Sunday, April 1, 2012


Predictions have been for bountiful wildflowers this spring in most of Texas, and the roadsides were indeed abloom with bluebonnets nestled among yellow froths of coreopsis as we sped south to Austin last Friday.  Appropriately, our first stop was the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center where bluebonnets shared fields with pink phlox, yellow buttercups, lavender prairie verbena and orange bursts of Indian paintbrush.  Off one trail there were even choice patches prepared especially for the traditional Texas tots-in-bluebonnets photos.

Many of the native plants – salvias, spiderworts, columbines, penstemons – are the same as can be found here in north Texas, but this unfamiliar tree with its profusion of tiny yellow pompoms caught our eye; it's a huisache, a member of the acacia family.  According to the online database, in southern Europe this species is extensively planted for the flowers which are a perfume ingredient.


Observation Tower and Administration Building

Harmoniously complementing the plants and the land is the subtly contemporary architecture of the facilities with its rustic stone Hill Country look.

View from Observation Tower

The one antique structure at the center, an 1885  carriage house, is currently housing an exhibit of intricate paper flower art by Shou Ping.

The Display Gardens
One feature of the Display Gardens which I found especially interesting was the plot with information on botanists and plant collectors for whom various plants are named, such as the common Salvia greggi, one of 23 species named in honor of Josiah Gregg who traveled through Texas in 1841-42, taking note of Texas geology, trees, prevalent attitudes, and politics which he subsequently compiled into a two-volume "Commerce of the Prairies.”  Or Gaura lindheimeri, named after Ferdinand Jacob Lindheimer (1801-1879) who is often called the Father of Texas Botany because of his work as the first permanent-resident plant collector in Texas.  Lindheimer is credited with the discovery of several hundred plant species;  his name is used to designate forty-eight species and subspecies of plants.

It was a perfect time to visit the Wildflower Center which I had long wanted to see.  It is also, coincidentally, the centennial of the birth of Lady Bird Johnson whose "focus was on the ecological advantages as well as the beauty of native plants - a passion that would lead her to create the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 on the occasion of her 70th birthday".  Be sure to visit this special website dedicated to "our environmental First Lady."

Oh-oh, made a mistake!  What I took to be coreopsis growing along the roadsides is, instead, an invasive weed called bastard cabbage, Rapistrum rugosum, a member of the mustard family native to the Mediterranean.  Just happened to see an article in the April 4th Dallas Morning News about it.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the posting. I can remember as a child what highways looked like before Lady Bird's beautification campaign -- nonstop billboards and roadsides barren of wildflowers.