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Butterflies, Blooms and Corpse Flowers, Oh My! Chicago Botanic Gardens In Full Bloom

We’re rounding the corner to summer, and the weather’s taking a turn for the best for once. Sunshine and blue skies have been abundant, so it’s high time to get outside and enjoy it.  You may have picnicked or even hit the beach already for Memorial Day, but there’s plenty more to do around Chicago that’ll help you replenish your Vitamin D stores.

Chicago Botanic Garden. Photo by Marielle Shaw

The Chicago Botanic Garden has been bursting with life and activity lately, and with weather this gorgeous, it’s the perfect place to escape to, whether on a day off from work or over the weekend. You can bike the outer trails, explore each individual garden or pick a sunny spot by one of the lakes to lounge at. Over Memorial Day weekend, the annual Butterflies and Blooms exhibit opened again, this time in a beautiful new location on the garden’s recently opened Regenstein Learning Campus. This means you can tour the amazing new facilities and get your fix of our bejeweled, fluttery friends all at once, and take a run up and down the lush green hills and water features of the new grounds while you’re at it.

Butterflies and Blooms is a perennial favorite, and for good reason. Each year, the gardens get an array of interesting and exotic species from every continent. There are all manner of winged wonders, from the giant Atlas Moth to tiny, dazzling Sara Longwings (which are some of our favorites!) Visitors to this exhibit will encounter up to 500 beautiful butterflies upon entering, and new ones are constantly emerging. The foliage surrounding them is a beautiful collection of colorful flowers that provide the sweet nectar the butterflies feed on, from native plants like bee balm and purple coneflower to gorgeous citrus lantana and firebush from more southern regions of the US.  As always, the staff is incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and will help you identify your fluttering friends or learn how to build a garden of your own to attract them.

Java and Sumatra were the biggest corpse flowers yet at the Chicago Botanic Gardens, and bloomed just after Memorial Day. Photo by Marielle Shaw.

When we visited last week, one of the garden’s twin titans was in full bloom, too, with the other opening just a few days later.  The Chicago Botanic garden has had the most prolific collection of these giant but delicate beauties anywhere for a long time know, and there’s no sign that the stinky rockstars of the botanic world won’t keep cropping up pretty regularly in Glencoe, so if you missed it, there’s always a chance another one will be ready for a sniff sooner than later.

Photo by Marielle Shaw

Summer is a fantastic time at the gardens, and there’s almost always something to do. Upcoming in June, you can learn to cook something new and fresh with the Garden Chef series, take in one of several concerts, pack a picnic and learn gardening basics while you dine, or take a canoe trip through the garden’s waterways for Father’s Day. There are nights for new members, art festivals, free talks and even model sailboat races.

Take a look at just a few of the things we saw on our latest journey and then make a plan to check out the gardens at their best!

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