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Wildflower Center Chronology

Founded in 1982 by Lady Bird Johnson and the late Helen Hayes, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to protecting and preserving North America's native plants and natural landscapes. Our mission - to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes - guides all that we do.


Founders Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes establish the National Wildflower Research Center. The inaugural gift establishing the center came from Mrs. Johnson in the form of a small house and sixty acres of undeveloped land east of Austin and $125,000 for initial funding. The Wildflower Center's formal charter was signed on October 21, 1982, and it opened on December 22 in celebration of Mrs. Johnson's seventieth birthday.

The Junior League of Austin selects the Wildflower Center as a sponsored project, generously giving $30,000 over a three-year period to develop a volunteer program.

The Center begins its first research project: "Germination for Seedling Identification."

Mrs. Johnson is awarded a Congressional Gold Medal for her dedication to the beautification of America.

The Center's Library and Clearinghouse acquires more than 20 journals, 300 new books, and 1,500 slides.

The Center receives more than 15,000 letters requesting wildflower seed sources and information after an eight-page article appears in the March issue of Reader's Digest.

The first edition of Wildflower, the journal of the Wildflower Center, is published.

"Wildflowers Across America," by Lady Bird Johnson and Carlton Lees, is published. The book's 309 pages feature inspiring text and 400 colorful illustrations.

The Jubilee Celebration, held in honor of Lady Bird Johnson's 75th birthday, in Washington, D.C., raises more than $1 million for the Center from friends and supporters across the nation.

The Wildflower Handbook, a guide to landscaping with native plants in the United States, is co-published by the Wildflower Center and Texas Monthly Press.

The Center celebrates the grand opening of its new 43-acre site at La Crosse Ave. The design is a model of "total resource conservation" and emphasizes the importance of native landscapes.  It receives a number of environmental and architectural awards and is featured on the cover of Architecture magazine.

The National Wildflower Research Center is officially renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

The Brown Foundation of Houston donates $5 million to the Center for on-site educational programming. The Brown Center for Environmental Education is established to provide information and on-site interpretation for visitors.

The Wildflower Center acquires an additional 136 acres adjacent to the site, making possible the development of its Landscape Restoration Program. The program researches how to best manage the landscape through different land treatments.

The Wildflower Center launches its Plant Conservation Program and becomes a participating institution in the Center for Plant Conservation, a national coalition dedicated to conserving and restoring the rare native plants of the United States.

The Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden, a native-plant garden designed to attract butterflies, opens. The Margaret and Eugene McDermott Learning Center, a restored carriage house moved from Central Austin, also opens.

An agreement between the City of Austin, Stratus Properties (a local developer), and the Wildflower Center culminates in the donation of 100 acres of adjacent land, bringing the Wildflower Center's acreage to 279 acres.

The Royal Botanic Gardens invites the Wildflower Center to become part of the Millennium Seed Bank Project, making it one of only five non-profits in the United States partnering in this global conservation effort aimed at safeguarding 24,000 plant species from around the world by 2010.

The Native Plant Information Network (www.wildflower.org), a free online resource, is launched, offering information on more than 7,000 species of North American plants and more than 19,000 plant images.

NASA awards the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a grant to create a native plant landscape master plan at the Johnson Space Center.

The Wildflower Center and the American Society of Landscape Architects start the Sustainable Sites Initiative to create incentives and standards or sustainable landscapes.

Landscape Restoration Division works with clients such as AMD, San Antonio Mission Trail and Blue Hole in Wimberley to design and implement innovative, practical restoration programs backed by solid science and field research.

The Wildflower Center becomes an official component of The University of Texas at Austin, as an Organized Research Unit of the College of Natural Sciences and the School of Architecture.

Houston Endowment awards the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a grant to collect and conserve seeds of native plants in the Houston and East Texas area, extending the Center's efforts in a globally important plant conservation effort, the Millennium Seed Bank Project.

The U.S. Botanic Garden joins the Sustainable Sites Initiative as a partner.


The Meadows Foundation awards a $262,000 grant to the Wildflower Center to support the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

The Wildflower Center’s native plant information database online, which contains thousands of photos and plant details, is updated with new content and search engines to improve ease of use by gardeners and others.

