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Horticulture Internship

The Cockrell Butterfly Center, located within the Houston Museum of Natural Science, is one of the premier exhibits of live butterflies in the country.  Although butterflies from around the world are the main attraction, the plant background is of major importance.  The center’s theme is a tropical rainforest, featuring over 300 different species of flowering and foliage plants.

In addition to the public display area, the center includes three 1000 sq. ft. greenhouses used for plant storage and maintenance, plant propagation, and for raising several species of butterflies.

Horticultural staff at the Butterfly Center is responsible for plant care and maintenance inside the public display conservatory as well as in the support greenhouses.  Duties include plant care and propagation, pest control, record keeping, developing signage and informational materials, leading tours for children and adults, and interacting with the public and with volunteer workers.  Skills developed by horticultural staff in the center include:  Knowledge of tropical plant identity and care; plant propagation techniques; familiarity with greenhouse pest insects and the beneficial species used to control them (biological control); butterfly gardening and familiarity with butterfly identity and breeding; public speaking.

To apply:  Send statement of interest and career goals, including how this internship would help you achieve such goals; college/university transcripts; and names and contact information of at least three references (a combination of academic and work references).  (See next page for qualifications required)

Mail or email application materials to:

Erin Mills
Director, Cockrell Butterfly Center
Houston Museum of Natural Science
5555 Hermann Park Drive
Houston, TX  77030-1799



Time frame and compensation

Ten-twelve weeks:  late May/early June to mid August, 35 hours per week, $11 per hour.

Daily duties and responsibilities of intern

Care and propagation of plants in greenhouses and butterfly center; cataloging plant material; assisting with butterfly rearing program; interacting with public; special projects.  Supervised by horticultural staff on a day to day basis and by Butterfly Center director.


Qualifications:   The internship is open to students of horticulture at accredited colleges and universities who have completed at least their freshman year.

Selection process:  All application materials must be received by the March 20 deadline.  At that time the selection committee will begin reviewing candidates and will select and notify recipient by April 12.

Credit:  Students need to arrange with their home institution to receive credit, if applicable.

Added benefits:  Interns who return to school (senior year or graduate school) are encouraged to apply for one of the several grants offered by The Garden Club of America to assist study in a variety of horticulture-related areas (see ).  The Garden Club of Houston-sponsored Butterfly Center interns are given special consideration for these awards.

Housing:  Finding housing is the intern’s responsibility.

Intern evaluation

Weekly meetings (progress reports) with supervising staff here.  Final written evaluation by Butterfly Center director, to be forwarded to The Garden Club of Houston and student’s institution.  Intern should provide a short report on the internship experience within one month of completing the internship, to be submitted to The Garden Club of Houston.  If the internship is considered a “for-credit” experience, the student’s institution may require a paper or presentation based on experience acquired during the internship.

Notes:  Butterfly gardening and watching rivals birding in popularity, and live butterfly exhibits such as that housed in the Cockrell Butterfly Center are very popular with the public.  Managing a natural plant environment that contains other living creatures is distinct from maintaining a “plants-only” display; this field is sometimes called “zoo horticulture” (and even has its own society; see ).  The skills developed during an internship at the Butterfly Center provide excellent training for a career in zoo horticulture, but also are useful preparation for more traditional horticultural positions, especially those emphasizing tropical plants.


With over 2 million visitors annually, the Houston Museum of Natural Science (HMNS) is one of the most highly attended museums in the nation.  In addition to the Cockrell Butterfly Center, HMNS houses a Giant Screen Theater and a Planetarium.  Permanent exhibits include the world-class Cullen Hall of Gems and Minerals, the John P. McGovern Hall of the Americas, the Wiess Energy Hall, the Strake Hall of Malacology, and the new Duncan Wing and Moran Hall of Paleontology.  The museum also has an active program of temporary exhibits that span a wide field of topics.  For more information see .

The museum district, which includes HMNS and several other museums, is located in central Houston close to the downtown area and the medical center, and adjacent to Hermann Park, the Houston Zoo, and Rice University.  The tram/light rail runs right by the museum.


The Garden Club of Houston, a member of The Garden Club of America, is a not-for-profit organization that benefits the Houston community.  With over 300 members, the GCH is one of the largest garden clubs in the area.  Their generous support of this internship helps to fulfill the Garden Club’s mission “to stimulate the knowledge and love of plants and gardening and to restore, improve, and protect the quality of the environment through programs and action in the fields of conservation, civic improvement, and education.”  For more information see and

Located Here
HMNS at Hermann Park

5555 Hermann Park Dr.
Houston,Texas 77030
(713) 639-4629

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The Houston Museum of Natural Science is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that receives no federal or state funding. Tax ID # 74-1036131.

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