By Patricia Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum/MSU Extension Service
The Picayune Item
PICAYUNE — By the time you read this, Crosby Arboretum’s Summer Nature Camp will be in full swing. We’ve had fun planning for this exciting week, one that will be jam-packed with activities that will explore the wonders of nature. Some campers’ parents choose to spend part or all of the time experiencing camp alongside their children. Others send groups of siblings, perhaps with a family friend in tow. Whatever the arrangement, by the end of the week, the campers are guaranteed to leave with a new appreciation for nature. Joining us again this year are Deanna and Breanna Lyle, twin sisters from Aberdeen, Mississippi. For several summers in a row, the sisters attended Mississippi State University’s nationally renowned “bug camp”, fueling their passion for horticulture and entomology, and leading them to pursue these fields of study at MSU. In addition to Summer Nature Camp, the twins have also assisted with other Arboretum events such as Spider Day, and September’s two-day Bugfest celebration. Deanna is enamored by butterflies, floral arranging, and horticulture. She enjoys teaching children about the secret lives of pitcher plants and all things plant-related. Breanna has cured many of their arachnophobia by introducing them to her tarantulas, who just might tag along with her again this year. She will be presenting her research on spiders this year at the Entomological Society of America’s national meeting. We have two interns this summer at the Arboretum who will be participating in nature camp. Conner Ryan, from Diamondhead, is a student at Auburn University. He will be with us until August. He is currently developing an illustrated “What’s in Bloom” guide of species that visitors can see flowering each month in our Exhibits. Conner is also inventorying a collection of herbarium specimens donated to the Crosby Arboretum by former University of South Mississippi professor Dr. Richard Moore. Many of these specimens were collected locally in nearby Harrison County. For the summer camp, Conner will give a “show and tell” using some of Dr. Moore’s specimens and talk about his project, and the importance and purpose of herbaria. Campers will take a field walk through the exhibits to collect plant material. They will be using plant presses to preserve and flatten the plants, and will use them to create their very own “herbarium specimens.” You might have seen such specimens framed and used in interior design magazines or catalogs. So, this is not only a fun summer project to do with your family, but a source of “art work” to decorate your home for a fraction of the catalog price. Frames may be obtained inexpensively at thrift stores and painted. Purchase oversized heavy stock paper and glue to fit the frames. Sites on the Web contain detailed instructions for building your own plant press. Plant presses do not need to be cumbersome, fancy or expensive. Deanna Lyle had one of the most petite and portable handmade presses I’d ever seen, quite easy to tuck into a pocket or backpack. A simple press can be made from materials you have at home, such as cardboard, copy paper, and rubber bands. Linda Bouffard is a fifth grade science teacher who is with us for two weeks through the Hancock County School District’s Summer Internship for Educators program. Linda has been busy brainstorming activities for the campers, and there is no end to her creativity. She brought in a container of “owl pellets” that will make a great “rainy day” project. Master Gardener Cindy Murchison will also be spending several days assisting at the summer camp. We are excited for the campers to be in the hands of such capable and experienced educators. Crystie Baker, an outreach educator from the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, will present a fun-filled day on wildlife. On Friday, Mississippi State University urban horticulturalist Dr. Christine Coker will involve the children in activities centering on edible plants. Amy LeMien is our talented Arboretum volunteer who reigns over the greenhouse, propagation, and Children’s Garden. She is planning to do a plant activity with the nature campers. Perhaps it will also involve butterflies, one of her favorite subjects. A fun summer family activity is making plaster casts of animal tracks. Take a walk in an area with soft mud such a stream bank. Our Swamp Forest Exhibit contains a stream channel where we often find animal tracks. We’ve seen raccoon, opossum, deer, and fox tracks along the stream. Find some plaster, a strip of cardboard, and a clothespin, and you can easily make casts of the tracks. Only a short time remains for the chance to participate in our survey seeking to determine the possible causes affecting visitation to the Arboretum. The survey is being conducted by Senior Curator Richelle Stafne. We are close to our goal for survey responses, so please consider visiting our website’s homepage and filling out the five question survey form.You could win a 2014 Arboretum membership! The link will be available until mid-June. Mark your calendar for our Aquatic Plant Sale on Saturday, July 6, from 9 a.m. to noon. Choose from a selection of non-invasive water plants for your garden, including hardy water lilies, native hibiscus, spider lilies, lizard’s tail and more. Many of these plants are divisions propagated from the Arboretum’s exhibits. Bring your family and enjoy this day when site admission is free. Teachers and homeschool educators will have great fun at our Project Wild workshop, “Wild About Black Bears and Endangered Species” on July 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The workshop will be facilitated by Mississippi Museum of Natural Science educational outreach biologist Crystie Baker. The workshop is free for teachers who live or working in Pearl River County and Hancock County. For more information or to sign up for a workshop or program, visit www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu or call 601-799-2311.The Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59). For further exploration: Search your library or the web for instructions on how to make a flower press, or how to take plaster castings of animal tracks. What is an “owl pellet”?