The time for an Arboretum visit is now

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, September 13, 2017

By Pat Drackett, Director, The Crosby Arboretum, MSU Extension Service
First-time visitors often inquire about the best seasons to come back and tour the Arboretum. One of them has just arrived!

The scarlet pine lilies have already heralded the coming fall season of spectacular blooms. Usually beginning sometime in August, they are followed by a flamboyant show of purple Liatris spikes, drawing many species of butterflies that sip sweet nectar while providing golden opportunities for camera bugs.

Mixing with the Liatris, a visitor will find accents of yellow daisy-like Balduina blooms held on tall stems, in a matrix of thousands of white bog buttons and clusters of pitcher plants sporting rusty fall colors. Later acts will center on late fall perennials, such as a glorious show of lavender asters and yellow swamp sunflowers set among an explosive variety of savanna grasses.

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The two most traditional times for strolling the pathways are obviously in the spring and fall, which find us reveling in the colorful tapestry of blooming perennials in the Savanna Exhibit, along with pleasant temperatures. But even in the winter and summer a visitor will find something of interest here. After all, we are all about “change”!

Summer may bring sultry weather, but when one turns the corner of the shady woodland path to encounter a vast range of unusual species in the south pitcher plant bog thriving under these conditions, all of one’s senses are required to process the rich variety of color, texture, and patterns, and there will simply be no unencumbered brain cell left to process the fact that sweat is pouring down your back while the sun beats down on you. Instead, one is totally drawn into the bog experience, quickly becoming part of the steady drone of insects in high summer and the movement of pollinators and other wildlife that exist here.

Winter brings more subdued wonders that are still a joy to experience. One can delight in the structure of trees, no longer cloaked in leaves, such as black gum with their limbs reaching from stout trunks at their characteristic ninety degree angles. Mosses, lichens, and berries now become the focal point against the backdrop of neutrals and russets.

But it is change itself that one experiences, and causes us to look forward to touring the Arboretum. Some of our most memorable walks have taken place on rainy days! With appropriate rain gear and boots, it’s most definitely a transformative event to stand in the young forest, listening to the sound of the rain hitting the tree canopies in an atmosphere so thickly laden with water, with all the leaf surfaces dancing and glimmering.

Each year, we eagerly awaiting the specific bloom season for our public garden’s many native plant species. This is part of the joy of being connected here. We anticipate the arrival of the oversized blooms of tiny sundew plants lining the pathways, the explosion of purple iris at the pond’s edge, the yellow and oranges blossoms of flame azaleas, and the delicate yellow petals that dangle in spring on wiry pitcher plant stems. I could go on, as there is much to go on about, but instead, I will encourage you to come experience the Arboretum for yourself. No two visits are ever the same!

On your next visit, enjoy the fall gallery exhibit by Poplarville artist and writer Erlene Smith. Her work will be on display through the end of November. A Smart Phone Photography Workshop on September 30 from 10 AM to Noon will be led by photographer Diana Thornton. Diane will show you how to get stunning images with your phone camera. The program is open to ages 12 and up and is limited to 12 persons. Cost for non-members is $7.. Reservations requested. Call 601-799-2311 now to sign up.

Our annual Bugfest is only a few weeks away, on September 22 and 23 (Friday and Saturday). Explore the world of entomology with insect collecting, identification, exhibits, and more. The event begins with a Friday field day from 9 AM to 2 PM. The evening offers night-collecting activities, and both days feature a Buggy Midway with children’s crafts. The New Orleans Audubon Institute’s Bugmobile presents Saturday afternoon. Field day: Students $2; no charge for teachers or chaperones. Friday evening and Saturday admission, $5 for adults, $2 for children. See our program calendar at for more information.

The Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road.