In 1982, former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded the National Wildlife Research Center in Austin, Texas, wishing to protect and preserve native American plants. The center was later re-named to honor the First Lady. The stated mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is “to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native flowers, plants and landscapes.”
I visited Austin over Thanksgiving week and was able to spend a delightfully warm, sun-filled afternoon at the Wildflower Center. Blooming flowers were few and far between, but there was still plenty of color to be found on that late November day!
Autumn leaves, long fallen in my Northeastern garden, still glowed in the afternoon sun. The golden-yellow foliage of the Witch Hazel and the light yellow of the taller Carolina Basswood shone brilliantly in the Woodland Garden:
More yellow leaves adorned Styphnolobium affine, a native Texas tree that thrives in limestone soil. In the spring it bears pink, wisteria-like flowers, but it is this tree’s autumn seed pods that lend it its common name, Eve’s Necklace:
Overhead, Live Oaks supported Ball Moss, a member of the Bromeliad family. Unlike Mistletoe, Ball Moss is not a parasite, but rather takes its nutrition from water vapor in the air:
Nearer to the ground, I found an understory shrub that many of my blogging friends love, the American Beautyberry. Now I understand why it is such a favorite! Unfortunately for me, Beautyberry is hardy only in Zones 6 and above. The purple berries are stunning:
The Erma Lowe Hill Country Stream runs through the Woodland Garden, and culminates in a pool beneath the trees. Fan-like Bush Palmetto thrived in this moist, sun-dappled area, along with several species of ferns:I was too late to see the blooms of this Texas Lantana at the edge of the stream:
At the sunnier head of the stream, I found a Texas Madrone (Arbutus xalapensis) covered with orange-red berries. This is another plant that likes the rocky limestone soil of Texas Hill Country. According to the website for the Wildflower Center, it is difficult to propagate and therefore rare. An Elbow-bush (Forestiera pubescens), part of the Olive family, grows nearby:
(The yellow boxes on the ground are not waste baskets, but luminaries set up for a special weekend event in December!)
Just outside the Woodland Garden, this patch of Purple Fall Asters (Symphyotrichum oblongifolium) must have been stunning just two weeks earlier. A few blossoms persisted, though:The aster patch adjoined a patch of Inland Sea Oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) nodding their pale brown seed heads in the light breeze:The Woodland Garden was inviting, and I was tempted to sit on one of the many thoughtfully placed benches to savor my surroundings, but time was passing, and the Display Gardens, which I will write about next week, beckoned!