Cockrell Butterfly Center: Houston Museum of Natural Science

Updated on April 12, 2020
Peggy W profile image

I live in Houston, and I have worked as a nurse. My interests include art, traveling, reading, gardening, cooking, and our wonderful pets.

Photo of a butterfly in the Cockrell Butterfly Center
Photo of a butterfly in the Cockrell Butterfly Center | Source

Looking for Butterflies in Houston, Texas

Houston, Texas, has a mild climate where one can see butterflies year-round. This is especially true if one has planted vegetation that attracts them. But where does one go to see exotic butterflies galore from all around the world in one place? The Cockrell Butterfly Center at the Museum of Natural History in Hermann Park is the answer. The address is 5555 Hermann Park Dr., Houston, Texas 77030.

We have taken many family members and friends to that attraction if they were visiting us here in Houston. No matter what the weather is doing outside, inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center, it is always the same. Think tropical rainforest, and you have the idea.

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Houston Museum of Natural Science

The Museum is located on the northern edge of Hermann Park. Hermann Park has so much to offer, including the Houston Zoo, the Japanese Garden, Miller Outdoor Theater, a Rose and Herb Garden, and more.

Peggy Woods
Peggy Woods

Cockrell Butterfly Center

The Cockrell Butterfly Center was an excellent addition to the existing Houston Museum of Natural Science. It opened its doors for the first time in 1994.

It consists of a three-story glass enclosure seventy feet in height. The butterfly center provides a walk-through exhibit space where people can commune with free-flying butterflies from all around the world.

My mother inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center
My mother inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center | Source

Butterflies

The humid environment is kept around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If wearing colorful clothing, do not be surprised if a butterfly suddenly decides to alight upon one. Sometimes other people are the first to notice. After all, a butterfly's slight weight would hardly alert one as to its presence if not in one's immediate line of sight.

Children and adults alike always seem thrilled to see these colorful winged insects sit for a spell upon one's shoulders, arms, hands, hair, and other body parts. Seldom does it last long, but many a smile has occurred. If lucky and fast with taking photos, these butterfly landings can sometimes be captured for a long time, visual remembrances of a visit here.

Cantelope & other fruits provided inside the dome for the butterflies.
Cantelope & other fruits provided inside the dome for the butterflies. | Source

Attracting Butterflies

Once hatched from their chrysalis state, the butterflies fly freely throughout the ample space.

Feeding stations are placed just off the pathways. Tourists can easily see the winged insects taking in sustenance. Bits of fruit or sponges soaked with nutrients are anchored to the ground or even tied and suspended from plant life within the dome.

Indigenous, as well as exotic plants that attract butterflies, are incorporated into this unique environment. Getting to see beautiful blooming varieties of plants also adds to the enjoyment of visiting the Cockrell Butterfly Center. If one is inspired to attract butterflies to one's personal garden, this is one place where one can easily see what works concerning that goal.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Photo taken at the zoo in Hermann ParkEntrance to the butterfly centerExterior image
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Photo taken at the zoo in Hermann Park
Photo taken at the zoo in Hermann Park | Source
Entrance to the butterfly center
Entrance to the butterfly center | Source
Exterior image
Exterior image | Source

Life Stages of a Butterfly

If one aspired to see each type of butterfly found in the Cockrell Butterfly Center in the butterfly's natural habitat, one would have to travel the world. Each week about one thousand butterflies are imported from countries around the world in their chrysalis or pupae stage.

There are four stages in the development of a butterfly.

  • Eggs—many are laid upon leaves and plants that eventually provide nourishment to the next stage, which is the...
  • Larva—aka, caterpillars—and they do eat! They can literally strip a plant of leaves (as they have done to some tomato plants in our personal garden in a small amount of time.) But that is their job which provides much-needed nourishment to the next stage which is...
  • Pupa—aka chrysalis stage which is the cocoon in which over time the fully developed...
  • Adult—butterfly emerges.

Butterflies emerging from their cocoons
Butterflies emerging from their cocoons | Source

Metamorphosis

The photo above shows the glass-enclosed case where the pupae (cocoons) reside until the adult butterfly emerges. Once a butterfly emerges, it takes a while to "harden" its wings and eventually use them for flying.

There are exits from this case whereby the adult butterflies gain access to the three-story enclosed tropical space which will be their home for the rest of their life cycle.

The museum maintains about 2,000 butterflies in various stages of development at all times. This is to ensure a steady supply of beauteous winged insects colorfully punctuating the rain forest atmosphere at any and all times that people may desire to visit this space.

In addition to a waterfall, people will find an abundance of vegetation consisting of tropical trees, shrubs, and flowering plants inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center. These include some of the following: palms, orchids, ferns, bromeliads, ginger, and too many others to enumerate.

