Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
We celebrate trees at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Not only are those majestic native oaks, pecans and cedar elms a visual treat in our Southwestern landscape, they also provide habitat for birds and all manner of wildlife. Our unique region is defined in part by these trees. To paraphrase Mrs. Johnson, “they tell us that we are home.”
In our hot climate, trees protect us from the sun and shade our buildings, reducing the costs of cooling them. Perhaps most importantly, trees pull vast quantities of carbon dioxide, the primary greenhouse gas, from the air, processing it through their root systems and holding it in the soil – where it cannot contribute to global warming.
No surprise then that our trees are precious to the Wildflower Center. And soon, we will have an even better way for our many visitors to understand the majesty, the variety and the usefulness of trees. The Texas Arboretum, located in the southwestern corner of the Wildflower Center’s site, is already under construction, thanks to a grant from the Zachary Foundation and additional support from the Texas Chapter of the International Society for Arboriculture. When completed, the Arboretum will be a 16-acre tree museum, a resource for tree identification, field trips, outdoor classes and a quiet site for contemplation.
The Arboretum site already features some of our largest, most impressive trees, as well as such interesting species as the “toothache tree” (Zanthoxylum hirsutum), so named when curious naturalists first chewed on its leaves and felt their mouths grow numb! The focus of the Arboretum will be on its collection of tree species native to Texas, and it will showcase Texas oaks. As the article in this issue points out, the oak is the nation’s most widespread hardwood, and Texas – with its wide range of ecosystems – is home to 74 percent of the North American species.
Also prominent will be a Hall of Texas Heroes – a compelling circle of trees descended from such specimens as the Treaty Oak in Austin, the giant Goose Island live oak and the magnificent oaks, pecans and cedar elms at the LBJ Ranch National Historic Site in Stonewall, Texas.
To help raise funds and generate awareness about the Arboretum, this year we began selling descendants of the LBJ Ranch trees at our Spring and Fall Plant Sales. These young trees have been grown from seeds collected at the LBJ Ranch by our skillful propagator, Sean Watson, and come with commemorative plaques and the genes to become stately specimens.
Great trees take time to grow, so the Arboretum won’t be ready for prime time for some years. In the meantime, we invite you to appreciate the trees in your neighborhood and your city. They are doing a world of good.
— Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director