Arboretum Paths: New discoveries are waiting for you at the Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The fallen clusters of red maple samaras made quite a beautiful sight on the Arboretum’s Swamp Forest pathway. (Photo by Pat Drackett)

The fallen clusters of red maple samaras made quite a beautiful sight on the Arboretum’s Swamp Forest pathway. (Photo by Pat Drackett)

Our pink honeysuckle azaleas burst into bloom last week, spreading their sweet fragrance along the pathway, in particular on the approach to the Pinecote Pavilion. Spring is now officially here. No longer heralded by the occasional patch of bright green, last week it seemed as if the entire countryside has unfurled in vibrant spring tones.
Although we didn’t expect to see our Southern blue flag iris to be blooming until April, we were surprised to see a few patches of the purple blooms had already popped up along the edges of the Piney Woods Pond.
Did you spend time outdoors as a child, delighting in the arrival of spring and its new sights for you to discover each day? On a walk through the Arboretum, you can reawaken that joy of previous times spent exploring outside.
Several times last week I was reminded of that wonderful childlike feeling of simple delight in new discoveries. We encounter many along our pathways. Visitors on several tour groups last week exclaimed with pleasure when finding new evidence of spring’s arrival. The trails were still a bit damp due to recent rains, and the water served to fuel the emergence of many new leaves and blooms.
Bald cypress leaves are just now appearing on the trees’ sculptural branches, and were admired on our walk.
New growth on Smilax vines waved from the sides of the trails. These vines, also called greenbrier, are covered in spikey thorns which help them to find a secure hold as they scramble up and across the tops of small trees and shrubs.
Greenbrier vines have been known to take a bite or two out of a knee when one ventures off-trail. I love the name assigned to this vine by a member of the Ocean Springs Garden Club, reported on a tour a few years ago. She called it “wait-a-minute vine”, as in “Wait a minute, I’m hung up on this.”
Smilax is often approached with horror when it appears in your lovingly manicured garden bed, but in a natural area it will provide both food and protection for birds.
Although older vines become firm with age and lie in wait for unsuspecting knee-caps, young shoots are soft and pliable, and grow swiftly in the springtime. It’s not unusual to encounter one sprout measuring ten feet or more.
Delicate new leaves now grace the branches of the American beech trees in the Woodland Exhibit. Dried leaves were pushed off with the arrival of the spring leaves, and now litter the forest floor. Have you ever felt the back of a beech leaf? Both children and adults are surprised to feel the velvety soft undersides of both the green and dried leaves. These beech leaves were one of the many materials used as decoration in fairy house workshop held on the Pinecote Pavilion this past weekend.
Another sight we delighted in were the hollow leaves of yellow pitcher plants springing from the roots of in the Savanna Exhibit. We were also rewarded on our tour of the bog to find our very first pitcher plant blooms.
Teachers and homeschool groups, call to sign up for our Wildlife Day on Thursday, March 31 from 9:00 a.m. to noon.
This year, exhibitors will include the New Orleans Audubon Nature Institute Wetlands Express, Hattiesburg Zoo, the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science, the Audubon Society, a monarch butterfly exhibit, and more. The Wood Magic travelling science fair will also make a special appearance at the Crosby Arboretum during Wildlife Day. Admission $2 per child, free to teachers and chaperones. Groups of 10 or more, please call 601-799-2311 to schedule your arrival time.
Saturday and Sunday, March 26 and 27 are the last days to submit your work to the annual Crosby Arboretum Foundation Art Show that will be exhibited to the public on April 2 and 3. Prizes will be awarded 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 official entry form
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).

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

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