Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

South Texas Mission Garden

The South Texas Mission Garden is inspired by the Spanish missions of South Texas and is complemented by the vegetation that is native to the southern parts of the state.

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As you stand facing the front of the Auditorium, what most likely catches your attention first is the architecture. As part of our rainwater harvesting system, the roof, shaped like an open-winged butterfly, is designed to maximize water collection. This water feeds via the Roman-styled aqueduct, to the cistern at the front entrance.

The stylized sandstone arches are inspired by the Spanish missions of South Texas and are complemented by the vegetation you see here that is native to the southern parts of the state. The buildings and walls radiate heat and offer protection from wind for these South Texas species, some of which are north of their normal adapted range.

To the left of the auditorium doors you’ll find a clump of thorn-crested agaves, a drought tolerant and well armed, evergreen succulent. Behind the agave stands a Mexican olive that will eventually become a small tree. It blooms throughout the summer with 2 inch wide white, crepe paper textured flowers. In this same bed during the summer you can see the small, bright red peppers of the Chile pequin, a favorite with our mockingbirds. These peppers are tasty, great for cooking, and very hot!

On the east side of this small courtyard is a spineless prickly pear cactus. No, we haven’t removed the spines, they just grow that way. Often you’ll find white cottony looking clumps on the surface of the prickly pear. This is a covering protecting tiny insects called “cochineal”. Cochineal insects are important commercially as a source of magenta dye. In the past they provided the red for the British “Red Coats” and are used today as a natural food coloring.

Plant List View South Texas Mission Garden collection in NPIN.