Outdoors Recreation

In The Dark at the NC Arboretum

By Natasha Anderson

The North Carolina Arboretum uncovers the mysteries of the dark as part of its new exhibit, In the Dark, open daily through May 12, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. inside the Baker Exhibit Center. This interactive traveling exhibit developed by the Cincinnati Museum Center delves into dark environments and the animals, plants and people that adapt to areas with little to no light.

“Humans are naturally diurnal and therefore the nocturnal world can be largely alien to us,” says NC Arboretum exhibits curator Ashlee Lanier. “Understanding all of our ecosystems is both important and fascinating, and can help us have a better appreciation of our natural world.”

From a forest diorama of the Great Smoky Mountains to a re-creation of a Kentucky limestone cave, In the Dark features five immersive zones that enable visitors to experience the darkness of many unseen worlds. Through mechanical displays, lifesize animal models and informational panels, families will learn and uncover what thrives beneath the soil, under the sea, in the shadows of the night and within other dark settings. Visitors can crawl inside a giant bat head, experience life as a termite, explore the worlds of bobcats, skunks and cicadas, and discover how birds and bats find their way at night.

“People will be surprised to learn just how intricately animals have adapted to their environments,” says Lanier. “They may also be surprised about how different dark environments can be from one another, and how drastically different adaptations may be from one organism to another, such as an animal residing in a cave versus an animal living in the forest.”

The Arboretum hosts several evening events as part of the exhibit. Owl Prowl, a family-friendly gathering featuring an owl pellet dissection, nighttime guided hikes and a live owl presentation, takes place Saturday, February 23, from 6–8 p.m. Bat & Moth Party, on Saturday, April 13, from 8–11 p.m., teaches visitors to hear and identify the high-frequency sounds bats emit while they echolocate their prey and includes a 9 p.m. mothing presentation for adults. At What Goes HOP in the Night!, on Friday, May 10, from 8–10 p.m., visitors can enjoy local brews and tasty treats while discovering amphibians that are active at night. The evening includes animal demonstrations with frog and salamander species and a guided evening hike focusing on the sounds of gray tree frogs and other species.

The North Carolina Arboretum is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at Milepost 393. All evening events for In the Dark are free, however online registration is required and standard non-member parking fees apply. A five-dollar per person suggested donation is welcomed and will help support The North Carolina Arboretum Society. Children must be accompanied by an adult during all activities. For more information on In the Dark, please visit NCArboretum.org.

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