Arboretum Paths: Two programs on aquatics at Saturday’s plant sale

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Crosby Arboretum's Summer Aquatic Plant Sale will feature non-invasive native species such as the  Louisiana iris.  Photo by Pat Drackett

The Crosby Arboretum’s Summer Aquatic Plant Sale will feature non-invasive native species such as the Louisiana iris.
Photo by Pat Drackett

This Saturday, July 11, the public is invited to attend two special programs that will focus on aquatic plant species in conjunction with the Arboretum’s annual Aquatic Plant Sale from 9:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission to the garden and these programs will be free to the public.
Aquatic plants aren’t bothered by summer’s hot temperatures, but flourish in the heat. Why not make a point to learn more about these plants that don’t require constant watering because they make their homes in wet conditions.
Saturday at 10 a.m., Marc Pastorek, owner of Pastorek Habitats, LLC, will lead a walk along the Pond Journey and discuss the aquatic plants seen along the way, including growing requirements, propagation, and seed collecting. At 11 a.m., Eileen Hollander, President of the Greater New Orleans Iris Society and Pearl River County Master Gardener, will give a presentation on Louisiana iris propagation and culture.
On a walk around the Arboretum’s Aquatic Exhibit you will observe water-loving plants growing in a variety of water depths and habitats. Some are found growing in only a few inches of water. Others, like the yellow-blooming cow lily (Nuphar lutea) can grow in depths of up to six feet.
The large floating leaves of cow lily sometimes cause it to be mistaken for water lily (Nymphaea odorata) but cow lily’s compact yellow blooms have a closed appearance and are much more simplified than the ornate flowers of fragrant water lily.
Trees that tolerate wet areas will be available in the sale. Bald cypress is a deciduous tree with feathery, delicate leaves and a conical form that makes it a nice addition to your property, particularly in groupings. While it will prosper in moist and even swampy areas, it will also grow on dryer sites. If you have an area in your yard that tends to hold water, consider planting cypress trees with an underplanting of herbaceous blooming plants such as Louisiana iris or American crinum lily.
Another outstanding perennial featured in the sale is the native Texas star hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus). This plant is also called swamp hibiscus, or scarlet rose mallow, and has huge red flowers. Both the red and a white form (‘Alba’) will be offered. Although the plant will usually die to the ground each year, it quickly sprouts back in spring. Locate one, or a cluster of them, in the rear of your garden bed where it will be a stunning specimen.
Texas star hibiscus will attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It grows in sun to part shade and a range of moist habitats. You can also use it submerged at the edge of a pool or fountain. Like many aquatic species, even though it thrives in moist soils, it will do fine in regular garden soil.
Pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata) is a common herbaceous perennial found in shallow water or mud, with attractive purple-blue flower spikes and grows to around three feet. The fruit is eaten by water birds that also will use the masses of leaves for cover. Pickerel weed’s handsome leaves and long bloom spikes make it an attractive plant for the water garden. We will often see dragonflies using the flowers as a rest stop!
Would you like to know more about aquatic species suitable for our area? Visit the MSU Extension website at and search for “Water Plants Suitable for Mississippi” to see a list of plants for the home garden. Search for “rain gardens” to read more about creating these popular, low-maintenance beds.
If you are interested in water plants, you will enjoy learning more about them this Saturday. The Summer Aquatic Sale will feature a variety of non-invasive native aquatics such as southern blue flag and Louisiana iris, Texas hibiscus, golden club, crinum lily, hardy water lily, and arrow arum, and will be held in the Arboretum’s greenhouse area (use the Service Entrance). You will find helpful volunteers and staff members who will provide advice on how to locate and grow the plants offered at the sale. Handouts from the MSU Extension Service on water plants will also be available.
The Arboretum is open Wednesdays through Sundays 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). For more information about our programs and events, see the website
FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: The Crosby Arboretum website contains a link to our Plant Data Base. Here, you can view photos and read more about native aquatic plants suitable for your garden and for the wet areas of your property.

By Pat Drackett

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