The University of Texas at Austin Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is the Botanic Garden of Texas. The Center promotes its mission to inspire the conservation of native plants through its internationally recognized sustainable gardens, education and outreach programs, and research projects.
Inspiring the conservation of native plants
The Wildflower Center was founded by Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes as the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 and later renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1997. It is a signature piece of Mrs. Johnson’s environmental legacy and is complementary to the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs on the university’s campus. Originally opened on land in East Austin, the Center moved to its current site on a transition zone between the Edwards Plateau and Texas Blackland Prairies ecoregions in 1995.
The Center has achieved great success since its founding, evolving from a private nonprofit research organization narrowly focused on Texas wildflowers to a major botanic garden and research unit of the university known for plant conservation, landscape restoration and sustainable approaches to landscape design. The Center is making a difference for the health of the planet through its research, demonstration projects, education programs and the development of national-scale programs to promote sustainable landscapes.
Our vision thus embodies the university’s charge to change the world and serve the state and nation through education and research programs.
“Our Center works for more than the lovely blossoms in our open spaces. We are concerned for all of North America’s native plants, from the smallest sprout to the tallest tree.”
Overview of Programs
Gardens, Arboretum & Natural Areas
The Center’s gardens, natural areas and arboretum display nearly 900 species of native plants from many of the major ecoregions of Texas, the most diverse collection of Texas native plants in North America. The Central Gardens include a pollinator habitat garden, a woodland, theme gardens, homeowner design examples and others. The 16-acre Texas Arboretum places an emphasis on the more than 50 species of oaks found in the state. The Luci and Ian Family Garden was developed as a model of sustainable design and provides opportunities for both structured education and informal play and exploration. The Family Garden’s sustainable features earned a 2-star SITES® rating.
Plant conservation work at the Center addresses the increasing threats to plant diversity and healthy native ecosystems. Ongoing projects include seed collection and seed banking of Texas plants for various state and national programs, using stored seed for restoration of large landscapes damaged by catastrophic events (fire and floods), conservation and propagation of threatened and endangered plants in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, training citizen scientists as part of statewide invasive species identification and control efforts, and conducting plant surveys for the National Park Service and other entities.
Ecological Research & Design
Ecological research and design at the Center focuses on using native plants and sound design to address environmental problems, particularly water scarcity, climate change and loss of healthy ecosystems. Active projects include studying the impact of prescribed fire on Central Texas ecosystems, combating invasive species and testing the effectiveness of different native plants and growing media in green roofs designed for arid and semi-arid climates. A signature accomplishment of the research program is the development of a native turf grass, Habiturf®, a resilient and water-saving alternative to commonly used turf grasses. This product is now commercially available as seed. The Center’s recently patented SkySystem™ is a planting medium developed specifically for growing native plants on roofs in hot climates.
Off-campus consulting extends the Center’s reach by demonstrating sustainable, ecosystem-based landscape approaches in large scale, highly visible projects. These projects often incorporate results from the Center’s research. Center staff work with private and public landowners to create sustainable landscape design and maintenance plans and to oversee their installation and performance. Restoration of degraded lands is another service provided by the Center. Staff researchers also provide botanical survey consultations for national parks and other governmental agencies.
“My hope for what lies ahead in the field of landscape design … is not a revolution against the use of non-natives, but a resolution to educate ourselves about what has worked for Mother Nature through the ebb and flow of time and to put that knowledge to work in the planned landscapes that are everywhere a part of our lives.”
Education & Training
Education is at the core of the Center’s mission. Center staff teach classes at the university, while extensive on-site educational programming includes programs and special events for children and adult learners. We provide classes for adults on gardening with native plants, art in nature and sustainable landscape practices. Various annual educational events also draw adult learners. Landscape for Life™, an education program based on the sustainability principles of SITES, is a web-based program designed primarily for homeowners. The Center hosts numerous professional workshops and conferences and provides professional training in sustainable and ecosystem-based design and other topics with online information and interactive webinars.
Outreach & Information
The Center’s website provides a full range of information useful to scientists, students, gardeners, native plant enthusiasts, landscape architects and others. It hosts the Native Plants of North America, the most comprehensive guide to North American native plants in existence, with a free and searchable database of information about more than 9,000 native plants, 50,000 plant images, answers to plant and natural gardening questions and more. Wildflower magazine is a nationally recognized source of native plant information and inspiration for our members.