Celebrate Mississippi Arbor Day at the Crosby Arboretum /MSU Extension

Published 3:44 pm Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Can you think of one thing that coastal gardeners can still accomplish during our winter months that folks living in much of the nation only dream about? Give up?

How about – digging a hole! Although our recent weather has included more than a few chilly days, the temperatures have not been consistently low enough to freeze the soil and render it impenetrable by your shovel. So, take advantage of these current conditions which offer you workable ground, and the opportunity for planting trees and shrubs into your home landscape. Your new plants will still have a long period of time to become established before the arrival of hot summer days that tend to drive even the most optimistic of spring gardeners back indoors and into the air conditioning.

The MSU Extension Service offers an excellent publication called “Native Trees for Mississippi Landscapes” (Extension Publication No. 2330) to guide you in making your selections. Written by former Crosby Arboretum curator Bob Brzuszek, who is now an Assistant Extension Professor with the MSU Department of Landscape Architecture, the publication is available for free download at www.msucares.com.

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According to the Mississippi State University Forestry Extension (www.msucares.com/forestry), Mississippi forests occupy 65% of our state’s total land area, or more than 19 million acres of land. A 2008 study by James Henderson and Ian Munn of MSU reported that the total industry output of Mississippi’s forest products industry generates an economic impact of nearly $17.4 billion annually. The forest products industry accounts for $7.1 billion annually in value added economic impact for the state, and the Mississippi forest products industry contributes 8.3% of all jobs in Mississippi. In terms of wages and salaries paid annually, Mississippi’s forest products industry generates a statewide economic impact of $4.4 billion. In 2007, Mississippi’s forest landowners, mostly private, non-industry owners, collected $630.8 million for their standing timber sold that year. From these facts, you can see that trees are a very important crop for our state!

All this talk about trees is leading up to the fact that Mississippi Arbor Day is right around the corner. Arbor Day is observed in all fifty states, and is celebrated in Mississippi on the second Friday in February. The event is American in origin, and was first celebrated in the State of Nebraska in 1872. The idea was developed by Julius Sterling Morton of the Nebraska Board of Agriculture, who determined that April 10 was to be the date his state would celebrate the event.

Morton successfully convinced the public that Nebraska’s treeless plains could be transformed by planting trees. Trees were important as windbreaks, to stabilize the soil, for shade from the hot sun, and to provide fuel. Over one million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day! In Mississippi, Arbor Day became an official day of observance in the 1926 Mississippi Code, when the State and County Boards of Education were directed to set aside a special day each year in the public schools, ”on which day ornamental and shade trees, flowers, etc., are to be placed where practical on the grounds surrounding all public school houses.”

Come celebrate Mississippi Arbor Day at the Crosby Arboretum this Friday, February 11. This is the day we will be planting our new Gum Pond Exhibit with swamp gum (Nyssa sylvatica biflora) bare root seedlings. The Gum Pond Exhibit is the newest addition to the Arboretum’s Aquatic Exhibit, and was funded by a Five Star Restoration grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.  This new exhibit will serve to educate the public about the water quality values of gum ponds, which are semi-permanently flooded forested wetlands found in the Gulf Coastal Plain, and characterized by the predominant tree species of swamp black gum and tupelo gum.

Area organizations and individuals are invited to celebrate Mississippi Arbor Day by planting a tree into our new exhibit. All are welcome to join us, along with the Pearl River County Master Gardeners, 4-H youth, Mississippi Native Plant Society members, Crosby Arboretum staff, members, and volunteers who will begin planting trees around 1:00 p.m. Bring your shovel or trowel, and wear boots or shoes that can get (very) muddy!

The Arboretum is also having their Arbor Day plant sale this Saturday, February 12, from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. (Members will be admitted one hour early.) A variety of trees and shrubs will be available, including native azaleas, Grancy graybeard, pawpaw, bigleaf magnolia and mayhaw trees. The event will be held near the Arboretum Greenhouse, and plant professionals will be on hand to help you select the right plant for the right place. Admission to both the plant sale and the Arbor Day community tree planting is free. If you will have a large group coming for the planting day on Friday, please give us a call at our office to sign up.

For more information, please call 601-799-2311, or visit our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu for more information on our facility. The Crosby Arboretum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. We are located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, on Ridge Road (between Wal-Mart and I-59.)    

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: For more information on Mississippi forests and forestry, visit the Mississippi Forestry Association’s website at www.msforestry.net and see their Quick Links menu for an informative flyer on “Mississippi Forestry Facts”. Visit the Mississippi Forestry Commission website at www.mfc.ms.gov to read more about Mississippi Arbor Day, and find other information on trees. Why do you think the date has been set at different times of year for the various states? List some reasons why it is a good idea to plant trees.


CHALLENGE QUESTION: Why was the Nebraska Arbor Day changed from April 10 to April 22 in 1885. Hint: Go to www.arborday.org/arborday and select “Arbor Day History”.