Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
We’re not in the zone anymore, but outside Austin, Texas, visiting the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Founded in 1982 by the former First Lady and actress Helen Hayes, The Wildflower Center is now an Organized Research Unit of the University of Texas at Austin.
Walking toward the entrance, underneath the aqueduct that is part of the 17,000 square foot water collection system, you might feel like Dorothy dropping into another land. To one side of the walkway is a stand of live oaks and to the other is a vast meadow full of flowers—not poppies—but wildflowers native to this Texas Hill Country: plains fleabane (Erigeron modestus), catclaw acacia (Acacia greggii), and Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), among many others.
Passing through the limestone gateway into the courtyard the first thing you see is the Courtyard Spring with clear blue water rising up from the aquifer below. Deeper into The Wildflower Center are 23 demonstration gardens representing the natural landscape of South and West Texas. And there’s much more: trails, inspiration gardens, classrooms, gift shop, ponds, and research facilities. Indeed, it is a leading research institution for the advocacy of native plants.
Every First Lady traditionally adopts a favorite cause to advance while her husband is in office: Lady Bird Johnson chose to beautify our roadways by preventing litter (hence the slogan, “Don’t Mess With Texas”), and planting wildflowers. What a lovely, enduring legacy!
To learn more, visit www.wildflower.org.