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Elliot’s blueberry is currently in bloom at the Arboretum

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

 

Spring has already arrived here on the Gulf Coast! On the winter botany walk last week with MSU Extension Forestry specialist Dr. Glenn Hughes, we saw many plants already blooming.

One of the earliest plants to flower is Elliott’s blueberry, known as mayberry. Although people will call native blueberries collectively “huckleberries”, there are a number of different species. Elliot’s blueberry grow to as much as 10 in height, and has a delicate and lacy appearance with its many small green twigs. Currently, the branches are dotted with hundreds of tiny deep rose-colored buds just beginning to open, revealing light pink, bell-like blooms.

Red maples are often seen growing in low-lying, and sometimes slightly swampy areas with tree companions such as bald cypress. It’s an especially attractive sight in early spring when the bright green of the new cypress leaves are seen mixed with red-tinged maple trees.

For the long period of time when red maples steal the show, they are actually undergoing a transformation from flowers to a two-part winged scarlet fruit, called a samara. From afar this may not be obvious, but you might come across a ruby-red blanket of either fruit or the samaras, scattered on the ground.

It won’t be long until the bright Carolina yellow jessamine vine will be rambling over thickets and scrambling up pine trees. In full bloom, it is a showstopper.  Sporadic, early blossoms are quite bright in contrast to the drab winter colors, and it is a welcome sight to those who have been anticipating the return of warm weather.

In our Savanna Exhibit, you will soon be seeing other early spring bloomers such as wooly sunbonnets. This perennial in the Aster family has white flowers that follow the sun. Interesting, the blooms will close up on cloudy days. Sunbonnets are usually found in groupings, and their rosettes of leaves closely hug the ground.

Yellow pitcher plant blossoms will be among the first flowers to emerge in early spring. Locally, these pitcher plant blooms are called “buttercups”, and they are especially attractive in areas where grounds manager Terry Johnson has cleared the ground with a winter prescribed fire. The yellow pitcher plants are most prolific in the South Pitcher Plant Bog, where hundreds of their blooms will form a carpet across the savanna.

Need something fun and different to do? How about a free program this coming Saturday? Bring a friend, and take an “armchair” (indoor) tour on Saturday, February 9 from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. to learn about public gardens throughout the U.S. Enjoy tea and refreshments, see slides, and hear about the wonderful gardens that others have visited.

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.  Members’ children $2, non-members’ 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!).

Attend a MSU Extension Smart Landscapes Program, “Biodiverse Landscapes for Wildlife on Friday, February 15, from 10 to 11:00 a.m.  Learn the requirements and resources for designing landscapes attractive to Mississippi wildlife with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith, who will discuss how to use native plants to create sustainable habitat for animals in addition to their other benefits such as protecting water quality, lowering maintenance needs, and increasing property value. Cost for members is $3, and $5 for non-members. Reservations are requested.

A Children’s Sign Language Workshop will be held on Saturday, February 16, led by Kim Johnson. You may choose to attend at either 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. or 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Children will learn basic ASL signs to communicate with others and some basics of sign language such as “What is your name?” “My name is…”  “Want to play?” “Do you need help?” and more. Each child will receive handouts to help them remember what they have just learned. Refreshments and snacks served. $2 per member child; non-member $4. Must be accompanied by parent/guardian (adults, no charge).

Call 601-799-2311 to sign up for programs.  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.