Arbo Paths: Native plants for the home garden

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, March 29, 2017

By Pat Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum
MSU Extension Service
During our spring plant sale last week, I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to speak with these enthusiastic gardeners who were shopping for native plants for their home landscape.
The variety of shoppers is what makes our plant sale events so much fun. Some visitors are simply curious about which easy-to-grow Mississippi native species are best to begin with, after reading about the virtues of native plants in gardening books or popular magazines. Many become attracted to the idea of natives after reading about their usefulness to our local wildlife or pollinators.
Others may visit because they are fascinated by a particular plant, such as a Grancy graybeard, mayhaws or pawpaws, native honeysuckle azaleas, or native iris. Others are repeat shoppers, and many are Arboretum members who have attended our plant sales for decades. They come with the hope of finding something new for a garden already overflowing with native plants.
No matter what their level of interest or expertise, shoppers provide us with excellent opportunities to talk about the beauty and the low maintenance qualities of local plant species.
This year, we were pleased to offer a very uncommon perennial species, called Georgia tickseed or pink coreopsis (Coreopsis nudata). It is unusual because most of our native coreopsis have yellow petals. At first glance, the thin, thread-like leaves of the Georgia tickseed give it the appearance of a grass.
The perennial is found in consistently wet soils of coastal savannas, prairies, and flatwoods pink petals. It is most abundant in Georgia, and critically imperiled in other states.
According to state botanist, Heather Sullivan, with the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, the plant is currently found in only two locations in Mississippi. One of those locations is in one of the Crosby Arboretum’s natural areas. The other, amazingly, is within one of our coastal interstate interchanges.
I’ve seen the pink coreopsis in our natural area growing in water, and towering more than four feet in height. Its delicate stems are topped by large bright pink blooms. Bees and other pollinators are attracted to the flowers.
One of our volunteers has told me that this plant was once much more common in Pearl River County, particularly in the wet roadside ditches near the Arboretum. As local roads have expanded, the species has unfortunately disappeared.
If you should encounter a flower you believe may be pink coreopsis, snap a photo and let us know. We’ll be happy to pass on the news to Heather, who can verify the plant and add a data point for its location on the state’s Natural Heritage Program map.
Georgia tickseed needs moist soil and a good amount of sun. We’re delighted that this year, we could offer a truly unusual plant for local gardeners to try!
Yellow forms of Coreopsis can be found in area garden centers. Did you know that Coreopsis is the state wildflower of Mississippi?
Coreopsis lanceolata is a common yellow-flowered species found in the state. I’ve already seen it blooming along Mississippi roadsides. Another is Coreopsis tinctoria. You may have seen this tickseed along our roadsides, with its yellow petals and brownish-red centers. A great garden species is Coreopsis grandiflora, which has exceptionally large blooms.
More information on Mississippi’s native species can be found in Extension publications No.2334, “Native Shrubs for Mississippi Landscapes”, and No. 2330, “Native Trees for Mississippi Landscapes”, written by former Arboretum curator, Bob Brzuszek. View or download the PDF in the Publications section of the MSU Extension website, at
You’re invited to our Strawberries and Cream Festival on Sunday, April 2, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Bring the family, and stroll the Arboretum grounds, and celebrate the site’s historical former use as a strawberry farm. The event will be held on the Pinecote Pavilion, and ice cream, fresh strawberries, and Picayune Frog Lemonade will be served. Admission is free!
See our program schedule for two spring field walks on Saturday, April 8, to learn about ferns, flowers, and carnivorous species in our exhibits. Pitcher plants (“buttercups”) are blooming now in the bog. Come visit! For more information, please call 601-799-2311 or see We’re located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).

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