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If you have been paying attention, you’ve seen bunches of blue flowers (bluebonnets) with spikes of red (Indian paintbrush) alongside the roads. These were outside of Schulenburg, Texas last Sunday.

Because of good rains this year, Texas wildflowers are calling our attention. In the Houston area, get ready to drive out any direction from Houston (but Highway 290 is a special favorite) for a day trip to take photos of the amazing Texas wildflowers. We can thank Lady Bird Johnson, first lady of the United States, for the fields of native wildflowers. She was an environmentalist long before it was “cool” to be one.

While she was first lady, she planted thousands of tulips and daffodils which still delight visitors to our nation’s Capital. The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 was the result of Mrs. Johnson’s national campaign for beautification. In 1999, Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt presented Mrs. Johnson with the Native Plant Conservation Initiative Lifetime Achievement Award. Mrs. Johnson chaired the Town Lake Beautification Project, a community effort to create a hike and bike trail and to plant flowering trees along the Colorado River in Austin, Texas. She became a member of the National Park Service’s Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments in 1969 and served on the council for many years. In 1969 Mrs. Johnson founded the Texas Highway Beautification Awards, and for the next twenty years, she hosted the annual awards ceremonies and presented her personal checks to the winners. She was a trustee of the American Conservation Association.

On her 70th birthday in 1982, Mrs. Johnson founded the National Wildflower Research Center, a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the preservation and re-establishment of native plants in natural and planned landscapes. She donated 60 acres of land and a sum of money to establish the Center which serves as a clearing house of information for people all over the country. She realized her long-held dream in 1995 when the Center moved into its new and larger facility. In December, 1997, the Center was renamed the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in honor of Mrs. Johnson’s 85th birthday. Mrs. Johnson was chairman of the Wildflower Center’s board of directors until her death.

In honor of her 80th birthday and many contributions to the betterment of our environment, the Lady Bird Johnson Conservation Award was established in 1992 by the LBJ Foundation Board of Directors.

In December 1972, President and Mrs. Johnson gave the LBJ Ranch house and surrounding property to the people of the United States as a national historic site, retaining a life estate in the Ranch. Mrs. Johnson continued to live at the Ranch in Stonewall, Texas until her death. She was a member of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Fredericksburg, Texas. It is well worth the time to visit the Ranch in Johnson City. Meanwhile, try your skill at identifying wildflowers. Your editor correctly identified 9 out of 12. If you can beat me, let me know and the first to do so will win a prize! Go to:

(April 4, 2013)

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