Arboretum Paths: Spring plant sale this weekend

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Native iris are in bloom now in the Crosby Arboretum’s Aquatic Exhibit (Photo by Melinda Lyman).

Native iris are in bloom now in the Crosby Arboretum’s Aquatic Exhibit (Photo by Melinda Lyman).

This Friday and Saturday will be an exciting time for the Arboretum. Not only will we be holding our spring native plant sale, but the Mississippi Native Plant Society is having a very special meeting that will featuremany interesting presentations and field walks.
Several of these presentations will feature information about our native Mississippi milkweeds, and this event will be an excellent opportunity to learn from some of our state’s most knowledgeable plant experts. Information on this event is available on the Facebook page for the Mississippi Native Plant Society and also on the Crosby Arboretum Facebook page.
Admission to the Arboretum on the two days of the plant sale is free! If you’ve never visited, please come and see all that is in bloom. The plant material we have assembled for the sale is outstanding as well, with many of these plants also in full bloom.
The native Iris have been blooming along the edge of the Piney Woods Pond and the Slough Exhibit. While most of our Iris are the southern blue flag (Iris virginica), a few of them are Louisiana Iris hybrids or one of the five species of native Iris which are used in breeding the Louisiana Iris.
The five native Louisiana species consist of three blue species and two red. Of the blue species, rare white forms can occur. Rare yellow forms can occur with the red species. If you are a fan of Louisiana iris, there are some excellent resources on the Internet. Also, one of our Pearl River County Master gardeners, Eileen Hollander, is an expert on the Louisiana iris and she will be assisting at the plant sale.
Understandably, the Louisiana Iris is the state wildflower of Louisiana. Mississippi’s state wildflower is Coreopsis lanceolata. This yellow blooming flower is abundant along our highways in the summer time, and also performs well in the home garden.
A field walk in the south pitcher plant bog on Saturday revealed that there are still a few yellow pitcher plants blooming, and their hollow leaves are unfolding. Because the sepals of the pitcher plant bloom remain throughout the year, many are not aware that the bloom consists of delicate, drooping, curtain-like petals which emerge in early spring.
Another plant in full bloom now in the bog is sneezeweed. Despite its name, sneezeweed (Helenium vernale) does not cause problems for allergy sufferers. Its pollen is distributed by insects, not by the wind. The name originates from its use by Native Americans to make snuff.
Sneezeweed is in the Aster family and this perennial works well in gardens that are occasionally or consistently wet, such as rain gardens. The wide yellow flower heads work nicely when grown alongside grasses. A number of varieties are available commercially in shades of oranges and reds.
On our walk, we noticed the tiny sundews are about to bloom. These unusual carnivorous plants occur along the pathways and in the bare soil among the grasses in the pitcher plant bog.
As the grasses and perennials mature in the bog, the sundews are not easily spotted. You must really adjust your focus to see these small plants, covered in sparkly ruby dots of “dew”. When in bloom, the white flowers are quite large, and comical in proportion to the small leaf rosettes.
Also along the pathway we noticed orange drumheads (Polygala nana) beginning to bloom. These diminutive perennials are also known as “candyroot” because of their roots’ wintergreen fragrance.
Come take a walk to see these blooms and much more at the Arboretum this Friday and Saturday. Our Spring Plant Sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. both days.
Love monarch butterflies? Bring your family to see short films of their life cycle at the “Amazing Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterfly” program on Saturday, April 30, at 10 a.m.. Nature photographer and butterfly enthusiast Gregory Nordstrom and his wife Becky raise monarch butterflies and enjoy sharing their passion with others.
For more information, see www.crosbyarboretum.msstate. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up for programs. Cost is $5 for non-members and $2 for non-members’ children. The Arboretum is open Wednesday through Sundayfrom 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

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