Wildflowers don’t only line the highways of Central Texas.
Although you can find them scattered around town or further out in Hill Country, visiting the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a unique way to learn more about our native blooms and fully appreciate their beauty up close.
Originally established by Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes in 1982, Austin’s Wildflower Center has become 279 acres of land dedicated to conservation, education and research of Texas’ original natural environment.
How Does Your Garden Grow?
Vined brick columns greet visitors at the entrance to Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and it’s immediately clear your visit will be a feast for the eyes. Carefully cultivated gardens dot every spare space, featuring flowers and plants as well as sculptures and art pieces.
Here I learned the colloquial names of flowers I see every day on my commute to work—such as winecups and Indian blankets—as well as saw other plants for the very first time.
Butterflies and bees flit from bloom to bloom, as colorful and numerous as the flowers themselves. If you check the Wildflower Center’s “What’s in Season” page on their website, you can anticipate which species will be in bloom during your visit.
After meandering around a few gardens, climb to the top of the observation tower. You’ll be rewarded with an epic view of the grounds and an unforgettable image of what the Wildflower Center is trying so hard to preserve.
Texas Trees and Trails
Though this is not a huge hiking spot, there is ample space for a satisfying, long stroll. There are five trails totaling three miles, each revealing different elements of natural Texas biodiversity.
The Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum is where you can learn more about Texas trees. The path breaks into a circular “Hall of Heroes,” where signs tell you stories of famous Texan trees.
The Treaty Oak, for instance, is a 500 year old tree under which Stephen F. Austin signed a border treaty with Native Americans. Another sign tells the story of a tree in Burnet that stretches sideways for hundreds of feet. It was tied down as a sapling by Comanche people centuries ago to mark the spot of a favorite campsite.
The arboretum trail winds through a peaceful meadow dotted with trees. The long grasses and sparse wildflowers sway in the wind, and it’s not difficult to imagine that the entire landscape used to be filled by this peaceful scene as far as the eye could see.
An idyllic spot to rest along the trail is also provided by the presence of these old, strong trees. Swings for children and adults alike hang in the shade of their outstretched branches.
Conservation Is a Community Effort
The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center isn’t just a place of observation and natural entertainment. An important part of its mission is spreading practical knowledge about conservation and how to treat your personal Texas garden. A vast display inside features examples of blooms in season, reasons to plant native Texas flora and interactive games meant to encourage conscientious environmental practices.
Likewise, an educational area outside is designed to inspire you to use native Texas plants in your own landscape or garden.
Delight in Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Legacy
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is an important part of Austin’s legacy and dedication to conservation. Fortunately, it’s also really fun to visit. The center is open 7 days a week, and it’s easy to spend a few hours there.
A cafe serves food and refreshments with wildflower bouquets on each table. There are also water fountains dotting all the trails, so you don’t need to bring or buy your own water unless you want to.
For a bit of Austin education and whimsy, enjoy the outdoors at the Wildflower Center.
4801 La Crosse Ave – Website
@erinmayyyy wants to know:
Have you visited the Wildflower Center? If so, what is your favorite memory?
FYI: there’s a great little play area for kids that has a stream to dabble in, some places to climb, and a water fall to peek through. We took my little cousin who’s about 1.5 years old for a picnic and it was fabulous. Just remember: that’s back-in parking on the road leading into the Center, and watch out for groups of school kids during the week.