The Center and a leading sustainable design company develop an online calculator for determining the carbon footprint of buildings being constructed.


An exhibit the Wildflower Center created to honor Lady Bird Johnson appears at the U.S. Botanic Garden

The first study to compare the performance of different vegetated roof products is completed by the Wildflower Center and suggests these green roofs vary greatly in functionality.

Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices awards $100,000 to the Wildflower Center to continue studying the use of fire and other management tools to restore rangelands comprising most of Texas' open space. The grant is announced as AMD opens its new Lone Star campus in Austin, which features 58 acres of all-native landscaping designed by Center staff.


The Wildflower Center expands its Spanish-language offerings on the web and in the gardens by unveiling four new Spanish audio tours.

Plant conservationists from the Center help celebrate their role in a global partnership that met its 10-year goal of setting aside seeds from 10 percent of the world’s wild flowering plant species.

A partnership including the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center releases the nation’s first rating system for the design, construction and maintenance of sustainable landscapes, with or without buildings.


More than 150 projects of corporations, universities, homeowners and others are selected by the Sustainable Sites Initiative™ leadership that includes the Wildflower Center to test the nation’s first rating system and guidelines for developing sustainable landscapes. (May 25)

A $1.4 million gift from the Center is received to begin developing the Mollie Steve Zachry Texas Arboretum, the first major addition to the Center since moving to Southwest Austin. The 16-acre arboretum highlighting native Texas trees will more than double its maintained landscape when the arboretum opens in 2012. (Aug. 17)

Austin’s City Council approves a plan to provide $80,000 for the Wildflower Center to develop a plan for city employees to address invasive plant species on the thousands of acres of city property. The plan is only the second such plan nationally, and the most comprehensive. (Aug. 24)


The Wildflower Center hosts an electronic field trip with pollination lessons that is shared by satellite and the internet to 4th through 8th graders in the U.S., Mexico, and 13 Latin American countries. (April 11)

The Wildflower Center publishes research in Ecological Engineering demonstrating that a lawn of native grasses requires less mowing and herbicides to maintain than a common turfgrass Americans use. Commercial and residential lawns currently consume more land and more resources than any agricultural crop. (April 21)

The Ecosystem Design Group receives a three-year, $88,000 grant to study the performance of vegetated (green) roofs and an approach to improving their function in hot, dry climates of the Southwest. (Sept. 20)

Balcones Recycling hosts its second annual Burner Bash to raise funds for the Wildflower Center. They will be used to help grow pine trees for Bastrop County residents affected by 2011 wildfires. (Oct. 10)


Announced the first 11 projects to be certified by the most comprehensive national rating system for sustainable landscapes, called the Sustainable Sites Initiative.

Opened the 16-acre Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum in the spring, and received a $1 million naming gift to establish the Luci Baines Johnson and Ian Turpin Family Garden.

Provided statewide workshops to help Texans identify invasive plant and animal pests, and professional workshops about developing sustainable landscapes.

Hosted the fall dedication of a Lady Bird Johnson postal stamp honoring the centennial of her birth, and a ceremony inducting her into the Texas Transportation Hall of Honor. The Center also unveiled a video, a website and a touring exhibit in 2012 about Mrs. Johnson’s conservation legacy.


Selected to grow hundreds of thousands of loblolly pines over two years to reforest wildfire-ravaged Bastrop County.

Announced 15 more landscape projects certified by the SITES program, including the first with four out of four stars.

Received outstanding achievement award from National Invasive Species Council for educating about non-native species.

Research and landscape consulting director recognized by American Society of Landscape Architects for developing a native grass turf option, and by association's Texas chapter for significant impact on environmental awareness and policy.

Habiturf native grass option developed by the center is licensed by UT to be produced as a sod.


SITES program the center helps lead certified eight more landscape projects that piloted the program, and released the SITES v2 Rating System for the public to pursue landcape certification.

Opened 4.5 acre Luci and Ian Family Garden, doubling the center’s maintained garden space.

Unveiled a free mobile app to learn about invasive species that affect Texas and report their presence.

© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center