Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Texas’ state botanical garden and arboretum is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin. The center houses over 900 native Texas plant species in both garden and natural settings, as well as a variety of educational activities and events. The 284-acre complex is located 10 miles southwest of downtown Austin, Texas, right inside the characteristic Texas hill region. It is located on both the Edwards Plateau and the Texas Blackland Prairies habitats.

The center’s mission is to “inspire native plant conservation” and to promote the environmental benefits of native plant landscapes. It is home to the most extensive native plant database in the United States, which includes profiles of over 9,000 North American native plants as well as a variety of additional resources (see Native Plants of North America). The Luci and Ian Family Garden and the Ann and O.J. Weber Pollinator Habitat Garden are among the 9 acres of planted gardens at the Wildflower Center. Its 16-acre Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum has collections of Texas tree and shrub species. There are miles of walking routes, informative exhibits, a gift shop, a cafe, and biennial native plant sales to round out the amenities. In 2013, the syndicated television series Texas Country Reporter, presented by Bob Phillips, named the center the best place in Texas to observe wildflowers.


The National Wildflower Research Center was formed in 1982 by former first lady Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes to safeguard and preserve North America’s native wildflowers and natural environments.

The initial facility was situated on a 60-acre plot of land in East Austin. The initial location was rapidly overrun by public desire to observe native gardens and learn more about native plants, prompting the Board of Directors to establish a bigger campus to satisfy public interest.

The present campus debuted in 1995 on a 42-acre property on La Crosse Avenue in Southwest Austin. J. Robert Anderson, FASLA (principal), Eleanor McKinney (EMLA), and Darrel Morrison (FASLA) designed five acres of native plant gardens and landscapes that were installed throughout a complex of award-winning buildings designed by Overland Partners to reflect the land and regional architecture of the Texas Hill Country.

In 1997, the institution was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

In response to rapidly approaching land development, the center purchased and donated an additional 237 acres of nearby property by 2002. The campus’s expansion enabled the development of larger-scale study on the ecology of the Central Texas region and how to best restore healthy landscapes in the region. It also created education and public outreach as primary center duties.

The inscription on President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Medal of Freedom award to Lady Bird Johnson in 1977[6] continues, “Her leadership altered the American environment and maintained its natural beauty as a national treasure.”

In 2006, the Wildflower Center became a part of The University of Texas in Austin.

The Wildflower Center has earned national distinction as a leader in plant conservation and environmental sustainability due to its emphasis on native species, research, and teaching. The center launched the Sustainable Sites Initiative, a program that established performance criteria for sustainable land design and is currently offered through GBCI in collaboration with the United States Botanic Garden and the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Incorporation and Growth

The University of Texas System Board of Regents announced a plan to merge the Wildflower Center into The University of Texas at Austin on June 20, 2006. The San Antonio Area Foundation donated $1.4 million toward the creation of a 16-acre arboretum in 2010. The Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum, which opened in the spring of 2012 after being dedicated on April 30, 2011, shows all 53 species of oak trees endemic to Texas. Luci Baines Johnson, Lady Bird Johnson’s daughter, and her husband Ian Turpin gave $1 million to a family garden dedicated in their honor in April 2012. A wading creek, a maze of 3-foot-tall native hedges, and a walk-in grotto are among the highlights of the 4.5-acre native plant landscape. It first opened in May of 2014.

Lady Bird Johnson

Lady Bird Johnson worked extensively for environmental and conservation causes. During the Johnson Administration, more than 200 environmental legislation were passed, many of which are ascribed to Mrs. Johnson’s efforts. The Wilderness Act of 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Wild and Scenic Rivers Program, the 1965 Highway Beautification Act, and other extensions to the National Park system were among the significant legislative accomplishments.

On July 26, 1968, President Johnson recognized his wife for her devotion to 50 of those important conservation and beautification programs by giving her with 50 pens used to sign these legislation. She was also given a plaque that read: “To Lady Bird, who has inspired me and millions of other Americans to work to protect and beautify our country. Lyndon’s heartfelt greetings.”

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