PICAYUNE — One of the interesting facts about sweetgum we tell tour groups at the Crosby Arboretum is that it was once used by early settlers to fashion a toothbrush. Pioneers would cut a twig from the tree and chew on it until the fibers were separated, and then use this “brush” to clean their teeth. Sweetgum is a tree that is not only easy to identify, but has a lot of great stories to tell about it. For those of you who would like to learn more about the plants found in Pearl River County, this is a good tree to start with. Just like people, if you learn some things about a plant, it’s much easier to remember. Parents will occasionally visit our public garden on a quest with their child as they attempt to fulfill the requirements of making a leaf collection for school. We have several Extension publications available in our Visitor Center on Mississippi tree species to help with this project. But when the assignment is turned in, how many of these species will stick with them through the years? The aim of a leaf collecting project is to learn new trees, but often the rush to accumulate the required number seems to be the main focus. For those who would like to learn stories about some of the trees at the Arboretum, we have created a small leaf collecting journal to help identify about a dozen species. The journal contains interesting facts, such as sweetgum being known as the “toothbrush” tree. Sweetgum is an easy tree to identify because its leaves are distinctly star-shaped, usually having 5 and sometimes 7 lobes. Another identifying feature is its tendency to have corky protrusions, or “wings” on the twigs. The leaf buds are very shiny and its crushed leaves are aromatic. Another name for sweetgum is alligator-tree, because on older trees the bark is deeply furrowed. Many different autumn hues are displayed by this tree. As sweetgum begins to show fall color, it really stands out along the area roadsides, cloaked in bright crimson and purple. And even now, along our service road there are sweetgums still holding onto leaves of dark purplish burgundy. However, on the Mississippi State University Campus in late October, sweetgum trees glowed with golden yellow leaves in contrast to the dark trunk and branches. Sweetgum is a tough and highly adaptable tree that is found on a wide variety of soils. It is a “pioneer” species often found growing in open fields. It grows best in full sun, but will tolerate light shade. Although it is somewhat drought-resistant, it does best on moist bottomland sites. In rich soils it will sometimes form dense thickets. When given ideal conditions, sweetgum will grow as much as 100 feet, developing into a beautiful specimen tree. The Latin name of the sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua - is easy to remember if you think of its genus name being a combination of liquid and ambar, referring to the sap of the tree. Other species of Liquidambar are found in tropical and subtropical areas, and several, including our sweetgum, are used commercially. Liquidambar resin is also called styrax, thus its Latin species name. Both our American sweetgum and other species have historically been in demand for its medicinal use as well as other uses. While most of you may not recognize sweetgum from its Latin name, you most likely will recognize it as “that tree that drops those spiny balls in the lawn that hurt to walk on barefoot”. Yes, this is the tree whose dried seed capsules have been the subject of many craft projects, especially those around Christmas-time, when they are sprayed silver and gold and incorporated into wreaths and other decorations. Sweetgum seeds are eaten by many wildlife. According to the publication “Mississippi Trees” available from the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the seeds are consumed by goldfinches, mallard ducks, bobwhite quail, Carolina chickadees, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, white-throated sparrows, towhees, Carolina wrens, squirrels, and chipmunks. Luna moth caterpillars will feast on sweetgum leaves, and ruby-throated hummingbirds will drink nectar from the flowers. The “Mississippi Trees” publication lists sweetgum as one of the most valuable commercial hardwoods in the Southeast, with regard to the volume of timber produced. The tree provides pulp, veneer and lumber, and is used in cabinetry, home interiors, boxes and utensils. All parts of the sweetgum tree were used by Native American tribes, for many purposes. The dried sap was used as chewing gum, and also to treat distemper by placing rolled up pieces into a dog’s nose. The sap was used to make a “drawing plaster” and to reduce fever. Roots, bark, and leaves were used to make teas. Currently, the aromatic sap (styrax) is used as an ingredient in both medicine and perfume. As a landscape tree, sweetgum is a favorite fast-growing tree. But take care to locate it away from structures such as walks, driveways, and foundations as the root system is extensive. Its beautiful fall color makes it an attractive specimen tree. Would you like to learn more about birds and birdwatching? Mark your calendar to attend our “Introduction to Birding” program on Saturday, January 12 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Our fifth annual Forge Day takes place on Saturday, January 26, featuring metalworking demonstrations by area blacksmiths and knifemakers from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Those who would like to try their hand at the forge may do so (a waiver is required). Paul Lebatard, a member of the Gulf Coast Custom Knifemakers club, will be sharpening knives for free at this event. This is a great opportunity to bring in those dull kitchen knives! For more information, visit our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu or call the Arboretum office at 601-799-2311. We are located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).
