Hart's greenhouse hosts Chelsea Botanic Gardens Butterfly Pavilion

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Norwich - posted Mon., Jun. 10, 2013
Vincent, 6, has collected a butterfly for each year of his age. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Vincent, 6, has collected a butterfly for each year of his age. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

It might have been pouring rain outside, but at Hart’s Greenhouse in Norwich, the colors of summer were on the wing for the 5th annual Chelsea Botanic Gardens Butterfly Pavilion. Groups of school children, senior citizens and the simply curious got a chance to relate on an eye-to-eye level with monarch and painted lady butterflies, which filled the enclosed greenhouse, landing periodically on waiting fingers, arms and even noses.

The secret to attracting the butterflies to land was a sugar-water mixture that volunteers from Chelsea Gardens offered to visitors on a soaked sponge.  Even the 6-year-old visitors from Niantic Center School carefully observed the rule of not trying to pick the insects up, but waiting patiently for them to land. “They do it because they want to be kind and gentle to them,” explained volunteer Eileen Nagel.

“We were taking care of butterflies [in school],” said Aidan, 6. “We had to give the caterpillars food.” He explained that as each caterpillar ate the leaves the children provided, “it shed its shell, and after its last shed it turned into a chrysalis,” he said. Eventually, the chrysalis “was getting very dark and then the shell cracked.” That’s when the butterflies emerged, he reported.

Aidan’s classmates were raising painted lady butterflies like the ones in the pavilion. Chelsea Botanic Gardens board member Mary Edgar explained that the group was only able to obtain a few chrysalids of the more spectacular monarch butterflies, as the species had been hit by a disease that decimated their numbers and from which they have yet to recover.

Hart’s also provided a potting shed where young visitors to the pavilion could plant a watermelon seed in a pot of soil to take home and nurture. “The kids love it,” said Chelsea Garden volunteer Linda Turner, who was staffing the potting shed. “Their eyes get bigger and bigger as you explain what they’re doing.”

The event serves as a fund-raiser for the proposed Chelsea Botanic Gardens at Mohegan Park. Edgar said that site plans for the project are complete and ready for final review, and that fundraising is ongoing. The butterflies, which are native to the area, were released into the wild when the event ended.

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