Austin is the state capital of Texas with many attractions such as the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential library and the University of Texas. Austin is also where you can find a wonderful sanctuary committed to preserving 7,000 native plants from North America. Sitting on 279 acres of gardens, meadows, and hiking trails there are also nearly 80 acres of research plots. Along the grounds there is a cultivated wildflower meadow and garden which has 12 acres of about 650 species of native Texas plants. The three gardens specifically emphasize native plants and is part of the University of Texas system.
Actress Helen Hayes and former first lady, Lady Bird Johnson founded this organization in 1982 as the National Wildflower Research Center and now named the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. In 2006, the Center became an Organized Research Unit of the University of Texas at Austin. They also keep an extensive database of these species in the Native Plant Information Network. There are currently about one in five plant species in the United States that is in danger of extinction. Texas, which has about one fourth of the plant biodiversity nationally, has 23 endangered and five threatened plant species.
Location and General Information
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is located on 4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, Texas 78739 off of Highway 1.
Admission is as follows:
$9 for adults
$7 for seniors 65 years and older and students 13 years and older
$3 for children
Free for members and children under 4 years of age.
Memberships start at $45 and include many benefits such as reciprocal admission to 300 gardens across the country.
The Visitor’s Gallery is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day with extended hours until 8 p.m. Thursdays. Their full service café called the Wildflower Café which includes drinks, coffee, sandwiches and ice cream. The hours for the Wildflower Café are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. There is also a gift shop that is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and oon to 5 p.m. Sunday
The Gardens at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
The site lets you know in advance which flowers are in bloom. Since plants and flowers are seasonal you will get to see native plants in full bloom depending upon the season. Check out What’s In Bloom for current flower blooms. Each garden area or segment represents a different land type. For instance there are meadows, a wetland pond, woodlands, hill country stream, homeowner inspiration garden, butterfly garden, dry creek bed, the West Texas Mountain collection and more.
Buildings and Structures
Another impressive feature about the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are the different architectural features and buildings. After you pay admission you will wind your way through and aqueduct system. The aqueduct is one of several water features that harvests water for the 70,000-gallon rainwater collection system. In the center next to the courtyard you will also see the observation tower that gives a bird’s eye view of the gardens. My children call it the castle, but it has a winding staircase and is also wheelchair/stroller friendly. It’s fashioned after watch towers of the Spanish Missions, it’s also used as a 10,000 gallon cistern. You will also see a visitor’s gallery and an auditorium at the center.
Research and Education
One of the things you will find at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is that adults and kids get an opportunity to learn about sustainable living and the native plants and insects. They center conducts research on native plant conservation and the benefits of wildflowers and other native plants in settings such as green roofs and highway roadsides. They also provide assistance for designing buildings and landscapes such as at the George W. Bush Presidential Center. Since they are part of the University of Texas system, they teach educators about connecting audiences to nature. Nationally, they have reached thousands of children from Alaska to Florida as the trainers of educators in First Bloom, a project of the National Park Foundation to connect urban children to national parks.
There is a lot of activity going on in social media for the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Including all of their social media sites you can see instructional Youtube Videos about planting as well as podcasts about sustainable living. All of this is available in Interaction.
Family Visitor Insider
There’s plenty for families to take in at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. With acres of gardens, kids can interact in activities and take in the sights of all of the plants and native habitats. Kids will love the little insect house and the butterfly gardens. There is a lot to explore and see on the paths. Benches periodically line the trails and kids will see a variety of insects and birds as they make their way through each garden. Get the audio tour via iphone or download transcripts from this site for each garden.
Heather Buen is a freelance writer and blogger at Dallas Single Mom and for Dallas Culture and Events at Examiner.com. She is a mom of three and loves traveling about Texas and sharing her adventures on single parent travel.
All photos courtesy of Heather Buen