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.
Letter from the Director - Winter 2008
From the Executive Director
Pushing the frontiers of science
When the Wildflower Center was founded as the National Wildflower Research Center, research was our middle name. Since 1997, we have proudly carried the name of our co-founder, Lady Bird Johnson, but we have not strayed from our original mission: conducting research of national importance.
As you read about Flo Oxley’s research into the reproductive habits of one of Texas’ endangered species, Texas wild rice, you will get a sense of the high value of our work. Oxley, who is earning her Ph.D. in aquatic resources at Texas State University, is our director of education and plant conservation and the sparkplug that powers our effort to bank seeds of many species against global calamity. What she learned about Texas wild-rice will help with efforts to re-establish a species with a fragile hold on existence. She has found that many plants must be established close together because wild-rice pollen can travel only about 30 inches. Oxley’s research was published recently in the Southwestern Naturalist Journal.
All Wildflower Center research relates to native plants and their essential role in maintaining environmental sustainability. Our British-born restoration ecologist, Mark Simmons, Ph.D., is rapidly becoming one of the world’s authorities on green roofs. His study, published in the journal Urban Ecosystems, compared different types of manufactured vegetated roofs with a conventional black roof and a conventional white roof. All the green roofs produced temperatures inside their buildings that were nearly 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than buildings with the conventional roofs. The temperatures beneath the green roofs varied by as much as 12 degrees Fahrenheit, depending on construction and plants used.
His research also shows that while the native green roofs vary in their ability to absorb rainwater, all of them have the capacity to reduce the need for energy to cool buildings and to lessen the heat island effect. Future research will better document these findings. Simmons has been named a research scientist at the University of Texas at Austin and teaches courses in ecology and plant science in the School of Architecture and Department of Geography and the Environment.
Under the direction of Steve Windhager, Ph.D., the Center’s environmental scientist and director of landscape restoration, we are working to develop a mixed-species native turf grass that is adapted to hot and dry Southwestern conditions and able to withstand traffic from pedestrians and pets. The work, financed with a grant from Wal-Mart, should produce a native lawn that looks as good and performs as well as the exotic grasses and monocultures now preferred by most homeowners. Windhager points out that old-world lawns were typically composed of many different grasses so that at least some species would thrive no matter the weather conditions.
Our research is highly practical and highly applied – using native plants to solve real-world problems. From time to time, Wildflower magazine will bring you updates on how our research programs are helping demonstrate the many ways that native plants and wildflowers can help create a more sustainable Earth. — Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director