Arboretum paths: Native orchid walk this Saturday!

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, April 19, 2017

By Pat Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum
MSU Extension Service

You may think of orchids as being exotic plants found only in steamy tropical jungles, but according to Glen Ladnier, long-time orchid enthusiast and Gulf Coast Orchid Society member, about fifty orchid species are native to Mississippi.

Most of Mississippi’s native orchids are ground orchids, and around thirty species grow south of Hattiesburg. Our three coastal counties contain about twenty different native orchid species, with most of these found in the Jackson County area.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In a program this Saturday at 1:00 p.m., Glen will “reveal all” about Mississippi’s native orchids, including how to recognize our Gulf Coast species.

His program will begin with a discussion of orchid habitats, plant and flower characteristics, and common conservation techniques. The group will then take a short walk to see native orchids blooming in our nearby Savanna Exhibit.

Last week during our field walks, we discovered our orchids were already blooming! They had appeared about a month earlier than usual, because spring arrived early this year. Because of this, we quickly rescheduled Glen’s orchid walk, originally planned for May.

Do you have pitcher plants and other bog species growing on your property? Look closely in late April and May, and you might just be lucky enough to find these beautiful native flowers. Orchids, however, are best appreciated in their native habitats, and transplanting to other areas is best left to the experts aware of ethical conservation methods because orchids are very habitat-specific.

Want to learn more right now? Visit and enter the word “orchid” in the field for “common name” to see images of native species. Spend a little time here and become familiar with the orchids on this list, to learn the species found in our area.

The Southeastern Flora site is an excellent resource for plant identification, but if you want more information, simply enter “NPIN” (without the quotes) in an Internet search field, along with the common or Latin name, to quickly access the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center plant database. Use the acronym “USDA” along with the plant name to access a range map where you can zoom in to see which counties have reports of occurances.

A few native orchids, however, are suited to growing in a home garden situation, and Glen will most likely touch on orchid cultivation in his program. One easy-to-grow species he has mentioned is the Ladies’ Tresses Orchid (Spiranthes) which sometimes pops up along area roadsides or in vacant lots. We often see the tall white flower spikes of this spring-blooming orchid coming up in the lawn areas of businesses along the service road between Walmart and the Arboretum, and it is particularly prevalent along the Walmart retention ponds.

Spiranthes orchids also grow in the acidic soil of the Arboretum’s south pitcher plant bog. The orchids we saw last week were various shades of pink. This causes them to really stand out among the perennials and grasses. Last Saturday, we saw the Rose Pogonia Orchid (Pogonia ophioglossoides) and the Grass Pink Orchid (Calopogon tuberosus). We have been on the lookout for the Rosebud Orchid (Cleistes bifaria) which usually seems to bloom a bit later. Maybe Glen will discover it on our walk this Saturday!

An epiphytic species, the Green Fly Orchid (Epidendrum conopseum), grows in one of the Arboretum’s associated natural areas. “Epiphytic” means it lives in trees. This orchid is found growing near water bodies as it prefers the higher humidity.

The Crosby Arboretum is also home to an aquatic species, Water Spider Orchid (Habenaria repens). This plant blooms much later in the year, and has many green flowers shaped like tiny spiders (take a spin on the Internet to find an image). It occurs in the shallow, shady areas of our Aquatic Exhibit, and its green coloration allows it to blend in with the surrounding vegetation.

Learn more in this Saturday’s orchid program on April 22 at 1:00 p.m. A gentle yoga class will also be held that morning at 10:00 a.m. on the Pinecote Pavilion with certified instructor Jim Sones. The cost for either program is $5 (members attend free). Call 601-799-2311 to sign up. For more information, see The Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).