Update: Swamp Forest Educational Exhibit
By Patricia Drackett
Director, Crosby Arboretum/
This past October and November, students in the Mississippi State University special topics class co-taught by School of Architecture Professor Hans Herrmann and Professor Bob Brzuszek, Department of Landscape Architecture, constructed two pedestrian bridges at the south edge of the Gum Pond. This area marks the intersection of the pond with the stream channel that is the focus of the Arboretum’s newest exhibit, the Swamp Forest.
The Swamp Forest Educational Exhibit centers on the restoration of a 900 linear foot forested stream channel that has experienced previous farm use, and is located within an existing four acre swamp forest wetland area. This wetland exhibit will educate school groups and the visiting public about the importance of conservation needs and ecological values of this regional habitat type. Funding sources for the Swamp Forest project include donations by Crosby Arboretum members, and a grant award through the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation’s Five Star Restoration Grant Program and Southern Company, the parent company of Mississippi Power.
Small Stream Swamp Forests are a unique Coastal Plain wetland that is found within the bottomlands of small streams in the Piney Woods region, considered endangered in Mississippi due to historic widespread declines and losses caused by fragmentation. Within these habitats, community subtypes such as white cedar swamp forest and pond cypress swamps are very rare and are considered critically imperiled.
A “footprint” for the 900 foot long trail has been delineated, along with the crossing points for twelve bridges to span the stream channel. The two bridges which were designed and constructed by the MSU students will serve as prototypes for the additional bridges that will be constructed by Arboretum staff and volunteers.
The Swamp Forest Exhibit will provide additional habitat for threatened birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles that are indigenous to wetland habitats within the state of Mississippi. It will also offer Arboretum visitors almost a quarter mile of new cool and shady trail to enjoy on hot summer afternoons!
Access to the stream channel is possible through three pathways, each measuring approximately 100 feet each, which lead westward from the North Savanna Trail. These trails were constructed in 2012 by Nathan Parker of Picayune Troop 5 and his crew, as the subject of Nathan›s Eagle Scout community project.
The central stream will connect the overflow from the Gumpond Exhibit to the Arboretum’s Slough Exhibit, and the Piney Woods Pond. Wetland tree species native to swamp forests, including black gum (Nyssa biflora), swamp bay (Persea palustris), and sweet bay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) are already present within this project site.
Over 50 native plant species indigenous to East Gulf Coastal Plain plant habitats are being considered for reintroduction to the project area, with many of these anticipated to be propagated from Arboretum sources. They will be planted by Crosby Arboretum staff and volunteers. Species will include a wide representation of trees, shrubs, vines, herbaceous plants and groundcovers that are found in three habitat types: bayhead, pond cypress depression forest, and Atlantic white cedar swamp.
Examples of native plants that tolerate wet areas in the landscape include swamp red maple (Acer rubrum var. Drummondii), sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua), and tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera). Shrubs you may wish to consider for wet sites include fetterbush (Lyonia lucida), titi (Cyrilla racemiflora), buckwheat tree (Cliftonia monophylla), possumhaw Viburnum (Viburnum nudum),Virginia sweetspire (Itea virginica), and American Holly (Ilex opaca). For more information on these shrubs, visit an Internet search engine or visit the Arboretum’s website (address below) and select “plant database” on the homepage.
Mark your calendar for the Arboretum’s Forge Day event on Saturday, January 25, 2014. See blacksmithing and metalworking demonstrations by area craftsmen, and try your hand at the forge. The event is free for members, $5 for non-members, and $2 for non-members’ children.
For more information, call the Arboretum office at (601) 799-2311 or visit our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu. The garden is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).
FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION:
Visit the Crosby Arboretum’s Visitor Center to see graphics illustrating the Swamp Forest Exhibit and photographs of the students installing our new bridges. Call the Arboretum office if you are interested in observing the future bridge construction, or to volunteer to help with the project.