• 75°

Celebrating winter botany and longleaf pine

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

This past Friday on the Winter Botany Field Walk with MSU Extension Forestry specialist Dr. Glenn Hughes, participants learned many secrets for identifying trees and shrubs during the winter months by characteristics of their twigs, buds, and bark.

To begin the program, Dr. Hughes gave us a brief introduction to tree identification and discussed a number of helpful books on Southeastern trees. Rather than telling us that one particular book was the best, he recommended having several on hand. More than a few people sitting near me looked to be agreeing you could never own too many books!

On the field walk, members of the group learned many ways to identify plants in winter, from the corky bark often seen on sweetgum twigs, the orange flaky bark of slash pine, the way beech trees will hold their leaves throughout the winter months and their pointy cigar-shaped buds, and how oaks have clusters of buds arranged at the tips of the branches. The tiny bell-shaped flowers of Elliot’s blueberry, and the flowers of red maple trees, were already evident along the pathways.

The group enjoyed studying the differences between spruce, loblolly, slash, and longleaf pine. All four of these pine species are found at the Arboretum. Dr. Hughes started out the outdoor portion of his program by demonstrating how he holds the needles against his hand and can quickly tell which tree he is standing under by the length of the needles.
The Mississippi State University Extension Service website (http://extension.msstate.edu/) offers many state-specific publications and other resources to help you choose the appropriate trees and shrubs for your property’s environmental condition. Just enter keywords such as “native trees” or “native shrubs” or “selecting shrubs” or “selecting trees” in the search field at the top of the page, to see a variety of research-based information you can trust.

Another excellent plant ID resource is available for download, a PDF file for the book Mississippi Trees, written in conjunction with the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the Department of Forestry at Mississippi State University.  A Mississippi Trees app is also available free of charge to the public, made possible by a grant from the USDA Forest Service and developed by U.S. Next. Both the book PDF and app are available at https://www.mfc.ms.gov/mississippi-trees.

Sign up now for the Pine Needle Basketry workshop with Dr. Judy Breland, Stone County Extension Agent to be held Friday, February 8. Two different times will be offered, either 10:00 to Noon or 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.  Participants can complete a small basket by the workshop’s end and will learn methods for continuing with future projects. Wear old clothes. Reservations are requested, and the program is limited to 10 persons to avoid overcrowding. The cost for Arboretum members is $8 and $10 for non-members.

A children’s program on the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will take place Saturday, February 9, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. Children will build bird feeders to attract birds to their backyards. Cost for members’ children is $2, and $4 for non-members’ children. On Saturday, February 2, from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., children will enjoy listening to a story read by Mary Beth Magee from the Poplarville Storytellers Guild. Members’ children free, non-members’ children, $2.

A children’s Sunflower Planting Workshop will be held Saturday, February 2, 11:00 a.m. to Noon, with Master Gardener Amy Nichols. “Ms. Flora” will read a story and teach about the parts of a flower, and guide them in making their very own mini-greenhouse to take home. Members’ children $2; non-member children $4.

Crosby Arboretum memberships include a membership in the American Horticulture Society’s Reciprocal Admissions Program, which allows you free or reduced admission to over 300 U.S. public gardens. A year membership is $35 for an individual, $30 for senior/military, and $45 for a family membership (and $20 for students!). Want to learn more?  Come take an “armchair” (indoor) tour on Saturday, February 9 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. and learn about other public gardens, especially those nearby.  Enjoy tea and refreshments, see slides, and hear about the wonderful gardens others have visited. You are welcome to be part of the discussion! If you’ve visited reciprocal gardens and have photos you’d like to “show and tell”, contact Pat Drackett at pat.drackett@msstate.edu.  The program is free to all!

Call 601-799-2311 to sign up for programs. Reservations are requested. Children must be accompanied by parent or guardian (no charge for adults).

See www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu or visit the Crosby Arboretum Facebook page for more information on programs and activities. We are open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 to 4. Leashed pets are welcome. The Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4.