Arboretum Paths: Jewels of the bog are emerging!

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 2, 2017

By Patricia R. Drackett, Director and Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture
The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University Extension Service
Every year in late summer the phone calls begin, inquiring, “Are your pine lilies blooming yet?” The callers are referring to a gorgeous scarlet-blooming perennial wildflower that is perfect for only a day, like daylilies.

Pine lilies (Lilium catesbaei), like many other native species, are blooming early this year. Also known as Catesby’s lily, these perennials grow in wet pine savannas and bogs of the coastal plain, from Louisiana to Virginia. While you might see only a few of these blooms sparkling along the roadside, I’ve known folks with pine savanna habitats that boast a hundred or more plants in close proximity.

Grounds manager Terry Johnson has been keeping his eyes peeled for pine lilies as he travels the Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit. So far, we’ve only seen them flowering along the roadside across from Tractor Supply on Highway 43.

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Purple-flowering Liatris spicata in our Savanna Exhibit will soon be in full bloom. Called Blazing Star, and Gayfeather, this native perennial will also perform well in a typical garden situation. It grows in dense numbers at the south end of the site in the Pitcher Plant Bog.

Liatris is a favorite late summer subject to photograph, as it will often be surrounded by butterflies attracted to the blooms’ sweet nectar. We get very excited when we find eastern black swallowtail caterpillars feasting on the Water Cowbane (Oxypolis filiformis) in the pitcher plant bog, because we know it won’t be long until we find the butterflies feasting on Liatris blooms.
Butterfly fans won’t be disappointed if they come in search of the delicate jewel-toned insects at the Arboretum in late summer. Now is the time of year when the insect world rules the Savanna Exhibit. In the grasslands we have seen Gulf fritillary and monarch butterflies, common buckeyes, several species of swallowtails, skippers, and sulphurs.

Download the fact sheet, “Attracting Butterflies to Mississippi Gardens,” at the Extension website (, for a list of plants that will attract these insects to your garden. Butterflies require not only nectar plants such as butterfly weed, black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis, ironweed, and clover, but their “host” plants. Lists of both are provided in the publication.

Remember that butterflies need shelter from the wind and rain, and roost at night in shrubs. You can provide additional shelter for them by creating a log pile in a corner of your garden. Other butterfly-friendly garden items are flat rocks where they can bask in the sun on cool mornings, wet muddy areas to sip minerals and salts, and shallow water sources such as a saucer filled with pebbles and water.

Attend a summer native plant field walk on Saturday, August 19 from 9 to 10:30 AM with Arboretum director Pat Drackett. Explore what is currently blooming in the Savanna Exhibit and pitcher plant bog. Learn how you can use these plants in your home landscape, and their value to wildlife. Bring your camera, and dress for walking! Program cost for non-members is $5.

A “Sustainable Landscaping: Practices and Principles” program will also be held Saturday, August 19 from 11 AM to noon. Learn wise maintenance and landscaping practices to conserve resources and energy and create eco-friendly home landscapes by reducing maintenance needs, and how to reduce stormwater impacts, conserve water, recycle yard waste, and work with your existing soil in this program with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. Fee for non-members $5.

We’ve made it half-way through the year, and Arboretum memberships are now half price! Join at the reduced rate of only $15 for an individual and $20 for a family membership. With your card, members may visit nearly 300 other U.S. public gardens for free or reduced admission through the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program. See our website for additional member benefits, such as attending most programs and events for free. Call the office at 601-799-2311 to purchase your membership by phone, or to sign up for programs and reserve your space. If classes have filled, walk-ins cannot be accepted.

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).