Two photos pieced together showing a portion of the Cockrell Butterfly Center.
Two photos pieced together showing a portion of the Cockrell Butterfly Center. | Source

Spend Some Time

Be sure to dress appropriately for this warm and humid environment. Plan some time to admire the plantings as well as the fluttering of butterflies. Some of the butterflies have almost transparent wings.

Benches are worked into the landscape. This is an exhibit where it pays to slow down and take one's time for the full enjoyment of what is on display. One could easily spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours if desired.
The video below shows many of the blooming plants inside the Cockrell Butterfly Center.

More to See!

When leaving the butterfly area, one passes through space with mirrors to make sure that one of these winged insects is not trying to hitch a ride to the outside.

One is then introduced to an exhibit of the most dazzling colors of mounted beetles from around the world. There are also some other insects, some of which are alive. The iridescence of those polychromatic beetles is absolutely amazing. You will have entered the Brown Hall of Entomology at this point in your visit to the museum. Learning about the insect world and how humans benefit from their existence is a side benefit from going to enjoy the butterfly center.

Obviously, there is much more to the Houston Museum of Natural Science building than just the butterfly center.

A person can spend time exploring the four floors showcasing different items of interest. They include everything from dinosaurs to gems and more. You may wish to take in a Planetarium show, or an IMAX show. Some of the world-class traveling exhibits that pass through these doors are stellar!

The video below shows more of the butterflies in the Cockrell Butterfly Center and some of the Houston Museum of Natural Science.

Click on the link below to find out the address, hours of operation and prices for the Cockrell Butterfly Center in the Houston Museum of Natural Science. I hope you enjoyed this virtual tour.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Peggy Woods

    Comments

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      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Chitrangada,

        Like you, we have many butterflies that frequent our garden. Getting to see so many in one place, however, makes this butterfly center truly special.

      • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

        Chitrangada Sharan 

        6 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

        This looks like a wonderful place, with so many butterflies around. I loved all your pictures and videos. The greenery and all the garden flowers must have chosen thoughtfully to attract the butterflies.

        I have some flower plants in my garden, which attract butterflies. It’s beautiful to watch them.

        Thank you so much for sharing another wonderful place with the readers.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        A person could easily spend the better part of a day in this vast museum with all of its offerings.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Heidi,

        It is my pleasure to share this with you and others. Thanks for your visit.

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        6 weeks ago from Massachusetts

        I would love to visit this butterfly center. I find this kind of place to be fascinating. And as I also enjoy natural history museums I bet I could spend the better part of a day here. Great hub, there is so much to do in Houston.

      • heidithorne profile image

        Heidi Thorne 

        6 weeks ago from Chicago Area

        Looks like a wonderful place! Your photos are amazing. Thanks so much for sharing this with us!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Ruby,

        I think that most people appreciate the beauty and variety of gorgeous butterflies which accounts for the popularity of this place. Of course, the plants and scenery also add to the experience.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Thanks, Ann.

        I hope your Easter was a good one!

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi FlourishAnyway,

        The Cockrell Butterly Center appeals to people of all ages. Thanks for your visit.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Liz,

        They keep it warm and humid inside just as it would be in a tropical setting. The plants seem to thrive in that environment.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Bill,

        So glad to hear that you truly liked learning about the butterfly center. It is quite the attraction as you might expect.

      • always exploring profile image

        Ruby Jean Richert 

        6 weeks ago from Southern Illinois

        Thanks for the history of the butterfly, it was interesting. This would be a fun place to visit, asp. if you like butterflies and I do. Thank you.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        6 weeks ago from SW England

        Happy Easter to you too Peggy!

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        6 weeks ago from USA

        What a delightful place for all ages. I’m sure your mom enjoyed it and kids would as well. Thanks for including information about the butterfly lifecycle as well.

      • Eurofile profile image

        Liz Westwood 

        6 weeks ago from UK

        This sounds like an interesting resource. I especially appreciated your tips about appropriate clothing when planning a visit.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Lorna,

        Yes, getting to see the many different types of butterflies from around the world is a treat. That truly makes this part of the museum special.

      • Peggy W profile imageAUTHOR

        Peggy Woods 

        6 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

        Hi Ann,

        It is great that you have plants in your garden that attract butterfies. Thanks for your visit and Happy Easter.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        6 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

        This might be the coolest place you have highlighted. I absolutely love that Houston has a butterfly center.

        Happy Easter my friend!

      • Lorna Lamon profile image

        Lorna Lamon 

        6 weeks ago

        This is a wonderful place to visit for family and friends alike. I always know the weather will improve when I see the first butterfly. However, to have the opportunity to see the more exotic species in such a environment is indeed special. I enjoyed this experience Peggy - thank you for sharing. Take care.

      • annart profile image

        Ann Carr 

        6 weeks ago from SW England

        This looks like a wonderful place, not only to see the butterflies but also the plants and other things. It must have taken a great deal of work to put it all together and you've gone to a great deal of effort to put together this super article.

        I have various plants in my garden that attract our butterflies but some of these in the Centre look fantastic.

        Ann

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