A Tucson resort this week opened two new exhibits aimed at putting some colorful wonders of the Sonoran Desert on display for its guests.
One of the exhibits at Loews Ventana Canyon is a 1,500-square-foot garden certified as a national butterfly garden by the National Butterfly Association. The other is an 800-square-foot desert tortoise exhibit certified by the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.
“It’s just another embracement of nature by our property — and a way to give our guests a special experience,” said Brian Johnson, managing director of the resort at 7000 N. Resort Drive.
“To our knowledge, we are the only hotel in Arizona that is certified as both a national butterfly garden and as a monarch (butterfly) flyway by the National Butterfly Association,” Johnson said. “And we are the first hotel to have a tortoise exhibit certified through the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.”
Johnson said the resort had created a small butterfly and hummingbird garden a few years ago.
“But then we wondered: How do we make it bigger, better and brighter?” he said. “We contacted the Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association and told them we could use their expertise in expanding the garden.”
The association identified more than 60 species of butterflies on the resort property and offered advice on choosing plants that would attract butterflies. Among the plants are Mojave milkweed, mule-fat, Arizona foldwing and Arizona milkweed, Johnson said.
With the plantings in place, the garden received national certification — and butterflies fluttered in to check it out.
On a recent morning, Johnson said, “the garden was absolutely filled with queen butterflies. My head was surrounded with a cloud of butterflies. There must have been 100 of them.”
Johnson said he had an idea for a desert tortoise exhibit about a year ago and sought advice from the Desert Museum and the Arizona Game and Fish Department.
After the experts helped select a suitable site and specifications for the exhibit, the resort’s landscaping staff put the exhibit together, Johnson said, noting that the staff also constructed the butterfly garden.
He said the exhibit is occupied by two tortoises provided by the Desert Museum.
“The guests love them,” he said.