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Nature Nights

Adventures, creatures, experts, and more—there's plenty to discover at the Center's summer series on Central Texas nature topics

Field of bluebonnets and other blooms ABOVE: Kids playing in a tree branch fort during nature activities at the Wildflower Center.

During summer evenings in the Texas Hill Country, people of all ages gather at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to cultivate their inner adventurers, scientists, artists and -- snake charmers?

That’s right; at Nature Nights, free summer events hosted by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, individuals have the chance to play many exciting roles in their quest for knowledge about native plants and wildlife.

Nature Nights will occur on Thursday evenings this summer as a chance for families to learn about Central Texas nature topics through engaging activities and guest experts. The events are free thanks to sponsorship from H-E-B.  Admission is also free the day of Nature Nights so visitors can have more time to journey through the Center’s gardens, trails and exhibits.

From 6 to 9 p.m. starting in mid-June, Nature Nights will give explorers the opportunity to step into the natural world of:

  • Native plants: June 13
  • Amphibians: June 20
  • Insects: June 27
  • Birds of prey: July 11
  • Wildlife: July 18
  • Snakes: July 25
Activities will consist of habitat hikes around the Center’s trails, scavenger hunts with cool prizes, story-time in the charming Little House (complete with a child-sized door) and imaginative crafts that are all focused on the evening’s topic. Guest experts include a herpetologist, an author, an entomologist, naturalists and several community organizations. Visitors can also stop by the Center’s Wildflower café for refreshing drinks and food throughout the evening for a break from the festivities.

The Center’s Education Manager, Alice Jansen, says Nature Nights provides free-form, experiential education that touches people in different ways wherever they are on the learning spectrum. Plus, the event fosters connections across generations because many of the experts and event volunteers have a lifetime of expertise to share with the young ones.

“What we’re offering and providing are experiences that you won’t get in your everyday world,” Jansen says. “There’s learning about nature in school and in a classroom setting, but then there’s coming out to the Wildflower Center to see it.”

The first Nature Night, From Roots to Shoots, showcases native plants. Children will learn some botany by studying intricate plant parts under the microscope, putting organic life in perspective. They’ll also share opinions on what two twisted old trees in the Center’s newly opened Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum look like. Luci Baines Johnson, the younger daughter of Lady Bird Johnson, called the tree the “Old Couple,” but visitors may have other ideas!

Field of bluebonnets and other blooms ABOVE: Kids can get up close and personal with a venomous copperhead at Nature Nights.

Additionally, a rainfall simulator will demonstrate how the thirsty land drinks up rainwater and the Earth Native Wilderness School will add color to the evening with an exhibit on natural plant dyes. 

The excitement grows as Nature Nights continue in June with a focus June 20 and June 27 on amphibians and insects, respectively. Then in July, guest appearances will come from bold birds of prey and those slithering snakes mentioned earlier. Visitors can observe with awe the raptors featured in a demonstration by Blackland Prairie Raptor Center. And on July 25, parents can look on in amazement as their kids stroke the scaly bellies of native Texan snakes.

Through adventures like these, the Wildflower Center staff hopes to inspire visitors to have a spirit of exploration and appreciation of the natural world.

Jansen notes the pleasure she’s had talking with Nature Nights attendees from all walks of life, whether it be a mom attending year after year with her young daughter who calls it the “Wa-Wa” Center, local bike shop staff stopping by to observe the butterflies they love, or event experts from community organizations who wish to share their passion for nature.

“It’s a great, fun program that is engaging for all ages,” Jansen sums up.

For the third consecutive summer, H-E-B is sponsoring Nature Nights to make it a free community event. “H-E-Buddy” will be on the scene handing out nutritional snacks and fun goodies. To find out more about June and July Nature Nights, visit http://wildflower.org/nature.


Story by Kimberly Atkins

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