Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

This center preserves a little piece of natural Texas beauty.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of Texas. This 279-acre (113-hectare) center features gardens of local plant life and native animals, including turtles and butterflies.

Lady Bird Johnson, the former First Lady of the United States, was concerned in the early 1980s that the country was losing its natural beauty to urban development. In 1982, she and actress Helen Hayes decided to do something about it. They founded the National Wildflower Research Center, which later became the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The center’s philosophy is that native plants better support native wildlife, such as birds and butterflies. They also help to preserve water, protect soil and reduce the need to use pesticides.

Set aside one to two hours to explore the whole area—or spend a leisurely afternoon here. Start your tour at the Entrance Trail. It’s designed to help put you in a relaxed mood as you make your way through the gardens. Notice the varieties of trees here, including live oaks, ashe junipers and cedar elms. Look up to see fuzzy ball moss growing in the canopy.

Head to the Entrance Garden and follow the stone arches of the aqueduct, which is used to collect water to irrigate the gardens. You’ll come to the Courtyard, the hub of the center, with restrooms, a gift shop and the Wildflower Café.

From here, there are plenty of options to continue your tour. Pick up a map from the Visitor's Gallery to discover what there is to see and the best route to take for your interests.

The Observation Tower, modeled on watchtowers from the Spanish missions, is a beautiful stone construction with a winding staircase and a view of the whole center. It’s a great vantage point to take a photo of The Meadows, which are filled with color when the Texas wildflowers bloom.

Go turtle spotting in the Wetland Pond or watch butterflies in the dedicated Ann and O.J. Weber Butterfly Garden. At the Display Gardens, find inspiration for your own garden and learn about the fascinating ways native plants adapt and survive.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is located 12 miles (19 kilometers) southeast of downtown, and the easiest way to get there is by car. Free parking is available.