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 - Fall 2003
They bring tranquilityThese poetic words form the finale to "Wildflowers," a spirited song composed in honor of Lady Bird Johnson by L. Lynn Hart and Steve Hilton of Texas Panhandle Association and Texas Express.� This song premiered at the Wildflower Center's annual spring Gala this past May. Its inaugural presentation brought a joyful smile to Lady Bird Johnson's face and inspired many friends, family members, and guests who were with her.
They bring serenity
The bring happiness and mirth
Wildflowers paint the earth
The song's lyrics and melody express a simple yet profound truth about wildflowers: They bring beauty to the face of the earth, and joy to hearts of people who see them blooming. Although we know that flowering plants evolved their shapes and colors through their interactions with pollinators and do not "intend" to touch human emotions, we are the beneficiaries of this timeless evolutionary process. I am regularly reminded of the effects of wildflower beauty on the human spirit when Mrs. Johnson comes to visit us. The joy they elicit in her is palpable and contagious.
I encourage every member to get out into nature this fall and experience the serenity and tranquility of wildflower beauty in your part of the country. From New England moving westward across the Great Plains, into the Basin and Range regions and on to the Pacific Coast, each region of our country has a unique fall flora to celebrate. Perhaps most notably spectacular in fall are the prairie remnants of America's heartland. In these precious places tall-flowering forbs mix colorfully with the bronzing tones of little bluestem and other large native grasses, forming a stately contrast to the ground-hugging flowers of spring.
Situated a few miles east of the southernmost extension of the Blackland Prairie, the Wildflower Center's fall displays reflect this same stately beauty. Growing taller every day now in preparation for bloom are stands of gayfeather (Liatris mucronata), eryngo (Eryngium leavenworthii), Maximilian sunflower (Helianthus maximiliani), Greg's mist flower (Eupatorium greggii) and aster (Aster spp.), just to name a few. This is my favorite season at the Center. The days are still warm, the nights cool, the air is especially clear, and the wildflowers - though not as plentiful and showy as in the spring - are just as awe-inspiring. In opposition to the exuberance of spring, the fall provokes reflection. As the daylight hours wane and as plants begin to transition into dormancy we are led to contemplate nature's cycles of renewal.
The striking wildflower fruits of fall - a dazzling array of seedpods, seed heads and seeds - ensure the rebirth of wildflowers in coming years. Fall is also a time of sowing - a season of seeding, marked by joyful and hopeful acts of faith in the future. As we rake seeds into the soil for next year's blooms at the Wildflower Center, we are reminded that Earth is a vast seed bank holding billions of seeds of many kinds, each one awaiting the perfect set of conditions in which to germinate and grow.
Just as Earth itself stores seeds, people today are hard at work learning to create seed banks of our own. In this issue of Native Plants, Christina Kosta's article "Banking on Seeds" (page 12) tells how scientists are beginning to employ highly sophisticated technologies to store a great diversity of seeds over long periods of time as a backup against environmental change and catastrophes. As impressive as these technologies are, the very fact that we need to bring them into existence is a comment that we humans are radically changing and disrupting natural systems to such an extent that longtime artificial storage technologies are now considered essential for the protection of plant diversity.
Growing wildflowers in our created landscapes is of course another strategy for conserving them. On page 18 of this issue, an informative article by Lisa Halvorsen takes readers across the regions of America to introduce fall wildflowers that can be grown in the garden. Halvorsen reminds us that wildflowers are not just a one-season gift of natural beauty, but an annual kaleidoscope of color from early spring to late fall. As stated in the song "Wildflowers:"
...A rainbow tapestryMay our joyful response to the music and message in this song inspire the conservation of wildflower beauty, ultimately bringing their abundant return to every season in every place.
Nature's gift for all to see
Wildflowers paint the Earth
Robert G. Breunig, Ph.D.
� The Wildflower Center is grateful to L. Lynn Hart and Steve Hilton of Texas Panhandle Association and Texas Express for this song, and especially grateful to former board member and dedicated supporter Joe Batson for arranging its creation.