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The communications office of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at The University of Texas at Austin provides media with timely, accurate information about the Wildflower Center. Below are recent press releases related to Center events and to staff expertise on conservation practices, native plant gardening, nature education, and native plant resources and research findings. For more information or photos beyond those on the newsroom site, please contact:

    Media Manager
Barbra Rodriguez

May 9, 2012

Texas Arboretum Opens May 19

The Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum will open at The University of Texas at Austin’s Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on May 19.

The 16 acre park-like setting celebrates Texas trees on some of the Wildflower Center’s most scenic acreage. Red oaks, cedar elms and other magnificent trees, some of which are 100-plus years old, provide a backdrop for an expansive native meadow and shade for picnic areas throughout the site. The arboretum also includes developing tree collections, one of which will feature all 54 oak species native to Texas. 

The largest native plant arboretum in Texas, it more than doubles the managed footprint of the Wildflower Center to 28 acres of the 279-acre site. The arboretum resulted from a $1.4 million gift from an anonymous fund of the San Antonio Area Foundation at the request of philanthropist Mollie Steves Zachry.

“We are incredibly grateful to Mollie for her generosity in creating this treasure,” said Susan Rieff, executive director of the Wildflower Center. “The arboretum will be a peaceful place to relish the outdoors among majestic trees that help define the state’s iconic landscapes. It also provides new opportunities for education and research.”

At the arboretum grand opening Saturday, May 19, the public can enjoy:

  • A 1:30 p.m. ribbon cutting at the arboretum entryway (the Trailhead Garden), and a one-fifth mile walk on an ADA-accessible trail through the Xeric Collection and the  Hall of Texas Heroes exhibit to the Native Meadow area.
  • A 2 p.m. reading of the poem, “My City Tree Cares for Me,” by children’s author Margaret Hall Spencer in the Cathedral, a grove of ancient live oaks now equipped with swings and benches.
  • A 3 p.m. talk by Ralph Yznaga titled “Living Witness” about historic Texas trees. Yznaga will give the talk in the Arboretum Pavilion after signing his book by that name in the center store starting at noon.

Regular admissions apply at the grand opening, when Zachry, Rieff, Senior Director Damon Waitt and other center representatives will cut the ribbon.

The $1.4 million gift was announced in August 2010 for developing and maintaining an arboretum that has been part of the center’s master plan since 2005. Dozens of experts and volunteers have since prepared the uneven, densely forested land southeast of the center’s main footprint by pruning trees and removing rocks, as well as unhealthy trees and an overabundance of Ashe juniper (cedar).


“As we peeled back this layer of cedar, these beautiful live oaks, post and red oaks and other trees were revealed, which was a joy to see,” said Waitt. He oversaw the project’s development and its sustainable aspects, such as turning extracted cedar into mulch used on site.

In 2012, the center hired two staff to maintain the site: Arborist Andrew McNeil-Marshall and part-time Landscape Technician Jon Merz. They have assisted Waitt, Collections Manager Joe Marcus, and Site Manager Phillip Schulze in planting new trees and developing the land. 


Among the 150 trees added so far is a clone of Austin’s Treaty Oak. It will be joined in the future by descendants of 28 historic state trees such as the Alamo Live Oak. Those trees will be grown from acorns or seeds to fill a large circle (the Hall of Texas Heroes).

Trails lead to exhibits on oak wilt disease and trees suitable for planting near power lines and the Arboretum Pavilion, a graveled pad near the meadow that will be used for events.

“The arboretum offers something for everyone, from school children to professional arborists to home gardeners –– to those just looking for a picnic place,” Rieff said.  

Note: The Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum was developed with donated time or materials from:  Advisory Council Member Melissa Jones of Austin; Eagle Scouts such as John Michael Reyes; They Might Be Monkeys!; We Love Trees; the Texas Chapter of the International Society for Arboriculture; Betsy Rogers and the C.L. Browning Ranch; The University of Texas at Austin's Landscape Services; the Susan Vaughan Foundation, the Texas Forest Service; Austin Energy; Pedernales Electric Cooperative; Sul Ross State University; volunteers from NRG Energy Inc., Entercom Austin, and Whole Foods; G4 Spatial Technologies, and the Stanley Smith Horticultural Trust.


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