The first week in May is set aside as National Wildflower Week, a time to draw attention to these floral treasures and to help preserve and propagate them. Many species are threatened by loss of habitat, development, and invasive species.
An early champion for wildflowers was former First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, who undertook many projects for the beautification (a broad term that included clean air and water and pollution abatement) of America. Upon her arrival in Washington, D.C., she set up a committee of wealthy donors and influential politicos who were tasked with improving the natural aesthetics around the city. Their efforts “bloomed” in the form of millions of newly planted bulbs, flowering shrubs, and trees around public buildings and open spaces.
Legislation and programs enacted under her husband’s administration include the Wilderness Act of 1964, the Beautification Act of 1965, the National Trails System Act, the Wild and Scenic River Program, and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
In 1982, Mrs. Johnson and actress Helen Hayes founded a wildflower research center. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Research Center in Austin, Texas, is a 284-acre botanical garden devoted to conservation and restoration of natural landscapes. Its website hosts the Native Plant Information Network, a searchable database of thousands of America’s native plants.
Western North Carolina affords many opportunities for viewing wildflowers. Nature lovers and flower seekers can find them along the Blue Ridge Parkway or in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Pisgah and Nantahala Forests, DuPont State Forest, and our numerous state parks. Look for special wildflower walks or hikes nearby!