Arboretum Paths: Enjoy spring’s tapestry of green

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mountain laurel is almost in full bloom on the first bridge of the Arboretum’s Arrival Journey (Photo by Pat Drackett).

Mountain laurel is almost in full bloom on the first bridge of the Arboretum’s Arrival Journey (Photo by Pat Drackett).

uring the change of seasons, one of the prettiest sections of interstate to drive seems to lie between Hattiesburg and Meridian. In the fall, you may find the nearby forest ablaze with scarlet sourwood trees. On a winter’s day, American beech trees reveal themselves by drooping, persistent leaves which will hang on the tree limbs until new spring leaves emerge. In the spring, the white blooms of flowering dogwood that dot the forest edges present a stunning picture.

We are caught now in those glorious few weeks when spring rains and warm temperatures are encouraging rapid plant growth. Roadside wildflowers may cause us to do a double take, as their bright colors zip by the window. New leaves in a wide variety of green hues are beginning to take shape. Here and there, those dogwood or wild cherry blossoms may be mixed into the green tapestry. A special treat is to spot the strap-like blooms of Grancy graybeard, which is also called native fringe tree or old man’s beard.

As one approaches Meridian from the south, a quick glimpse down the deep roadside ravines can reveal the huge leaves of a bigleaf magnolia. The formal columnar shapes of cedar trees, and the soft evergreen forms of pine trees intertwine with the light spring green background painted by the emerging leaves of deciduous trees.

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Do these sights go unnoticed to others? I like to think that many of you are enjoying drinking in these beautiful shades of green unfurling along local roadsides. It can be great entertainment to play “What tree is that?” with your family, as our plant ecology class would do while traveling on field trips. No matter what tree we asked our professor to identify at 60 miles an hour, he would have an answer.

Some trees are graceful in form, covered in small leaves already weeping and drooping, others reaching for the sky with large, bold leaves. Some are just beginning to think about unfolding their leaves, such as the pecan trees we spot planted in rows.

What a wonderful contrast in the forest edges now, with the deep greens of evergreen conifers and the many hues of fluorescent spring green. Leaves not yet fully pumped up still reveal the characteristic structure of each tree species, and it is still possible to see deep into the forest beyond the “edge species” into the forest interior, where understory trees are unfolding and ferns carpet the woodland floor. Soon this curtain will close, but for now it is possible for us to see the beyond these layers of green far inside the forest.

Perhaps you have already figured out that the Crosby Arboretum is a great resource for information on native plants and gardening to help you to be more efficient through introducing you to practices that will save you time and money in caring for your home landscape. The Arboretum is operated by the MSU Extension Service, and we can provide you with research-based information on Mississippi native plants and how to use them. Come by for a visit!

Is your home at risk for a wildland fire? Attend the free program this Saturday, April 18 at the Arboretum from 9:00 a.m. to noon, “How to Have a Firewise Home”, with instructor Leslie Blackwell from the Mississippi Forestry Commission. Learn how to design, construct, landscape, and maintain your home or community so as to withstand a wildfire without the aid of firefighting resources on scene. Participants will learn about why homes burn, various wildland fuel reduction techniques, and how to assess the fire danger of their home. Pre-registration is required, call the office at 601-799-2311 to sign up for this program.

Get ready for spring projects with two great programs on Saturday, April 25. Want to grow your own vegetables, but lack the space, time, or energy? From 10:00 to 11:30 a.m., Brenda Myers, Certified Square Foot Gardener and Master Gardener, will discuss how easy and fun Square Foot Gardening can be. Then, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Senior Curator Jill Mirkovich will present a Plant Propagation Workshop. Explore propagation methods for making more of your favorite native plants by seed and cuttings. Jill will cover propagation facilities, timing, and materials. Be prepared to get your hands dirty! Both programs are free to members, and only $5 for non-members.

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 more information about our programs and events, see the website or call 601-799-2311.

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: Do you know the definition of the word “deciduous”? How about the word “vernal”? If not, look up the answers. If so, teach someone who does not know the meaning.

By Patricia Drackett