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Oz Crosby discusses development of arboretum

Oz Crosby attended the Edward L. Blake, Jr. Memorial Service at the Crosby Arboretum this past Sunday and took a few moments to reflect on his late father, L.O. Crosby, and the evolution of the concept for the Crosby Arboretum.

“My father introduced several species to this area back in the ’30s and later. For instance, he brought tung trees here to grow for their oil, and satsumas. He believed that growing things would sustain the area economically with jobs and trade. He loved to grow things and he loved the outdoors,” Crosby said.

“The idea for the arboretum came to us on the way home from his funeral. Originally, we thought about making a memorial garden full of plants that he had brought to this area, within the downtown city limits, to commemorate him. But when we passed this property we discussed how much he had loved it and we knew that this was the place. At one time it had been a strawberry farm that he had started to help the local economy. He was always concerned with that.”

From there, Crosby said, this idea evolved into what the Arboretum has become today and in ways into which it is still growing.

“We decided to turn this into an arboretum and give the community a place of beauty showcasing the native plants that we take for granted in their own backyards. We take the wonders of wild azaleas and pitcher plants for granted.

“We did not do this lightly. We traveled and toured other Arboretums to make the decisions for the direction of our own.

“It was while visiting one in Alberta, Canada that it crystallized for me what we needed here. They have some habitats that are not native to their area. We were viewing the different regional habitats which included a Desert Habitat with the plants you would see there and we went on to tour the Gulf Coast Habitat, which encompasses our area here. It was in the Gulf Coast Habitat that I saw a four inch high pitcher plant that was bent over and appeared to be on life support. I was astounded and thought ‘My goodness, we have better examples than that in our backyards.’”

This was a defining moment for both Crosby and the future Arboretum.

“I realized that the difference in the thriving plants in our backyards here and the anemic example on life support in this Arboretum was that they belonged in the environment here. They were foreign to the environment in Canada. That is when I knew that we needed to have robust examples for our children to see here and not poor examples from environments far away.

“I said, ‘We have something unique to share.’”

When asked if there was one thought that he would want to express to the community, he said, “If I could express one desire above all others it would be to encourage Picayune to take ownership of this treasure. It has to be publicly owned both spiritually and financially to be sustained for our future generations.”