Magazine article Sunset

Wildflower Central, near Austin, Texas

Magazine article Sunset

Wildflower Central, near Austin, Texas

Article excerpt

TEXAS-BORN SONGBIRD NANCI Griffith sings a ballad, "Gulf Coast Highway," about a homestead that is "the only place bluebonnets grow." Well, with all due respect to Ms. Griffith, that's not so. This month, Texas is so daubed with bluebonets and Indian paintbrush that every other county road seems equal to Monet's garden at Giverny.

It's fitting, then, that the Lone Star State possesses the only center in the United States devoted solely to investigating wildflowers and other native plants of North America: the National Wildflower Research Center, 10 miles east of Austin. The NWRC can also direct you to wildflower drives--at peak bloom this month--and help your home garden go native.


"If you care about rain forests," says NWRC public information coordinator Elizabeth Carmack, "it's just as important to care about the plants native to your own backyard."

Throughout the United States, these native wildflowers and grasses are quite literally losing ground--pushed aside by introduced species, by agriculture, by urban development. The center estimates that of North America's 20,000 species of flowering plants, some 3,000 stand at risk of extinction.

It was to give this floral home team a boost that Lady Bird Johnson founded the NWRC in 1982, on a former hay farm.

Carmack explains that while native wildflowers tend to need less in the way of water, fertilizer, and pesticides than introduced species, home gardeners and commercial growers shy away from planting them, in part because gaps exist in our knowledge of how these flowers best thrive. …

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