Water trickles through a stone roof in the shape of a butterfly, flowing through a Roman-styled aqueduct to a cistern placed for harvesting rainwater. Thorn-crested agaves and evergreen succulents flourish beneath the eaves. The architecture of this rainwater harvesting system—itself a recreation of a South Texas mission garden—embodies the dual purpose of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: to preserve native plant life and promote environmental and conservation research.
Although North American native plants thrive in this region when left to their own devices, urban development, agribusiness and the introduction of invasive species have slashed their numbers, reducing wildlife habitats and disrupting the fragile ecosystem. Lady Bird Johnson founded the Wildflower Center in 1982 to preserve these native plants and natural landscapes. Native Texas wildflowers and shrubs fill its 23 public gardens and trails, which form a natural habitat for cochineal insects and red-eared slider turtles. The center's Land Restoration Program restores damaged landscapes, and the Native Plant Information Network retains an online database of more than 7,200 native species.