Arboretum Paths: A sea of gold is shining in the Aquatic Exhibit

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The yellow-tipped flower spikes of golden club are currently putting on a show in the Aquatic Exhibit massages.  Crosby Arboretum Archives photo

The yellow-tipped flower spikes of golden club are currently putting on a show in the Aquatic Exhibit massages.
Crosby Arboretum Archives photo

Here at the Arboretum, we sometimes forget that the sights that are commonplace to us can at make a big impression on our visitors. A great example of this was this past Saturday, when John Manion, a visitor from Birmingham, Alabama, crossed the first bridge on the Arrival Journey to discover a large expanse of golden club (Orontium aquaticum) in full bloom in the shallow water below.

What I can’t convey here is John’s unbridled excitement as he waved his hands and described his astonishment when he looked down and saw this scene. Although we have been watching this plant bloom over the past weeks, those who live further north do not have the opportunity to experience such large colonies. Also called “neverwet”, golden club is found in the shallow, flowing water of coastal swamps and streams.

While neverwet does occur in large masses, it is often found as individual plants or in small groupings. In fact, we encountered some Orontium mixed among the grasses in a hillside seep at the Arboretum’s Steep Hollow Natural Area later that day. Some attractive specimens of golden club can be seen in the moving water along the edge of the Cypress Cove deck west of our South Pitcher Plant Bog. But if you want a show, just cross the first bridge on the Arrival Journey and look to your left in the shallow water. Prepare to be amazed!

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I heard another remarkable story about Orontium this past Saturday from another visitor who accompanied us on a journey to several of the Arboretum’s associated natural areas. Dr. Wayne Morris from Troy University in Alabama was preparing for a field trip he will be conducting for us in May. He came across the same expanse of golden club as he passed over the bridge with staff member Kim Johnson, and they proceeded to remark on this plant. As they talked about the characteristic of the leaves to repel water, they immersed a golden club leaf in the water. Wayne reported that the leaf took on a surprising golden sheen when it was placed under the surface.

Golden club is in the Arum family, which also includes elephant ear (Colocasia spp.), skunk cabbage, (Symplocarpus foetidus) and Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum). It is a handsome plant to include in your home aquatic garden, but remember to provide it with flowing water, such as with a recirculating pump.

Another plant that has been catching our eye lately is the red chokecherry (Photinia pyrifolia). The white flower clusters of this native shrub can be seen throughout the Arboretum, mixed among the grasses in the Savanna Exhibit. You will notice that the flowers resemble those found on other plants in the rose family (Rosaceae) such as blackberry and dewberry. The shrub is found in the acidic, moist and rich soils of bogs, swamps, and wet pine savannas, and will fruit and flower best in full sun.

Want to be inspired by nature? Come by to visit the new exhibit in the Arboretum’s gallery space – photography by the Abita Springs, Louisiana artist Lana Gramlich. Her work truly celebrates nature and will be on display through the end of May. Site admission will be free during our plant sale later this week, so take advantage of this opportunity to see her beautiful work.

Get inspired for your home gardening and landscape projects with our Spring Native Plant Sale on Friday and Saturday, March 20 and 21. Senior curator Jill Mirkovich has done an outstanding job of locating a wide variety of plants including native blueberries, pawpaw, red buckeye, honeysuckle azaleas, bigleaf magnolia, blackberries, native phlox, mayhaw, oakleaf hydrangea, four species of native iris, and much more. A plant list has been posted on the Arboretum’s Facebook page.

The Arboretum’s annual lecture series on March 28 will feature Rick Darke, author of “The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden”. The event will be held at the Margaret Reed Crosby Memorial Library. Search the Web to learn more about Rick’s new book and read more about him on his website ( We are excited to offer the local community the chance to hear this groundbreaking message of a nationally renowned author. See our program calendar on our website for more information. The event is free to Arboretum members and $5 for non-members. We are rapidly filling our sign up list so if you plan on coming, please call the Arboretum office at 601-799-2311 as soon as possible to reserve your seat. The Arboretum is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: Find a book on Mississippi native plants or take a spin on your favorite Internet search engine to read more about golden club. Visit the Arboretum to see it shining in the Aquatic Exhibit!