Arboretum Paths: The joy of the little things in life

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Jewel-toned damselflies, indicators of clean water, are often spotted near the stream that parallels the Arboretum’s Woodland Path (Image by Melinda Lyman).

Jewel-toned damselflies, indicators of clean water, are often spotted near the stream that parallels the Arboretum’s Woodland Path (Image by Melinda Lyman).

Surely you’ve heard the old saying that it is “the little things in life that really matter”. At the Arboretum, we certainly have many opportunities to observe many seemingly small instances that often result in enjoyable and meaningful experiences.
Photographer Frank Cuervo, whose work will be the summer exhibit featured in our gallery, has made a similar comment about finding the beauty in common occurrences. In his artist statement, he observes that, “with good technique (and luck), even humble plants and small creatures in the woods or the backyard can be the subject of excellent photos.” His photographs are certainly testimony to this.
Frank has traveled extensively in North, Central and South America, Europe, Japan, the Caribbean and the South Pacific. He was also an avid mountaineer and scuba diver. All of these activities provided him with countless opportunities for nature photography and he was fortunate to capture many unusual scenes.
The public is invited to attend the free opening event this Saturday, June 11 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Come see Frank’s work, enjoy light refreshments, and then take a stroll through the garden.
One of the subjects Frank photographed was a tiny spider known as the spiny backed orb weaver, which has the appearance of a tiny crab. The spiders’ abdomens are covered with sharp spines, providing protection from predators. These spiders, both yellow and white varieties, are seen at the Arboretum. Like other orb weaver spiders, these beneficial arachnids spin intricate webs having a golden hue to the strands.
Many of you may be more familiar with the larger species of orb weaver spider that occurs in our area, which also have golden webs. Take a “spin” on the Web (pun intended) to locate photos of both of these spiders. Search for photos showing the spider silk being spun into yarn, and then woven into a golden fabric.
You may find yourself mesmerized by the many colors and shapes of spiny backed orb weavers. Some have incredibly long spines. Ask a child to join you on your search, and find a video clip of the process of a crab spider weaving its web. It is truly a lesson in patience and perseverance, and can also be quite relaxing!
Many mundane sights at the Arboretum can be easily overlooked, but if you visit with a child, they will soon be alerting you to the intriguing wonders that could have otherwise gone undiscovered. I remember a particular day when ants crawling under a sign cover once provided an extended experience for a visiting school group.
Insects are a common sight along the pathways. The Savanna Exhibit abounds with dragonflies, and children are captivated by their aerial antics as well as those of damselflies. Damselflies are indicators of clean water, and can be seen flitting among the water plants in the stream along the Woodland Path. In the Piney Woods Pond, water striders glide magically across the surface of the pond, providing yet another subject for study.
Bring the family for a summer wildflower walk on Saturday, June 25 at 10:00 a.m. and learn to identify summer blooms and how to use these plants in your home landscape. Children will also have the opportunity to explore insects in a special program on the subject on Thursday, June 29, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon, with Hancock County Extension Agent Christian Stephenson (Parent or guardian must be present).
Our Aquatic Plant Sale will be Saturday, July 9, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. The sale will feature an excellent selection of non-invasive native aquatic plants, many which are divisions from our exhibits. Site admission is free.
Teachers – sign up for our free Project Wild teachers’ workshops, to be held Thursday, June 24 and Thursday, July 14 from9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., led by outreach educator Sabrina Cummings from the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science. Call the Arboretum office to register.
Most programs are $5 for non-member adults and $2 for non-member children. There is no charge for adults attending children’s workshops. See for more information. Call 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, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road.

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

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