I was lucky that a freelance assignment sent me to Lukas Nursery’s butterfly garden in Oviedo. Turns out that right now is the prime season for native Florida butterfly species to take flight and delight.
As you make your way to the entrance, butterflies flutter about from plant to plant. You know that if there are this many outside then what’s inside must be really good. You enter (and exit) the butterfly garden through a delightful gift shop worthy of a good half hour or more of browsing time. (Of course, if you have kids you may want to scurry them through quickly. I happened to be child-free on this particular day.)
Edna Kane, the brains behind the butterfly encounter, greeted me and showed me through the gardens. She explained that the Lukas family has been on this patch of Seminole County land for 101 years and that the butterfly garden opened nine years as a shack but has grown to house 300 to 500 native Florida butterflies at any given time. They recently introduced birds into the garden.
The butterfly garden is simply magical. At first your eyes don’t know where to look as pops of color whiz by or catch your sideways glance. I stalked them with my camera hoping for a perfect shot.
Although you’re not allowed to touch or handle the butterflies, the garden does offer visitors a chance to get hands-on with a “social butterfly,” the painted lady, in separate screened-in room. Simply stick your finger in the juice you’ll find in a cup inside, and then slide your finger under a butterfly’s feet. (They taste with their feet, Edna explained.) Put a dab on your child’s nose and place a butterfly there for a picture-perfect Facebook banner. You can also bring home a painted lady caterpillar for $3 and teach your child about metamorphosis.
As for my perfect butterfly shot, I got home to find that most of my pictures were blurry (amateur!), except for this gem of four butterflies, er, “snuggling” on the same branch. Pretty cool, right?
If you go: Admission is $5, and children 3 and younger are free. Ask about annual passes if you think you’ll come back. The high season for butterflies is when it’s hottest. That means the summer. And this garden is outside. That means it’s blazing hot. Wear sunscreen and stay hydrated. Low season is December through February. Address: 1909 Slavia Road, Oviedo. Phone: 407-365-6163.
DISCLAIMER: I received one free admission ($5 value) to the Lukas Nursery Butterfly Encounter.