Arboretum Paths: Waiting for the pine lilies!

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 5, 2015

During the month of August, we stay alert for the emergence of the season’s first pine lily bloom (Photo by Pat Drackett).

During the month of August, we stay alert for the emergence of the season’s first pine lily bloom (Photo by Pat Drackett).

We may be in the middle of a season traditionally referred to as “hot as blazes”, but we’ve still been seeing a steady number of visitors at the Arboretum over the past weeks. Some family groups with children and dogs in tow may have been taking advantage of some of the last days to spend together before school days return. Some were dedicated gardeners looking for a few more low-maintenance aquatic plants to add to a water feature, while others were simply looking forward to a walk where they could experience the beauty of Mississippi wildflowers.

It’s certainly a satisfying feeling to know that more and more people in the local community are discovering the Arboretum and the wealth of experiences that can be found here. With each season comes the chance to revel in the emergence of favorite, long-anticipated blooms. Late summer is no exception, as we find ourselves beginning to anticipate the first pine lilies to appear in the Savanna Exhibit.

Pine lily (Lilium catesbaei) is also called Catesby’s lily, and to come across a fresh pine lily for the first time is an awesome experience. They are a single huge scarlet bloom, held atop a thin, almost leafless stalk. The blooms resemble a common daylily (which are so-named because like their blooms are glorious for just one day). Pine lilies are also ephemeral, so if you drag your friend back to see the stunning bloom the next day it will most likely be fading away, so you must appreciate these unusual plants when first spotted.

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Mr. Catesby, who named this lily, was an English naturalist who visited Virginia in 1712 and spent seven years documenting the plants and animals in the region. At a recent native plant conference, I attended a presentation about Catesby’s work and learned of a new book released this spring by the University Georgia Press called, “The Curious Mister Catesby”. Later, I had the chance to look through this beautiful volume, and I will echo other reviewers who have said this is one book you will most definitely appreciate holding and leafing through rather than reading electronically.

While some of the native wildflowers in our exhibits are more “social”, and are quite prevalent throughout the savanna grasslands, such as pink meadow beauty (Rhexia), it is not easy to predict where pine lilies will be emerging. Pine lilies are not tall plants – they might otherwise be lost among the surrounding grasses were it not for their bright color. So coming across a bloom on a walk in the savanna is definitely a thrilling event.

So make plans to visit the Crosby Arboretum in the month of August, and keep your eyes peeled for pine lilies.
Learn more about local wildflowers and native plants in a summer wildflower walk of the Arboretum onSaturday, August 8 from 10 to 11 a.m. The tour will focus on the south Savanna Exhibit and pitcher plant bog. Points of interest will be discussed along the journey, including ways to use native plants in your home landscape, and their value to wildlife. Bring your camera, and dress for walking. Admission is free for members and $5 for non-members.
Mark your calendar for two other great opportunities to learn more about the natural world this month. A program on “Monarchs and Milkweed” with Linda Auld, better known as the New Orleans BugLady, will be held on Saturday August 22 from 10 to 11 a.m. On the following Saturday, August 29, Dr. Juan Mata from the University of South Alabama in Mobile will return to the Arboretum to lead a mushroom hunt of the grounds from 10 to 11:30 a.m.Admission is free for members and cost for non-member adults is $5, and $2 for children under 12. Call the office to sign up, which is especially important to guarantee a seat for the monarchs program, as space is limited.

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 at

FOR FURTHER EXPLORATION: What is Rhexia? Search for this Latin name in your favorite Internet search engine, and you will probably recognize these common – usually pink – wildflowers found in Mississippi Gulf Coast’s wet grasslands and pine savannas. Have a flower you can’t identify? The Southeastern Flora website will guide you through a simple step-wise process to make an ID of blooms you would like to put a name to. Search the Internet for videos you can watch online on “The Curious Mister Catesby”.

By Patricia Drackett