|photo by Dennis Fagen|
When Ladybird Johnson was a little girl, she used to comb the meadows and fields for the first bloom of the season and crown it “The Queen.” Many years later, as First Lady, she remembered how wildflowers and native plants had entertained and consoled her as a child, and made it her personal mission to ensure that future generations would appreciate them too. Along with our local heroine Helen Hayes, she founded the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center just outside of Austin, TX, and helped get laws passed to beautify US roadsides. The center is part of the University of Texas and is a research center and as well as a public garden. I was able to make a short visit there while I was visiting Austin last week.
I saw a huge variety of plants there, but decided to highlight only my very favorites, and a few that I saw most frequently while we were in Austin. Below is "Indian Blanket."
Similar hues were found on this captivating Pink Mimosa.
|Datura wrightii (a.k.a. "Jimsonweed")|
Although the blooms are pink, this flower is known as "White Gaura"
Red Yucca was in bloom all over Austin, often in large potted arrangements.
An orange spider wasp enjoying some yarrow.
(From "Whats That Bug.com": This magnificent Spider Wasp is a Tarantula Hawk, a member of several genera that hunt Tarantulas to feed to their young. The female Tarantula locates a Tarantula and stings it which paralyzes the Tarantula, but does not kill it. The female Tarantula Hawk then buries the spider after laying an egg. The larva of the wasp then feeds on the living but paralyzed Tarantula which ensures the meat is fresh. The vital organs are eaten last. The sting of a Tarantula Hawk is reported to be quite painful. Only the female stings. These large distinctive wasps, generally with black bodies and red wings, are frequently seen taking nectar from flowers including milkweed. You can find more information about Tarantula Hawks on BugGuide.)
One of the highlights of the center is the theme gardens in this gorgeous courtyard.
"Sotol" was the focal point of this succulent/cactus garden. Other themes included medicinal, woodland, and flowering plants.
Totally charming little clematis near the front archways.
One of the staff showed me how the bees get the nectar from the honeysuckle. They’re too fat to fit into the flower opening, so they bite through the base of the flower.