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 Executive Director - Winter 2003Soon, I will be leaving the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to take a job as director of the Museum of Northern Arizona in Flagstaff. In doing so I am returning to the state where I lived most of my adult life before coming to Texas after a brief time in California. I am being drawn back by my affinity for a particular place; by my personal connection to the landscape and cultural history of Arizona's Colorado Plateau region.
Leaving the Wildflower Center is not an easy thing for one to do. It is a place of spirit. It is place where one can touch and feel the beauty of the land - the Texas Hill Country of the Edwards Plateau. It is a place where people, both staff and volunteers, lovingly tend this land and lovingly nurture the ideas that are embodied in the physical presence of this place. Indeed the Wildflower Center is a place about place.
Appreciation for the concept of place, or "sense of place," recently much discussed among architects, planners, and environmental philosophers, is today working its way into the general conscience. Proponents of the concept advocate that a place is at its best when it reflects its own unique natural and cultural history, and that new developments are best when they preserve and reflect the inherent qualities of their various locations and regions.
Lady Bird Johnson, during the time she traveled across the country as first lady, was the leading national figure who first called attention to the deterioration of place in America. She recognized that architectural differences and local flavor were disappearing along with the landscape, cautioning us that places were becoming - as noted in her book, Wildflowers Across America - "so all-alike that (they) reminded one of Gertrude Stein's phrase 'there's no there there.'"
The Wildflower Center as place is especially rooted in the idea that one of the best ways people can come to know their place in the world is through their native plant community. By connecting people to plants we connect them to place. As I think about the future of the Wildflower Center, it is my personal hope that it will continue to evolve as a very special example of how people can interact properly with the land and come to appreciate the "environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants" that defines our mission. It also is my hope that the Center will strongly support and advance its research and conservation programs. Research creates new knowledge, crucially needed to improve our understanding of the role of plants in ecosystems and landscape health, while conservation is our only defense against the growing decline of America's plant diversity. And finally, it is my hope that the Wildflower Center will be able to return Mrs. Johnson's agenda for natural beauty and landscape health to a more elevated platform on our national stage.
Being surrounded by the natural beauty at the Wildflower Center these past six years has been an ongoing joy. Yet what is even more important than this physical place, and the beauty of this place, are the Center's ideas - and its spirit. A spirit that originated with Mrs. Johnson and the fellow conservationists she drew to her cause. To the extent that influence from the Wildflower Center can flow to other people, other regions, other places - it will do so largely because of this spirit.
The quality of an institution is determined not only by its programs and intellect but also by spirit - by the dedication of its board, staff, and volunteers - and the heart with which they do their work. In this regard, the Wildflower Center is a powerful and inspiring institution, with a spirit that will always motivate me to care deeply about the plant world and its conservation - wherever I am. As someone departing, I know I will carry this spirit with me forever and will always be grateful for this place.
Robert G. Breunig, Ph.D.