Sweetgum, the ‘toothbrush’ tree
United Way, library offer free programs for children
The United Way of South Mississippi (UWSM) has issued a press release stating that it now has more than 500 children enrolled in Dolly Parton's Imagination Library, a program that provides free books to children.
Christmas on the Rails and Shop by Candlelight recap
Christmas on the Rails has come and gone for 2013, but what remains are lots of happy memories for all who attended the event, in spite of inclement weather earlier in the day. The event combined Picayune Main Street Shop by Candlelight and Greater Picayune Art Council’s Art Works.
Picayune Community Spotlight: Picayune Police Department
The Picayune Police Department has had a year of progress in the war on drugs, 911 capability and high visibility which in no small part has been due to focus on goals; cooperation of city officials and community support and departmental commitment— for example, everyone received the Chief’s Award from Police Chief Bryan Dawsey at the Chamber of Commerce Banquet.
Parker brings Christmas to 95 children
Cathryn Paker has spent all year diligently working on giftboxes for children she will never see. On Thursday, for the fifth consecutive year, she presented those 95 giftboxes for children in need to Christian Care Ministries on behalf of herself and her church, St. Barnabus Anglican Church.
Third annual Christmas on the Rails and Shopping by Candlelight
The Third Annual “Christmas on the Rails” is from 5 until 8 p.m. Friday in conjunction with Picayune Main Street’s Shop by Candlelight and Art Works sponsored by Greater Picayune Arts Council (GPAC). Art Works and Shop by Candlelight go on until 9 p.m. Sometime during the evening, the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce will announce the winner of the Best Decorated Store Front contest.
CWC Pilgrimage: A second time around
D.L. and Sandra Barker Bolton invite you to join them for the “second time around” as they open their home for the Civic Woman’s Club Christmas Pilgrimage to be held on Saturday, Dec. 7, from 2 until 7 p.m.
Both of them were on the first tour of homes when Civic Woman’s Club started the Pilgrimage in 1986. D.L. and his late wife, Wanda, had a Renaissance Christmas, and Sandra and her late husband, Larry, had a Victorian Christmas.
Business withstands test of time
McDonald Funeral Home, now owned and operated by Steve and Ann
McDonald, is a 96-year-old family run business with several long time
employees and was the recent recipient of the 2013 Excellence in
Business Award from the Greater Picayune Area Chamber of Commerce.
Vocability: Did Black Friday make you blue?
The holiday shopping season has begun and in its honor this week’s
column relates to retail terminology.
Anyone who has either had a part-time job or has been known as a
frequent shopper has most likely encountered several of these terms.
Match the ones you know and learn the others because it will give you
a whole perspective on your shopping experience.
As always, the answers are at the bottom of the column.
Partners delivers Presents for Pearl River County
“Our vision was to coordinate with all three county school districts and have students anonymously adopted like the programs used with ‘Angel Tree’ and such,” said Herndon, who is Children's Minister at First Baptist Church in Picayune. “We have two locations for trees that will have ornaments representing children in need. One is at Coast Electric in Picayune and the other is at the Poplarville Courthouse.”
Coast Electric is located at 6375 U.S. 11, in Picayune. The Poplarville Courthouse is located at 200 Highway 26 E, in Poplarville. The trees are conveniently located for access when the facilities are closed.
Toys for Tots registration and drive
Boxes are available in Picayune, Poplarville, Crossroads, Millard, McNeill and Carriere.
In Picayune, a few of the many locations to find them are: Crosby Library, Highland Community Hospital, Picayune Police Department and SPCA. In Poplarville, a few of the many locations to find them are: Jacob’s Well, Chamber of Commerce and Hancock Bank. In Crossroads, a box is located at Crossroad Seafood and Grill. In McNeill, a box is located at McNeill Travel Plaza. In Carriere, boxes can be found at Hide-A-Way Lake and PRC School ROTC.
To sign up, go to WORC from Monday, Dec. 2 through Friday, Dec 6, during the hours of 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 7, from 9 a.m. through noon. Those needing further information can call 769-926-1333.
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- United Way, library offer free programs for children