The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is a public botanical garden dedicated to creating a more sustainable earth through research and education. Situated 10 miles southwest of downtown Austin, Texas and just inside the edge of the distinctive Texas hill country, the 279-acre Wildflower Center attracts 100,000 annual visitors. The center is a self-supporting research unit of The University of Texas at Austin devoted entirely to native plants, with more than 700 species native to central Texas, and the environmental benefits of native-plant landscaping. (see Native Plant Information Network). The Wildflower Center also hosts changing exhibits of visual art and photography and features outdoor sculptures, walking trails, formal and research plantings, educational exhibits, and an annual sale of native plants. In 2013, the syndicated television series, Texas Country Reporter, hosted by Bob Phillips, declared the center the No. 1 site from which to view wildflowers within Texas.
Former first lady Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded the National Wildflower Research Center in 1982 to protect and preserve North America's native plants and natural landscapes. Officially renamed Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1995, the center focuses on Mrs. Johnson's interest in sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes. The inscription on the Presidential Medal of Freedom award presented to Lady Bird Johnson in 1977 by President Gerald Ford concludes with the words "Her leadership transformed the American landscape and preserved its natural beauty as a national treasure."
With its focus on native plants, research, and education, the Wildflower Center has gained national recognition as a leader in plant conservation and environmental sustainability.In partnership with the U.S. Botanic Garden and American Society of Landscape Architects, the center is a leader in the Sustainable Sites Initiative, a program that has established performance benchmarks for sustainable land design.
On June 20, 2006, the University of Texas System Board of Regents announced a plan to incorporate the Wildflower Center into The University of Texas at Austin.In 2010, a donation of $1.4 million from the San Antonio Area Foundation was designated toward the establishment of a 16-acre arboretum. The Mollie Steves Zachry Texas Arboretum, which was dedicated on April 30, 2011 and opened in the spring of 2012, displays all 53 species of oak trees that are native to Texas. In April 2012, Luci Baines Johnson, daughter of Lady Bird Johnson, and her husband Ian Turpin donated $1 million toward a family garden that will be named in their honor. The 4.5-acre native plant garden has been designed to include a wading creek, a maze of 3-foot-tall native hedges, and a walk-in grotto. It was scheduled to be completed in June 2014.