Conservation Outdoors

Learn All About the Monarch Butterfly at the North Carolina Arboretum

Monarchs on milkweed

By Natasha Anderson

The annual migration of monarch butterflies is a highly anticipated event each fall in WNC. This year, enthusiasts can celebrate monarchs all season long with The North Carolina Arboretum’s new exhibit Monarchs and Milkweed: A Story of Survival. Open now, the exhibit, running through January 7 in the Arboretum’s Baker Exhibit Center, takes guests on a journey into the complex world of butterflies and plants.

Monarchs on goldenrod

“It is an honor to bring museum-quality exhibits to the WNC region,” says the Arboretum’s senior director for mission delivery Clara Curtis. “This exhibit explores the interdependence of the monarch butterfly with a single plant species—milkweed (Asclepias spp.)—as well as humanity’s curiosity about, love for and interconnection with the natural world.”

Visitors will learn how this butterfly and plant’s survival have been shaped over time by one another, as the exhibit moves through the seasons of a calendar year to reveal how both species grow and interact. Multimedia, interactive stations feature a fun, immersive and educational experience appropriate for all ages. Guests can explore the monarch butterfly’s unique, multi-generational annual cycle and its ability to migrate back and forth across North America by taking advantage of the prevalence of milkweed, the only plant eaten by developing monarch caterpillars. It explores how both the insect and plant adapt for survival in their own unique way, impacting one another’s development and success at every turn.


The North Carolina Arboretum has a long history of promoting and supporting the monarch butterfly. The 434-acre public garden is an attractive and protective ecosystem for them and other pollinators, and the species has had a special place in many previous installations and exhibits. The Forest Meadow is home to Life of the Monarch by artist Grace Cathey, a large kaleidoscopic sculpture surrounded by pollinator plants that support butterflies and other insects.

“We focus so much attention on monarch butterflies partially because they are a very accessible means of encouraging people to consider the organisms we share our world with and how our actions can impact them,” says the Arboretum’s director of education Jonathan Marchal. “In the case of the monarch butterfly, in particular, this species is capable of transforming everyday people into conservation heroes.”

The NC Arboretum is located at 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville. Monarchs and Milkweed: A Story of Survival is included with a regular Arboretum parking pass. Learn more at

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