Hidden Gems: Pearl River County Wildflowers

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2018

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

Do you have hidden gems in your backyard? Right now is the time of year to keep your eyes peeled for several spectacular and uncommon wildflowers in the area.

One of these is the scarlet pine lily (Lilium catesbaei) mentioned recently in this column. This wildflower grows in moist flatwoods and wet savanna landscapes. Arboretum grounds manager Terry Johnson has been keeping a close lookout lately for the first pine lily of the season in our Savanna Exhibit.

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While some of the native wildflowers in our exhibits are more “social”, and quite prevalent throughout the savanna grasslands, such as pink meadow beauty (Rhexia), it is not easy to predict where pine lilies will be emerging.

In addition, they are not tall plants, and despite their bright red flowers, they can sometimes be hidden among the surrounding grasses and other perennials. If they are close enough to the pathways, however, their bright color will serve as a beacon. If you are lucky enough to come across a bloom on a walk in the savanna, it is definitely a thrilling event.

The other wildflower is the Carolina lily (Lilium michauxii). This attractive southeastern perennial grows in dry, upland forests from southern Virginia to eastern Texas. Recently, the Arboretum received an email from member John Grant, who let us know that he had a small population of this stunning wildflower on family property located in north Pearl River County.

What followed was a memorable tour by John and his wife Gwen, to view around a dozen of the lily blooms in the dappled shade of their hillside forest.

We were excited to encounter about a dozen blooms, and we most thoroughly enjoyed watching butterflies visiting the plants for nectar.

John will be keeping an eye out for seeds forming on the plants, and is thankfully willing to share some with the Arboretum, so we can experiment with growing these beautiful wildflowers!

Make plans to visit the Crosby Arboretum in the month of August, and keep your eyes peeled for pine lilies. Despite the heat and humidity, many flowers are in their prime season!

The Crosby Arboretum is pleased to announce we are piloting a new native plant sale this month. On Saturday, August 18th we will be hosting a one day sale that will feature perennial pollinator plants for your yard and garden. A list of available plants has been posted on our Facebook page, and includes Rudbeckia, Pink Muhly Grass, Liatris, Elderberry, Coreopsis, Stokes Aster, and Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata). This species of milkweed is a great performer for our area, and grows in both moist soils as well as in atypical garden bed.

Quantities are limited, so arrive early! No plants will be sold before the sale, and no plants may be reserved. The sale starts at 8:00 AM for members and 9:00 AM for the General Public.

Currently, Arboretum memberships are half price, so if you’d like to get in early you may wish to join as a member. One of the many benefits of an Arboretum membership is the opportunity for you to visit over 300 U.S. public gardens for free or reduced admission through the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program.

We also have a limited supply of woody plants in stock that are available for purchase at any time during regular operating hours. These include Swamp Red Maple, Sweet Bay, Red Bay,Tulip Tree (Yellow Poplar, Black Cherry, Swamp Titi, Fetterbush, Farkleberry, Buttonbush and Spruce Pine.

Also, SAVE THE DATE for our big Fall Woody Plant Sale–October 5-6. You may comment on our Facebook page with the shrubs and trees you would be interested in, and we will see if we can locate them.

A summer native plant field walk will be held Saturday, August 25, from 9:00 to 10:00 a.m. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up for this program and reserve your place.

For more information on our activities and visiting the Crosby Arboretum, see our Facebook page or website (www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu). We’re located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).