Arboretum Paths: A great day for a burn

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Grounds manager Terry Johnson and his crew performed a prescribed burn in record time in the Arboretum’s North Bog .(Photo: Pat Drackett)

Grounds manager Terry Johnson and his crew performed a prescribed burn in record time in the Arboretum’s North Bog .(Photo: Pat Drackett)

This past Friday was pronounced “a great day to burn”, and grounds manager Terry Johnson, who is also a certified burn manager, proceeded to assemble his burn crew and to obtain his permit, number eleven in Pearl River County. And what a beautiful day it was for a prescribed fire.
Fortunately I arrived in the North Bog right as the crew was beginning the fire, along the westernmost edge of the bog. It didn’t long to burn these few acres, and Terry later commented that the controlled burn had been perfect.
Except for a small section or two that he might burn later in the year, Terry is pleased that he was able to complete a prescribed fire in both the North and South Bogs this year. As the weather conditions have been soggy, one is never guaranteed that the right combination of humidity, wind speed, and soil moisture will appear when one wants them to, so it is very good to have this major task behind us.
A frequent question we get is, “Why do we burn our exhibits?” Or, they will wonder why people choose to burn their forests. The simple answer is that the application of regular prescribed fire controls the height of the underbrush and keeps vegetation small and manageable, for example, if you are managing a stand of timber.
The Arboretum uses fire as a tool for managing our Savanna Exhibit, which contains coastal plain plants that are “fire-adapted”, and have the ability to withstand periodic fires. Applying regular controlled fire in our savannas prevents the growth of small trees (a developing forest) and maintains the herbaceous plants (grasses and perennials). This allows our visitors to experience an example of a coastal landscape as it would have appeared prior to European settlement, full of gorgeous Mississippi wildflowers, and unusual carnivorous plants such as the yellow pitcher plants.
Watching the new plant life emerge from the blackened earth following a prescribed fire is a truly awesome experience. Other carnivorous plants that appear are the smaller, red-blooming parrot pitcher plants and tiny sundews pressed flat against the bare earth. These plants are covered with glistening drops of ruby “dew” that traps and digests small insects which become nitrogen-rich meals. The bog soils are actually very poor in nutrients, and these carnivorous species have developed crafty ways to obtain “food” in the highly acidic soils.
For more information on prescribed burning, see the Extension publication 2283, “Prescribed Burning in Southern Pine Forests” at Enter the keyword “prescribed fire” to read much more information on this subject.
Come stand on the South Bog boardwalk in the summer months and listen to the steady hum of insects. It is very hard to picture that only a few months ago the area was black and lifeless. Make plans to visit the Arboretum often and see how the perennials and grasses will change from month to month. Prepare to be amazed!
Get ready for spring planting, and attend the program on Residential Soil Testing Saturday, February 27 at 1:00 p.m. with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. The program is free to members and $5 for non-members. A Fairy House Workshop will be held on Saturday, March 19 from 10 a.m. to noon! Create a magical, mystical place for your forest or garden fairy in this whimsical hands-on workshop, led by MSU Extension Professor Dr. James DelPrince. Open to both children and adults. Cost for members is $10; non-members $15. Space is limited.
A program on “Controlling Wild Hogs” will be held Saturday, March 19 at 1:00 p.m. with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. Feral hogs are an invasive species spreading at an alarming rate, presenting serious issues for property owners. The program is free to members and $5 for non-members.
The Crosby Arboretum Foundation Art Show will take place on April 2 and 3. Prizes will be given in four categories, including painting and photography; three-dimensional art, and heritage crafts. Grades 7 -12 are encouraged to participate in the youth division. For more information, see the entry form Call the Arboretum office at (601) 799-2311 to sign up for programs.
The Arboretum is open Wednesday through Sunday 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).

Patricia R. Drackett, Director, and Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture
The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University Extension Service

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox