Arboretum Paths: Celebrating nature at the Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 2, 2015

A black swallowtail butterfly sips nectar from a blazing star in the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit (photo by Janine Conklin)

A black swallowtail butterfly sips nectar from a blazing star in the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit (photo by Janine Conklin)

There are moments in life when you become aware that you are hearing a profound conversation, one that to others might seem only an idle discussion of a mundane topic. But at one point it becomes clear that the discussion concerns a moment where a transformation or a change in behavior has taken place, and enriched someone’s life.

On Saturday, I was privy to several of these moments, confirming that the time and effort our staff puts forth at the Arboretum is having a positive effect on those who choose to venture down our 400 foot woodland path to discover what lies at the end.

One moment was overhearing a conversation between a Master Gardener and bird enthusiast Susan Epps, who will be giving our fall program on winter birds. The master gardener was relating a story of how a past program of Susan’s had caused her to become much more aware of the bird life in her backyard. She now keeps her binoculars and field guide ready on her porch for identifying visitors to her feeder, and was describing how she had discovered a particular family of birds making their home in her yard.

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As she continued to describe how Susan’s program had inspired her, it became apparent that it had also served to bring into focus those very tiny experiences, the ones that will become treasured and quite meaningful. She went on to relate how she had been able to have the opportunity to share her recent experiences with another bird appreciator. I left the conversation pondering how a unique and personal experience of the wonders of the natural world around us can become a thread that gets woven into our individual “tapestry of life”.

Another moment was the discovery of a massive and stunning golden orb weaver spider last week while walking down a path with Extension horticulturist James DelPrince. The spider’s golden web was a breathtaking structure. In awe, we examined the web’s pattern, a magnificent combination of “dashed” web strands and solid ones.

Saturday afternoon also brought the opening of a photography exhibit by Doreen Leone, who afterwards made a trip to the Pitcher Plant Bog to search for photo ops. She reappeared in the Visitor Center, reporting it had been difficult to tear herself away, and showed us an amazing photo of a black swallowtail butterfly zooming into a bloom, legs splayed and preparing for a landing.

Doreen’s photographs will be on display until the end of November. They are a fitting collection, as they too represent meaningful moments she has caught in nature, and now has this chance to share with others. It was delightful to hear her describing how she spends each day on the lookout for opportunities to capture those special moments.

Currently, the south Pitcher Plant Bog is alive with color and movement. Standing along the edge you can see many species of butterflies that put on a mesmerizing show as they sip from the mass of many hundreds of blazing star (Liatris) blooms. It is a “must see”. Please visit.

I think back on all of the ways that life has adjusted itself in order to allow someone to have these transformational moments. If L.O. Crosby Jr. had not been such a fan of the outdoors. Had his family not decided to create this public garden in his memory – a garden with the expressed purpose of being a place where the public is able to experience and celebrate nature. If this parcel of common pine savanna had simply been timbered or developed. And had the Crosby family not discovered Ed Blake, Jr., a forward-thinking landscape architect, or made possible the construction of what is now one of the nation’s favorite architectural wonders, the Pinecote Pavilion, a place where I was fortunate on Saturdayto hear the story of how a family of birds had brought about a small but meaningful moment. And how fortunate you are to be reading this, and to have the opportunity and invitation to come experience these moments, too.

We have some wonderful events coming up, including Bugfest on September 18 and 19, and a workshop on planting fall containers on September 26. See our website for details.

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

By Patricia Drackett