Butterfly Wonderland – a Rainforest Experience

Normally the words, desert and rainforest do not go together, but they meld very well in America’s largest butterfly atrium. Butterfly Wonderland is located in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community, in the Greater Phoenix area. The Native Americans believe the butterfly is a symbol of change, joy and color and a miracle of transformation, rebirth and regeneration.



On a lovely sunny day in March we visited this wonderland in the desert. There is an order to the visit. First view the movie The Flight of the Butterfly, a story of three generations of female monarchs, who journey through many states to eat, breed and survive. It is in 3D and I reached out to touch the trees, grasses and butterflies, on more than one occasion. It is truly a miracle of nature.

The next step on the journey is a visit to what I thought of as the birthing room, but what they call the Butterfly Emergence Gallery. It is where the Pupas hang on branches while the amazing transformation from a worm into a butterfly takes place. We watched as a couple slowly worked their way out of the cocoon. As I watched I remembered that as a child I collected silkworms, put them in a box with mulberry leaves, which they devoured and then spun the shell becoming pupas, and then moths.

Puppas and emerging butterflies

Puppas and emerging butterflies

There is a feeling of magic when you finally enter the glass-enclosed rainforest atrium. It is lush with foliage, waterfalls and a koi pond. It is probably the only place for miles that there is any humidity. The music is the almost soundless fluttering of the butterflies, the people’s murmurs of wonder, the running water and all around us hundreds of eye-popping, colored butterflies, landing on our backs, fronts, heads and hands. There are the usual signs, like don’t touch the butterflies, but also the ones that say, watch where you step, because they sit in the ground.


Butterfly Wonderland gets most of the pupas from Africa, Asia and South and Central America. I asked a volunteer if they also breed and release them, given the destruction of the butterfly population from pesticides. He said no. As nothing in the Conservatory, like the trees, bushes, flowers and butterflies are natural to the area, that when they die, they have to be disposed of like toxic waste.


We spent time watching the butterflies and the kid’s faces when a butterfly landed on their hands or clothes. They were all entranced and some were as colorful as the butterflies themselves.


There were butterfly wreaths.


And some that looked like mosaics


Our favorite, the Blue Morpho which flies in a zigzag to confuse its predators.


Another blue beauty




Apparently they like bowls of fruit for breakfast


Perfect camouflage


The lovely Monarch


Like a painting


Where is the butterfly and where is the leaf?


Waiting to leave


One cannot just wander in and out. When enough people gather a staff person opens a door that leads into a room, where we check for butterflies on our person, or in our belongings. It is almost like a level of security. No one leaves with a butterfly in their possession.

Oops John nearly did!


They then open another door and we are free to leave and visit the store or café. It is a delightful tourist attraction to visit, especially on a sunny day in March.



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3 Responses to  Butterfly Wonderland – a Rainforest Experience

  1. Loreen Silverman says:

    Still disappointed we did not get to see you in Az. Believe it or not, our kids have been there but I have not seen it yet. I return to Mpls around May 4. Let’s make plans to get together for dinner.


    Sent from my iPad


  2. Nancy Goldstein says:

    Thanks for sharing this Ann. My girlfriend, Daryle, who passed away always thought that her departed friends came back as butterflies. Thus her daughters and myself always think of her when we see butterflies. One of my favorite pendants is a butterfly which reminds me of my dear departed friend.

    Hope all is well. We just got home this week and are still trying to get settled, taxes paid etc. Hope to see you soon. Is Alan still at Apple?


  3. Mary Donlon says:

    Ann – Lovely journey with you, as always. Thanks for sharing!

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