Arboretum Paths: Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit is heating up

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Yellow meadow beauty (Rhexia lutea) is currently blooming in the Arboretum’s south pitcher plant bog.  Photo by Pat Drackett

Yellow meadow beauty (Rhexia lutea) is currently blooming in the Arboretum’s south pitcher plant bog.
Photo by Pat Drackett

Over the past weeks we have been observing some very exciting changes in our Savanna Exhibit. Last Saturday on a whirlwind tour of the south pitcher plant bog, we spotted the season’s first wispy stems of fewflower milkweed, topped with brilliant orange-red blooms that tower over the surrounding grasses and perennials. These bright blooms shine like beacons to passing butterflies.
Although they are quite tiny now, thousands of white polkadots are nestled in nest-like clusters of thin leaves that carpet the floor of the bog. They are gearing up to explode in the coming months. These “bog buttons”, also known as pipeworts, will provide an unforgettable backdrop for the late summer show of purple and yellow blossoms that will soon dance in the breeze, adding to the show of motion that always seems to include yellow and black swallowtail butterflies.
Both the pink and yellow meadow beauties are in bloom now, dotted by occasional spikes of white-topped sedge. The hollow leaves of the yellow pitcher plants, also called “pale pitcher plants” have matured, and their sweet nectar beckons to passing insects to come take a ride down the smooth slide into the bellies of the “pitchers”.
Here and there we were able to pick out the delicate blooms of several species of native orchids, notably the rosebud orchid (Cleistes divaricata), and the grass pink (Calopogon tuberosus). These are not easy to spot, but once you observe one in their natural habitat, you can train your eye to look for them. To learn more about these orchids, and other plants found at our garden (and in Pearl River County) visit the Crosby Arboretum website and follow the link for the Arboretum Plant List, which is hosted by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. This is a great “jumping off” point for learning about plant species native to Mississippi.
Keep in mind that while some plants can be easily transplanted from the wild and into your home garden, others, like these native orchids, require a very specific habitat and attempts to transplant are usually unsuccessful. It is best to appreciate them in their native habitats. However, some native orchid species can be easy to cultivate. Attend our program on Saturday, May 23, with Glen Ladnier, long-time orchid enthusiast and member of the Gulf Coast Orchid Society, who will teach you to recognize and enjoy many of the thirty species of orchids native to the Gulf Coast.
Two field trips will celebrate the botanical wonders of our area on Saturday, May 16 when we will visit nearby Crosby Arboretum natural areas. The first will be a trip to the spectacular Hillside Bog Natural Area, a 70 acre site in northern Hancock County, from 10:00 a.m. to noon, led by Dr. Wayne Morris, Associate Professor of Biology at Troy University, Alabama. Meet in the Arboretum visitor’s parking lot by 9:45 a.m. to carpool to the site located 8 miles east of the Arboretum. Then, Dr. Morris will lead a second field trip from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. to the Arboretum’s Steep Hollow Natural Area, a 110 acre site located in the southeastern corner of Pearl River County. The area is exceptionally rich in species and contains extensive areas of “quaking” bog. Meet in the Arboretum’s visitor’s parking lot by 1:45 p.m. to carpool to the site. For both field trips, please bring water and snacks and dress for off-trail conditions. Members attend free and cost for non-members is $5. Please call the office to sign up for this program by May 15.
Grounds manager Terry Johnson has been hard at work over the past month preparing for our upcoming Aquatic Plant Sale on Saturday, July 11, which will feature many plants propagated from our exhibits such as native iris, golden club, and arrow arum. Pearl River County Master Gardener Eileen Hollander, an expert on Louisiana Iris, and Marc Pastorek, owner of Meadowmakers native landscaping firm, will be giving presentations that day. The sale will non-invasive native aquatic plant material, including various colors of hardy water lilies.
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 at or call 601-799-2311.
FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: Have a wildflower you need to identify? An excellent online resource for native and naturalized wildflowers of the southeastern United States is available at Easily identify trees, shrubs, vines, and herbaceous plants without knowing how to read a plant identification key.
Simply enter a few traits about your specimen in the site’s search field, and you will be given a list of photos to search future to help you narrow your selection to the exact species.

By Pat Drackett

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