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Arboretum Paths: Arboretum’s swamp forest exhibit promises cool summer walks

THINGS TO COME: A path “footprint” has been laid out which parallels the stream that lies at the center of the Arboretum’s Swamp Forest Exhibit. Trail construction is planned to begin this month. Photo by Pat Drackett

THINGS TO COME: A path “footprint” has been laid out which parallels the stream that lies at the center of the Arboretum’s Swamp Forest Exhibit. Trail construction is planned to begin this month.
Photo by Pat Drackett

By Patricia Drackett

Director, Crosby Arboretum/MSU Extension

During the ebb and flow of chilly winter days, we have found our conversations focusing on the inevitable return of sweltering summer afternoons. How delicious it will be, we remark, when Arboretum visitors can enjoy cool strolls along the pathway planned to parallel the stream channel that is located at the center of our newest educational exhibit, the Swamp Forest Educational Exhibit.

Grounds manager Terry Johnson and his crew of Arboretum staff and volunteers plan to begin construction as early as next week on this pathway, which has been carefully delineated. The trail will include seven bridges crossing the stream channel. 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.

Graduate students from Mississippi State University’s landscape architecture department, led by professor and former Arboretum curator Bob Brzuszek, performed a pre-planning study for the exhibit. The students made field trips to Pearl River County, visiting both our four-acre project area, as well as nearby sites such as CrosbyArboretum’s Dead Tiger Creek natural area to study the landforms and plant communities growing there.

At the Arboretum, the students studied the movement of water through the project area from the new Gum Pond southward toward the Slough Exhibit (near the Visitor Center). They produced many drawings, from field sketches to detailed graphic illustration boards, and also recorded the large existing trees within the site. The new trail will pass through plant communities representing those observed in area swamp forests, for example, Atlantic white cedar swamp, pond cypress depression forests, and bayhead plant communities.

Based on their site visits to the nearby swamp forest habitats, the students created a list of plants recommended for installation. Some of this plant material will be propagated from on-site sources by Crosby Arboretumvolunteers and planted into the exhibit. Plant species that prefer such moist forest habitats, such as chain fern, sphagnum moss, royal fern, golden club, partridge berry, Virginia sweetspire, tree huckleberry, climbing fetterbush and American snowbell – are already found elsewhere at the Arboretum. Interpretive signage along the new pathway will provide information to visitors about the value of swamp forest ecosystems and the plants and animals found in these habitats.

Some swamp forest areas the students visited contained tightly-packed trees such as sweet bay magnolia, black gum, and cypress. “Braided” or intertwining stream channels will often wind through these dense wetland forests. The students noted the landscape patterns they observed, for example, how certain shrubs such as titi grew across the streams. The sketches they created will be used as guidelines for planting. Do you have a special place in nature that you enjoy exploring? Take note next time you are in a natural area that particularly appeals to you. How can you reproduce this same feeling in your home landscape?

Mark your calendar for the Crosby Arboretum’s upcoming Arbor Day Plant Sale this Saturday, February 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. (Members are admitted at 9:00 a.m.). Site admission to the Arboretum, and our plant sale, is FREE on Saturday. We will also have a special FREE program from 10 to 11 a.m. on the Gloster Arboretum, a true Mississippi treasure. Site director Von Odenwald will discuss the history and development of this exceptional property located in Gloster, MS, managed by the John James Audubon Foundation.

Do you want to grow your own vegetables, but just don’t have the space, time, or energy? Join Brenda Myers, Certified Square Foot Gardener and Master Gardener, on Saturday, February 22 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. for a program on “Square Foot Gardening: No Weeding, No Digging, No Tilling, No Kidding”, based on America’s best-selling vegetable gardening book by Mel Bartholomew.  Program is free to members and $5 for non-members.

For more information, call the Crosby Arboretum office at (601) 799-2311 or visit our website atwww.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).

 

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For more information on the Gloster Arboretum, visit their website atwww.glosterarboretum.com.You will see that this garden is well worth scheduling a day trip this spring to discover its treasures!