HISTORY

Lady Bird Johnson, former first lady of the United States, was ahead of her time in understanding the reparative and regenerative qualities of native plants and beautiful landscapes.

“Beautification is far more than a matter of cosmetics,” she said in 1968. “For me, it describes the whole effort to bring the natural world and the man-made world into harmony; to bring order, usefulness — delight — to our whole environment, and that of course only begins with trees and flowers and landscaping.”

In 1982, Mrs. Johnson wrote that she was full of excitement about finally “daring to try to establish a National Wildflower Research Center.” In that year, she and actress Helen Hayes decided to do just that, creating a center in East Austin focused on native wildflowers intended to help preserve and restore that beauty and the biological richness of North America.

Public demand to view native gardens and learn more about native plants soon overwhelmed the original 60-acre site in East Austin, and led the Center’s Board of Directors to build a larger campus to accommodate public interest.

The current campus, renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1997, opened in 1995 on a 42-acre site in Southwest Austin, nine miles from downtown. Five acres of native plant gardens and landscapes, designed by J. Robert Anderson, FASLA (principal), Eleanor McKinney (EMLA) and Darrel Morrison (FASLA), 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.

By 2002, in response to rapidly encroaching land development, the Center had acquired an additional 237 acres of adjacent land through purchase and donation. This expansion of the campus made possible the development of larger scale research on the ecology of the Central Texas region and how best to restore healthy landscapes in the region. It also established education and public outreach as core functions of the Center.

In 2006, the Wildflower Center, then a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, was transferred to The University of Texas at Austin.

Throughout its history, the Center has become one of the country’s most credible research institutions and effective advocates for native plants.

Major Milestones

1982

Founders Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes establish the National Wildflower Research Center. The Wildflower Center's formal charter was signed on October 21, 1982. A small house and sixty acres of undeveloped land in East Austin became its first home on Mrs. Johnson's 70th birthday, December 22, 1982.

Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes

Helen Hayes and Lady Bird Johnson at a press conference announcing the creation of the Wildflower Center on May 5, 1982.

Lynda Johnson Robb, Luci Baines Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson

Lynda Johnson Robb, Luci Baines Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson at the dedication ceremony for the Wildflower Center on December 22, 1982.

 

1995

The Center celebrates the grand opening of its new site at La Crosse Avenue, which was initially 42 acres and is now 279 acres. The design was a model of “total resource conservation” and emphasizes the importance of native landscapes. It received a number of environmental and architectural awards and was featured on the cover of Architecture magazine.

Lady Bird Johnson in May 1995.

Lady Bird Johnson at the Wildflower Center in May 1995.

 

1997

The National Wildflower Research Center is officially renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

1999

The Wildflower Center acquires an additional 137 acres, making possible the development of its Landscape Restoration Program. The program researches how to best manage and design native landscapes.

2001

The Wildflower Center launches its Plant Conservation Program and becomes a participating institution in the Center for Plant Conservation, a national coalition dedicated to conserving and restoring the rare native plants of the United States.

2002

An agreement between the City of Austin, Stratus Properties (a local developer) and the Wildflower Center culminates in the donation of 100 acres of adjacent land, bringing the Wildflower Center's total acreage to its current 279.

2003

The Native Plant Information Network is launched, offering information on North American plants online.

2006

The Wildflower Center joins The University of Texas at Austin.

2012

The 16-acre Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum opens and work begins to plant collections of Texas native trees, including the Hall of Texas Heroes, a collection of famous oak trees of Texas.

2014

The 4.5-acre Luci and Ian Family Garden opens, bringing nature play opportunities to families in the Center’s first certified sustainable garden.

2015

The center-led effort known as the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES®) — a collaboration with the U.S. Botanic Garden and the American Society of Landscape Architects — is sold to Green Business Certification Inc. SITES is the world’s premier sustainable landscape rating system.

Learn more about Lady Bird Johnson »

UPCOMING EVENTS

Fri 28

Sprouts

April 28 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 am
Fri 28

Guided Garden Tour

April 28 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm
Sat 29

Wildflower Road Show

April 29 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sat 29

Nature & Wildlife Photography

April 29 @ 9:00 am - 4:30 pm
Sat 29

RESCHEDULED: Floral Design With Natives

April 29 @ 9:30 am - 11:30 am

About Us

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is one of North America's
premier native plant botanic gardens and research centers.

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