A Day of Flowers and Butterflies

Review of the Botanical Gardens and Biodome in Montreal

Story and photos by Nicole Weber

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The Botanical Gardens has a wide variety of plants.

My first time going to Montreal, I spent the day with SUNY Plattsburgh's Earth and Environmental Science Club, a group of students who share an interest in conserving the environment. With good weather, not too much hassle while crossing the border, barely any traffic, and great friends, the trip became a great daycation.

The Earth and Environmental Science Club decided to visit Montreal’s Botanical Gardens and Biodome to admire the beauty of nature. Pulling into the parking lot of the Botanical Gardens, we encountered our first problem. It cost $10 Canadian to park a car for the whole day, and the fact that no one had converted more than $20 didn't help. A young woman from the group eventually paid for the parking with the promise that we would all reimburse her. The cost of admission to both the botanical gardens and biodome was only $15 as we were with a group of 15 students.

As I entered the Botanical Gardens, I was told I had to follow the path that loops back to the entrance. Before I was informed of this, I had already realized how crowded it was, granted it was an early Saturday afternoon. Walking into the first section of the green house, I was surrounded by tall banana trees and other tropical plants.

The next section was filled with plants that need humid conditions. The ceiling sprinklers let out a light mist as I walked through the area. The majority of this section was green with touches of color from the small flowers on some of the plants.

I continued to move down the path, and I had to wait a few minutes before the people in front of me continued to walk. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was getting frustrated while waiting for people to take pictures. But with nowhere to go, you kind of just had to wait your turn and apologize for making the people behind you wait. This turned into another issue. Although I have taken five years of language I never took French. Maybe I should take up my mom’s offer of teaching me a little francais. Thankfully I do know “excusez-moi.”

The next section was filled with edible plants bearing fruits and seeds. Perfect timing, as I was getting hungry. Unfortunately for me, there were posters asking people not pull off any part of the plant as the displays are not for consumption.

Leaving the previous section that was filled with the mouth-watering smells of cinnamon and some kind of mint, I walked into the next section and was met with an even stronger aroma. The room was filled with a brightly-colored blend of flowers and ferns. Many flowers displayed are commonly known, but there were also flowers with textures I had never seen before; one reminded me of frayed cashmere. A lot of the arrangements looked too perfect, as if someone had constructed them, though there were no signs of wire or string holding them up in place. At the end of this section was a little man-made cave, which faced a tiny pond. Small groups of people stood there and had their pictures taken by their friends.

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Montreal's Botanical Gardens houses butterflies of all shapes and colors.

Walking on, the next room was humid and filled with bright red and pink flowers belonging to tropical trees. Within this section was a slightly hidden museum-like exposition, which was currently displaying tourism trinkets from tropical countries.

The greenhouse was symmetrically designed and brought us back to a brightly colored flower section. Speeding through this section, we came to another humid section which was entirely composed of cacti.

I had realized how many kids were there, but in this section, I felt there was a need to have a ‘please hold your child’s hand at all times’ sign.  Children were running around, trying to walk onto the dirt to touch the cacti, and their mothers quickly followed after talking rapidly in French and grabbing hold of their hands or waists before they could hurt themselves. It was extra crowded because this section brings you to the butterfly room, which has admittance constraints of small groups at a time. So I stood there for about a half an hour, in a narrow pathway, hoping that the little kids in front and next to me didn’t get pricked. More time went by and we were all trying to be patient and wait to see the butterflies.

Welcomed by an usher into a netted, two-level plaza, I walked through to see butterflies and moths flying everywhere. Blue, yellow, black, and red butterflies went to the nearest flower. Some hung from the netting on the ceiling, while others stayed by a small man-made waterfall on the far right wall. There were signs saying ‘please do not grab the butterflies.’ I could see why the signs were necessary—several butterflies and moths were flying around with broken wings. Wings were torn as if something took a bite out of them, and the ones with damaged wings had a harder time flying.

My day continued with lunch at a local pizzeria and then onto the Biodome. We had trouble finding the entrance into the Biodome; there should really be more signs for both the Biodome and the Botanical Gardens. After getting inside, we were also told that we were to follow the looped path similar to the Botanical Gardens. Thankfully this time the pathway was more spacious, but there were more kids.

Walking to the first section, I was surprised to see a bird sitting next to me on top of a rock and another on top of the door structure. Continuing with the animals that live in hot climates, I came across parrots, alligators, and much more. The next section was a cooler climate where no animals were to be seen except for two otters that were sleeping.

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Try to find the hidden treasures within the Botanical Gardens.

Leaving that section, we were welcomed by the butt of a porcupine that was up in a tree sleeping. Walking on, there was a fenced area with a bobcat cub pacing back and forth between the caretaker’s entrances—I sensed the cub was hungry. Almost everyone facing the fence was pointing and yelling, “look, look,” and I felt bad for the cat.

One of the last sections is the salt-water section, or so I thought. I walked into a big crescent shaped room and took a seat on the top row of benches to relax. All the little kids pressed their faces to the glass of the tank containing these huge fish that looked similar to catfish. My group decided to move on after about 10 minutes, and I walked down a path with open display tanks where salt water anemones, sponges, and starfish lay. But then I walked up a little ramp and saw ducks and other freshwater birds sitting on top of the tank in which the previous fish were located. Small penguins were also swimming down and up from the same water. I just think to myself, what biome is this supposed to be?

I guess the Biodome could claim that putting all aquatic animals together is displaying the aquatic biome, but oceans and ponds do not share the same vegetation. I don’t have any idea as to why the Biodome grouped the animals the way they did, but the arrangement bothered me. Going down further, there was a glass display showing a bunch of birds that resembled puffins, and for some reason there were three ducks in the same area. The birds that resembled puffins swam around and around in circles chasing the ducks to move, only the ducks had nowhere to go. The puffins would spread out their wings and get in the faces of the ducks. It was horrible; the ducks didn’t know how to defend themselves.

Closing the tour of the Biodome, I left feeling agitated with the placement of the animals and the misinformation presented to the public. This would never occur in the wild, but it’s presented to hundreds of people each day.

Besides that and the huge amount of strollers, the biodome was fun overall. I would not recommend either place if you cannot stand being around children. If you have kids yourself, both attractions are a great place to visit as long as you keep an eye on them.

APN gives Montreal's Botanical Gardens 4 out of 5 stars

APN gives the Biodome 2 out of 5 stars


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