Sunday, December 3, 2017

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to inspiring the conservation of native plants. I have used the plant database on their website ( for years. It contains over 9000 native plants, providing information on distribution, descriptions, growing conditions, propagation, benefits to wildlife, and more.

I never thought I’d have the opportunity to visit the center in person, but in late October I did.

Looking towards the Savanna Meadow Trail
Virginia creeper

Founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes, it was renamed in 1995 in honor of Lady Bird Johnson. It is located in Austin, TX in an area known as the Texas hill country. The grounds showcase plants that are native to Texas, of course. I was interested to see how the design of the center would present plants from throughout the state as well as exhibits that they have about using native plants. Some of the areas, such as the delightfully kid-friendly Luci and Ian Family Garden, are relatively new.

Symphyotrichum oblongifolium
Monarch on
Salvia farinacea

The gardens in October are a nice mix of fall blooms, fall fruit, and leaf color. One of the first things we did was climb the observation tower to get a view of the grounds. The tower has a nice Virginia creeper vine (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) scrambling up the stones, festooned both in gorgeous foliage and ripe fruits. From the top, colorful sweeps of pink muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and purple aromatic aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) beckoned us back down to explore the gardens. Once down there, we found monarch butterflies visiting the flowers.

From there we struck out on the Savanna Meadow Trail. It was full of grasses and forbs in all stages, some blooming and some going to seed. We saw Texas shrubs like algerita (Mahonia trifoliata), yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), cacti, fragrant sumac (Rhus trilobata), and trees like Texas persimmon (Diospyros texana), cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia) and the Texas live oak (Quercus fusiformis). There was so much to do that we didn’t take the time for the Arboretum Trail, choosing instead to explore the family garden.

A mature Texas live oak (Quercus fusiformis)
Quercus fusiformis

The family garden, opened in 2014, is a wonderful space. Kids can explore a flowing creek, a grotto, giant bird nest, a Fibonacci spiral, and all sorts of natural materials to climb on. From there we wandered into the adjacent woodland trail, enchanted by the sounds of huge wind chimes suspended in the large trees above us. The trail led us back to the central gardens where we found more butterflies in the pollinator garden, including queen butterflies.

The explorable flowing creek in the family garden

The grotto in the family garden
Throughout the gardens, we found excellent plant signage, beautiful use of natural materials for paths and seating, creative landscape design, and an abundance of insects and birds - even a squirrel dashed by in search of a tasty Texas oak acorn. It was awesome to be in a place that was truly demonstrating the beauty and landscape-worthiness of local native plants. I hope to go back and visit again one day.

Aqueduct leading to cistern
Queen butterflies

1 comment: