Botany & Bugs

By Lenny Gingello (GDES ’19)

Last Thursday SCI-155 Global Environmental Earth Science visited tropical rainforests, a forest full of butterflies, a hacienda, and many other ecosystems. How did we do this while in Montreal? Well, we went to the Montreal Botanical Garden!

Our first stop when we got there was the Insectarium where we saw many cool (and terrifying) insects. Not only did they have many preserved specimens, but they had some live ones as well. Most notably, they have an open vine on the top floor where ants are freely roaming around. This is something that people normally aren’t able to see so seeing ants interact with each other and move about an open space was really cool. Next we moved into the greenhouses. This was a truly beautiful space. We entered in the middle and to either side the building had rooms filled with different kinds of plants from different environments. We walked through environments ranging from a tropical rain forest, a temperate forest, an Asian garden with bonsai trees, a hacienda in the desert, a room full of cacti and plants from arid regions, and even more impressively a room full of butterflies.

Each of these rooms have the scientific name of each plant and their common names listed next to each plant. What was surprising about these different ecosystems was that the greenhouses were packed so dense that there must have been hundreds if not thousands of plant species per room. The most interesting ecosystem to me was what was called the Garden of Weedlessness which transports the person into a beautiful Asian garden. As people navigate the room they walk on bridges suspended over water. These bridges are surrounded by bonsai trees, types of bamboos, and other plants. Overall, it’s a very calming environment.

The room of butterflies is a really cool space. It’s part of an installation called Butterflies Go Free (Papillons en Liberté) that closes on April 29th this year. The butterflies are completely free to roam about the room and land on people. There were many varieties of butterflies like the monarch, the red lacewing, the large owlet, etc. People were walking around taking pictures, observing, and probably coolest of all, getting landed on by butterflies. While we were walking around there were definitely a few times where one would fly right by our faces very quickly and make us jump or startle us. It definitely seemed like that this was the part of the outing that everyone in our group was most engaged with and we spent as much time there as we could. This was definitely the best part of the whole outing and my definitely my favorite outing we’ve been on so far. Not only were the butterflies beautiful, but the varieties in the ecosystems and the diversity in the plant life we were able to see in such a short period of time and presented so well is something I had never really experienced before. If anyone has time before Butterflies Go Free ends I’d definitely recommend going, but either way it’s something really cool to go check out if you’re near the Olympic Stadium.