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Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

LBJ Wildflower Center helping to restore pine trees to Texas

Very cool.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center of The University of Texas at Austin has been selected by the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) to serve as the local grower of loblolly pines to restore wildfire-damaged Bastrop County.

The 2011 Bastrop County Complex fire destroyed 1,691 homes while burning 33,000 acres that gave the area its picturesque landscape. Already, the Wildflower Center has worked with a university graduate student to provide 35,000 loblolly pines that are being given this winter to county residents. The center will now expand its growing operation as one of three contractors with TFS to produce up to 6 million trees total by 2017 for the Lost Pines region.

“The Wildflower Center is conveniently located for project partners to access the pines we grow before a planting event,” said the center’s Senior Director, Damon Waitt. “We can also serve as a holding area for trees grown by the facilities that aren’t near Bastrop County.”


The tree growers will use seeds the TFS collected from Lost Pines loblollies years ago, with future TFS contracts expected to continue the program through 2017. “The Lost Pines is such a unique area ecologically, and the trees there are more drought-tolerant than loblolly pines in East Texas, so we are thrilled to have this seed source to work with,” said Dr. Waitt, who is also the center’s senior botanist.

Sure is a good thing they saved those seeds, isn’t it?

Happy birthday, Lady Bird

Lady Bird Johnson would be celebrating her 100th birthday today if she were still with us.

Lady Bird Johnson

Catherine Robb’s eyes blurred with tears and she paused, overcome by the emotion of trying to find the right words to express how much she misses “Nini” – the affectionate name she called her grandmother, Lady Bird Johnson.

After all, the nation’s former first lady, catapulted into history after President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 assassination in Dallas, came closer than she ever expected to attending her 100th birthday celebration Saturday. She died at her Texas Hill Country ranch in 2007 at age 94.

“My grandmother probably never thought she’d get that old. After all, her mother died very young when my grandmother was only 5,” said Robb. By comparison, Lady Bird founded the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin on her 70th birthday and was still swimming laps in her late 80s. Only one other presidential wife, Bess Truman, lived longer.

In 2002, Lady Bird was slowed by a debilitating stroke. She completely lost her voice and macular degeneration claimed her eyesight.

“Even though her body was no longer cooperating with her, she managed to find different ways to communicate through her expressions or jotting things down. She also utilized audiobooks,” said Robb, 42, an Austin lawyer, who for many years had a standing dinner date with her grandmother nearly every Thursday night. “She found ways to keep up with what was happening with her family and the world until very close to the end.”

Her centennial celebration is being commemorated by the U.S. Postal Service with the release of a stamp featuring her in a canary yellow gown from her official White House portrait; a wildflower sculpture made in her honor; and a massive, multimillion-dollar renovation of the LBJ Presidential Library, to be unveiled Saturday and that for the first time features excerpts from 643 hours of telephone conversations that President Johnson secretly recorded of his political dealings in that era.

I don’t really have a point to make, but like Catherine Robb, I had a grandmother that I was very close to, so reading this story got me a little misty-eyed as well. Happy birthday, Lady Bird.

Bastard cabbage

All that recent rain benefits good plants and bad plants.

Bastard cabbage

With its thick outcropping of leafy green branches topped with small yellow flowers, an invasive weed commonly called bastard cabbage is blotting out large swaths of wildflowers, including the beloved bluebonnets, in some areas across Texas.

“It turns out that the good weather conditions that give us good wildflower seasons also favor the bastard cabbage,” said Damon Waitt, senior director and botanist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

“I’ve seen areas that used to be bluebonnet hillsides along roadways that are now bastard cabbage hillsides,” he said.

Waitt said it’s not known exactly when or where or how the invasive weed with the scientific name of Rapistrum rugosum got introduced to Texas, but it may have happened when the seed of the weed native to the Mediterranean area got mixed in with grass seeds.

He said bastard cabbage’s proliferation in Texas has gotten worse in recent years. He said bastard cabbage — which though part of the mustard family resembles broccoli or cabbage plants because of the flowers at its tips — is growing everywhere this year from parks to front lawns, but is especially prevalent along the state’s major roadways.

Waitt says most wildflowers grow as tall as 1 to 2 feet. Bastard cabbage grows anywhere from 2 to 5 feet tall.

I don’t really have a point to make, I just like saying “bastard cabbage”, which as I noted a few years ago would make an excellent band name. Reading that story pointed me to the Texas Invasives webpage, where you can go to learn more about various invasive species in our state. Like, you know, bastard cabbage.