year-old who secretly feels much the same way…
I’m unnaturally fond of indoor gardens, to be honest. One of my favorite places in the world is the Royal Botanical Gardens in Edinburgh, where massive Victorian glass houses protect countless constructed biomes and the plants that inhabit them (there were even some native Hawaiian ferns!). There’s something about a contained, unexpected room full of plants going wild that fascinates me. And there’s certainly plenty of that to be found here!
One of the most frequently-spotted winged friends at Magic Wings is the owl butterfly, otherwise known as “scary eyes guy.” Here, two of these woody creatures are hanging out together in just the right position to double the power of their camouflage.
One thing I learned very quickly: butterfly photography is quite the challenge! They’re usually caught up in an endless cycle of motion, and have a tendency to only rest for a few seconds–and even then, seem to choose the shadiest, most hidden part of the room to relax. The greenhouse at Magic Wings is full of eager DSLR users following these fluttering creatures around from a safe distance, waiting for the opportune moment to snap a photo.
Though I did manage to catch a few butterflies on screen, I almost prefer simply to remember the sensation of being there–the humid air (that was slightly cooler than the Massachusetts sun outside, surprisingly), the chirps of Gouldian finches and the peeps of button quails, the feel of incoming butterflies flapping just above your head…
Butterflies are about as ephemeral as you can get–I tried not to think about the fact that most of them likely had a lifespan of about a month at best. There were also some mysteries about the conservatory that I couldn’t quite solve during my visit. How do the butterflies multiply so quickly if there weren’t any visible chrysalises or caterpillars in the main garden? Are they reared in another room, or brought in en masse from outside providers, or simply magicked out of the air by some errant butterfly sorcerer?
I would have also liked to see a little more information about conservation and the critical status of many butterflies and their habitats. Places like this can be such a powerful tool for education–I certainly appreciated the exhibits that featured key butterfly facts before you even entered–and it’s so easy to channel the sense of wonder that many feel when viewing these creatures into a passion to protect them!