Wildflower is published quarterly by the Wildflower Center. Its content is national in scope with articles about the conservation and use of native plants as well as news from the Wildflower Center. A subscription is provided to Wildflower Center members as a benefit of membership.
Life without Lady Bird
On July 11, 2009, one year will have passed since Lady Bird Johnson’s death. Every day we miss her enthusiasm and eloquence, her impromptu visits late in the afternoon and her deep interest in every detail of her Wildflower Center’s operations.
I believe she would be proud of the way the Wildflower Center is continuing her environmental leadership. Never have we been involved in so many programs of national significance. Our Sustainable Sites Initiative, a partnership with the American Society of Landscape Architects and the United States Botanic Garden, is well on its way to developing national standards and a rating system for landscapes that are sustainable and contribute positively to the environment.
Our research scientists have tackled the issue of climate change, finding ways to maximize the use of native plants to capture carbon dioxide – a major cause of global warming – in urban settings. Plants are critically important to the reduction of greenhouse gases because they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and capture and hold it in the soil. We’re finding that native grasses may be even more effective at sequestering carbon than trees.
Nearly all of our landscape restoration projects test an innovative way of using native plants with smart design to solve environmental problems. Working with the City of Austin and its land development partners, we have created a tall grass prairie as part of the rebirth of Austin’s former Mueller airport site, located in the heart of the city. Another project in the works will include a large rain garden to hold and filter rainwater.
Developing a better turf grass and testing methods of using native plants on green roofs are other ways in which the Wildflower Center is contributing to a more sustainable future. We’re working to help ensure that the world’s plant diversity is protected, by collecting and banking seeds from hundreds of key species. In all of these efforts, we are leveraging our status as an Organized Research Unit of The University of Texas at Austin.
Never has our work been more important, and never have the opportunities been so great to demonstrate the roles that native plants can play in reducing, and even repairing, the damage to our land and our heritage. But at times, our capacities collide with our limitations. The university does not contribute to our operating budget, and we are still dependent for our funding on the generous support of members and contributors like you.
And there is much to be done. We are working hard to secure funding to create what will be one of the most unique children’s gardens in the nation, designed to inspire the next generation of conservationists.
Please consider Lady Bird’s Wildflower Center in your charitable giving. And if you are in the Washington, D.C., area this summer, be sure to visit our exhibit honoring Mrs. Johnson at the United States Botanic Garden on the National Mall. This exhibit in the First Ladies Water Garden will be on display from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.
— Susan K. Rieff, Executive Director