Arboretum Paths: May is the month for native orchids

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, May 2, 2018

By Patricia R. Drackett, Director and Assistant Extension Professor of Landscape Architecture
The Crosby Arboretum, Mississippi State University Extension Service

The past few months have already brought us many phenomenal blooms on our local native flora, but the month of May really delivers some “icing on the cake”. We’ve already seen a variety of native orchids blooming at both our Hillside Bog Natural Area, and in the Pitcher Plant Bog at the Arboretum. The good news is that even those of you who claim to know nothing about plants can learn in a very short period of time how to identify these unusual flowers and their preferred habitats.

Native orchids can be well-camouflaged by the emerging perennials and grasses along the roadsides and in wet pine savannas. But if you know what to look for, you can spot some of these amazing beauties that are beginning to pop up throughout Pearl River and other coastal counties.

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Thanks to Glen Ladnier of the Gulf Coast Orchid Society, many of the orchids seen in our Savanna Exhibit have been transplanted from areas that are slated for construction projects, with the assistance of Crosby Arboretum volunteers. According to Glen, most of Mississippi’s native orchids are terrestrial, or ground orchids. Approximately 50 orchid species are native to Mississippi, and about 30 of them grow south of Hattiesburg and the Gulf of Mexico. Our three coastal counties have around 20 different native orchid species, with most of these found in the Jackson County area.

One native orchid species is epiphytic, the green-fly orchid (Epidendrum conopseum). This plant lives in trees, and grows near water bodies as it prefers the higher humidity. The Arboretum also has an aquatic species called water spider orchid (Habenaria repens), with green spikes covered with flowers resembling tiny spiders. The orchid blends in well with other plants growing in the shallow water of our Slough Exhibit.

Other orchids seen in our exhibits include the rose Pogonia orchid (Pogonia ophioglossoides) or snakemouth orchid, found in acidic, boggy sites, and the grass pink orchid (Calopogon tuberosus). Several different species of lady’s tresses orchid (Spiranthes spp.) are also found in our pitcher plant bog.

Although your first impulse when spotting these unusually beautiful flowers may be wanting to possess them, it’s best to leave them where they are growing. Consider instead joining an organization such as the Gulf Coast Orchid Society (, where you can get to know people who can provide solid tips on identifying and cultivating native orchid species and where to obtain them as well as which species are easiest to grow.

Find images of native Mississippi orchids at the Southeastern Flora website ( Enter “orchid” in the search field for common name. A common white-blooming, often spiraling orchid sometimes seen in Pearl River County, such as in mowed, roadsides or vacant lots, is called ladies’ tresses. Enter its Latin name, Spiranthes, in the search field to view a half dozen species, all with have a similar appearance.

Sign up now for the “Smart Landscapes” program this Saturday, May 5, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon. Learn to design low-care home landscapes based on ecological processes. Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith and Arboretum Director Pat Drackett will discuss how you can save money, reduce labor and energy needs, and increase your yard’s biodiversity. Topics include site selection, soil testing and using long-lasting materials. Cost for members for this two hour workshop is $5, and is $10 for non-members.

Enjoy our “Painted Pots for Mother’s Day” kids’ craft workshop Saturday, May 12, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Children will enjoy decorating and planting a terra-cotta clay pot, which makes a perfect Mother’s Day Gift for moms who love plants! Kids must be accompanied by parent or guardian. Members’ children $5; non-members’ children $7. (No charge for adults).

On Saturday, May 12, from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., join certified yoga instructor James Sones in the beautiful natural setting of Pinecote Pavilion for a gentle yoga class and short meditation sitting. Class size limited is to 16. Yoga mats provided, or bring your own.  Arrive at least 10 minutes early. The program is free to members free and $5 for non-members. Space is limited, and reservations are required for our programs to prevent overcrowding.  Call 601-799-2311 to sign up to reserve your seat.

For more information on visiting, call 601-799-2311. The Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 AM to 5 PM. Remember, leashed dogs are welcome to join you! For more information, see