Arboretum Paths: Beauties in the bog

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 17, 2017

By Patricia R. Drackett
The last few weeks have brought some exciting changes to the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit, and the south pitcher plant bog. The season’s first wispy stems of few-flower milkweed have appeared. The brilliant orange-red blooms tower over the surrounding grasses and perennials, beacons to passing butterflies and other pollinators.
It’s just not possible at this time of year to take a “quick tour” around the pitcher plant bog. This area is the portion of our 20-acre Savanna Exhibit with the highest species diversity. In other words, if you were to count the number of different plants found with a square meter, the number would be perhaps between 30 and 40 different species.
Because not all of the plants in our bog bloom at the same time, it takes a skilled botanist to point out everything growing in one area, when plants are lacking their telltale blooms. We treasure our field walks with plant experts such as Dr. Wayne Morris from Troy University, who are able to reveal the many secrets and stories of the plants found in our pine savanna landscape.
Both pink and yellow meadow beauties (Rhexia) are in bloom now. On a past field trip, Dr. Morris pointed out several species of this perennial – Rhexia alifanus, Rhexia lutea, and Rhexia petiolata. The first one is tall and has bright magenta flowers, the second is the only native Rhexia species with yellow flowers, and the third is a shorter plant with smaller dark pinkish flowers. All three species bloom in early summer.
The bog is also dotted by the occasional spikes of white-topped sedge. You’ll also find that the hollow leaves of the yellow pitcher plants, also called “pale pitcher plants” have matured. Their sweet nectar beckons to passing insects to come take a ride down a smooth slide, into the bellies of the “pitchers”.
The Arboretum will soon have three new colonies of honeybees that will be hard at work in the Savanna Exhibit, thanks to the persistence of volunteer Jac Coleman. Jac had remained on the lookout for bees to replace the colonies we lost last fall because of a devastating infestation of hive beetles. Local beekeeper Buddy Broadway had worked with Jac on the care of our bees, until this tragedy.
Jac thoroughly cleaned out the hive supers – the boxes containing the bees – which we learned was an arduous and malodorous task, and he also extracted honey last year for us manually, another labor-intensive process. We are incredibly fortunate to have people like Jac and Buddy who are dedicated to seeing projects like this through to completion, which benefits the Arboretum, and provides learning opportunities for our visitors.
We’ve had several requests for information on beekeeping recently, and we are planning to offer a “getting started in beekeeping” program in the future. For those who are interested in the subject, our Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith has informed me of the local Facebook page called “Beekeepers of Pearl River County and surrounding area”. Group meetings are held the first Monday of each month at 6:00 PM at 789 Ceasar Road in Picayune.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service is offering a summer residential Beekeeping Camp this summer from June 18 to 22. Any parent, grandparent, etc. and/or youth over 10 interested in beekeeping can attend the 5-day intergenerational camp. Parents or guardians are encouraged – but not required – to attend the camp along with their young beekeepers.
This residential academic camp is led by Drs. Jeff Harris and John Guyton, and will cover all the topics a new beekeeper needs to know to start keeping bees. The summer camp will take place on the MSU campus in Starkville, at the Clay Lyle Entomology Building. For more information, see
The Crosby Arboretum will be hosting a Sharing Nature Teachers’ Workshop on Saturday, June 3 from 9:00 to 3:00 p.m. that is open to all types of teachers, including homeschool educators, volunteers, 4-H leaders, and others in teaching roles. The hands-on interdisciplinary workshop will be taught by Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Outreach Educator Sabrina Cummings. K-12 educators are eligible for CEU’s. To sign up, please call 601-799-2311 or email your phone number and organization to
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).

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