Arboretum Paths: Summer approaches in the Savanna Exhibit

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Dr. Mac Alford points out native wildflower species in the Arboretum’s South Pitcher Plant Bog on our field walk this past Saturday.  (Photo by Pat Drackett).

Dr. Mac Alford points out native wildflower species in the Arboretum’s South Pitcher Plant Bog on our field walk this past Saturday.
(Photo by Pat Drackett).

This past Saturday, we enjoyed a tour of the Arboretum’s plant exhibits, led by Dr. Mac Alford with the University of Southern Mississippi, Department of Biological Sciences. For two hours, Mac held our rapt attention as he described valuable resources for Mississippi native plants, told some lively stories that could serve to inspire choosing botany as a profession, and then took us on a walk to the south pitcher plant bog, pointing out plants we saw along the way as well as those in glorious bloom in the Savanna Exhibit.

Right before we took the plunge into the bog, we passed a native clematis vine (Clematis crispa) about to bloom on a cypress tree at the Cypress Cove deck. This sweet little plant has delicate bell-shaped lavender blooms, and is called leatherflower. We hope to propagate this plant soon through seed or cuttings. Although not to obtain in nurseries, a quick search on the Internet will yield mail-order sources. It is an unusual plant that few will have in their gardens and will certainly be a conversation piece in yours. It does well in moist shady areas, and clambering up the trunk of a tree with high limbs and shaggy bark. Bald cypress is ideal.

As we entered the south bog, a multi-colored blanket of blooms lay before us. Tall orange fewflower milkweed blooms (Asclepias lanceolata) towered across a sea of yellow pitcher plants. Clumps of silvery goldencrest (Lophiola aurea) glowed here and there throughout the grasslands, creating a delightful rhythm. The meadow was dominated by yellow and pink eadowbeauty (Rhexia spp.) and thousands of tiny white polkadots, called bog buttons or ladies hatpins (Eriocaulon spp.) are emerging.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Goldencrest and its companion species are found in these moist pine savannas, gorwing with carnivorous species such as the yellow and parrot pitcher plants, and sundews. Mac pointed out several white bloom clusters that resembled garlic. These turned out to be redroot (Lachnanthes caroliana), earning their name, from the roots being used by Native Americans as a dye.
Without their single bloom stalks, redroot looks like a small iris plant in early spring. And while it may not be an unusual plant, it is a butterfly magnet.

Are you lucky enough to have an area on your property that already has a wet grassland? Why not add more wetland species to create a unique meadowscape, such as the one that senior curator Jill Mirkovich and I recently toured at the home of Arboretum member James Sones. James has deflected the drainage on his property to increase the moisture in the area long ago and has continually added moisture-loving species to the area. The result was a beautiful, evolving, colorful, and unique native garden. I’m sure that butterflies can’t resist this paradise!

Out on the boardwalk, we got “up close and personal” to the bright orange fewflower milkweed, and also were delighted to find several robust clusters of parrot pitcher plants. Near the boardwalk we noticed a pod of longleaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia) getting ready to release seed. Dr. Alford, who thankfully had on boots, was kind enough to wade into the bog to capture a lone milkweed pod for Jill. Hopefully, she can get some seed to sprout!

Our walk with Dr. Alford ended all too soon. He left us with a new enthusiasm for learning more secrets and stories about Mississippi’s native plants, patiently awaiting our discovery.

The public is invited to attend an exhibit opening at the Arboretum on Friday, June 5 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. featuring photographs by Bill Edwards, of Carriere, Mississippi, who has been “imaging” the world around him through a lens for nearly 50 years. The exhibit will be on display through the end of August. Light refreshments will be served, and admission is free.

Learn all about Birds and Birding, one of America’s most popular pastimes, on Saturday, June 6 with Susan Epps, avid birder and writer. Susan will give an overview of migrant and resident birds seen in our area, birding resources, feeding, and identification tips. Suited to ages 8 and up. Members free; non-members $5, non-members children $2.

Summer Nature Camp begins next week, and we still have room! The camp will be held June 9 through June 12 (Tuesday – Friday), from 9 a.m. to noon each day. The cost is $25 for members’ children and $35 for nonmembers’ children. A $10 nonrefundable deposit is required to reserve your child’s place.

Our Aquatic Plant Sale is Saturday, July 11, from 9:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. This year, Pearl River County Master Gardener Eileen Hollander, an expert on Louisiana Iris, and Marc Pastorek, owner of the Meadowmakers native landscaping firm, will give aquatic plant presentations. Admission is free to both the sale and programs.

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: Dr. Alford introduced us to several informative websites. Identify native or naturalized wildflowers at Explore the Southeast Regional Network of Expertise and Collections (SERNEC), a searchable collective database of 230 herbaria in 14 states in southeastern North America, combining 150 years of botanical information (

By Patricia Drackett