by Linda Burlingame
“Exciting experience” is one definition for the word “adventure.” And your journey through the Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure in Branson, Missouri, is exactly that. The venue is vast; the multi-story lobby is light and airy and immediately puts you in a tropical mood. Although it’s a self-guided journey, there are always knowledgeable staff members nearby to provide more information and answer questions. And if you begin your trek in the Rainforest Theater, you’ll get answers to questions you didn’t even know you had! The “Hidden World” and “3D Flight of the Butterflies” videos rotate all day.
The Aviary is the tropical butterflies’ rainforest area in the Butterfly Palace, and it’s enchanting. There are more than a thousand butterflies, more than 60 species, flitting about this botanical garden that’s filled with lush greenery, towering palms, a waterfall, orchids, and other exotic plants. Be sure you have your camera — there are endless photo opportunities. Butterflies might light on your shoulder … or on a friend’s nose! It’s also fun to feed the butterflies with the complimentary flower nectar.
If entomologist Matt Trujillo is around, he’ll tell you that because the butterfly has such a short life span, two-three weeks, The Butterfly Palace imports between 500 and 700 in the Chrysalis (pupa) stage each week. Imported under strict USDA guidelines, they come from butterfly farms in countries like Costa Rica, Australia, the Philippines, Colombia, El Salvador, Kenya, and Malaysia. These farms are a vital part of the rainforest, and in some smaller countries, it’s their only way of life. The project promotes rainforest preservation, “because thousands of hectares of land (one hectare = 2.47 acres) are needed in order to run a butterfly farm. It also promotes a sustainable rainforest economy … in the wild there is a 7% survival rate for a butterfly, but in a butterfly farm they achieve a 70-90% survival rate. Farmers release a certain percentage of butterflies back to the wild to support species preservation.” (TheButterflyPalace.com)
The Banyan Tree Adventure is a maze-like walk through a rainforest, a trail of “banyan tree roots” that leads to the rainforest pond, which is filled with illusions of lily pads, fish, and floating flowers. Step on the “water” and watch it ripple, sending fish scurrying. An extraordinary fantasy!
The Emerald Forest Mirror Maze — evening in the rainforest — is remarkable as well. You and I may never travel to another country to experience the rainforest, but here at The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure in Branson, an astonishing atmosphere is created. It takes you on an expedition you’ll enjoy, one that creates cherished memories.
You certainly don’t want to miss the Living Rainforest Science Center. You’ll meet more than two dozen rainforest inhabitants, including “Hairy,” a blue-tongued skink who isn’t hairy, and “Betty” the Chinese water dragon!
Until last year, all the butterflies at The Butterfly Palace were tropical, exotic butterflies you won’t see in your backyard. In 2017 the Palace partnered with the Euchee Butterfly Farm in Oklahoma, to receive Monarch butterflies. The farm has a program called Natives Raising Natives, to promote the conservation of Monarchs here in the United States. Biologists are concerned about the decline in the Monarch population, so this is a great project. (I’m also pleased that Branson is part of Milkweed for Monarchs, a statewide initiative to combat this decline. At least seven city-owned properties have planted milkweed, the only plant on which Monarchs will lay their eggs.) Because Monarchs do not breed in winter months, they will be flying in the aviary only March through August.
The entire experience at The Butterfly Palace & Rainforest Adventure is excellent. It’s so enjoyable, and it’s educational. And did I mention the Gift Shop at Base Camp? You’ll discover exquisite treasures for yourself and your home, for everyone on your gift list — especially the friends and neighbors taking care of your cat and the mail while you’re in Branson! Enjoy!