Summer fun at the Crosby Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, June 12, 2019

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

Are you looking for something fun to do this summer? Come explore the Crosby Arboretum! Whether your interests are finding some entertaining activities for children who are now out of school, helpful tips on home gardening or landscaping projects, or enjoying a shady place to take your dog for a walk, we urge you to come and discover what this unique public garden offers.

Plan a visit to the Arboretum and enjoy spending time immersed in the natural world. Take a wildflower field walk to see the incredible diversity of blooming perennials in our Pitcher Plant Bog, or sit a spell on a bench in the lovely outdoor setting of the Pinecote Pavilion. Here, you can feed the fish and turtles that somehow never miss the fact that you have arrived.

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Nature discovery and exploration is the theme that ties together many of the programs and events offered at the Crosby Arboretum. In addition to learning about Mississippi’s native plant species in our programs this summer, you can also enjoy the many opportunities for photography found here, such as blooming plants or the spectacular architectural form of Pinecote Pavilion, designated a Mississippi Landmark. The open air structure gives a different impression from every angle.

Walk our trails to learn about plants that thrive in summer’s heat, such as the buttonbush, with its globe-shaped white flowers, blooming on our Arrival Journey bridge. Other tough plants can be found in our Pollinator Garden, such as milkweed, scarlet sage, Stokes’ aster, and Gaura, also known as “whirling butterflies” because of the orchid-like blooms on the ends of delicate stems. A native perennial, it is performing beautifully this year.

Do you watching or photographing butterflies? You will not be disappointed if you come in search of these delicate jewel-toned insects at the Arboretum. During the summer, the insect world rules the Savanna Exhibit, and in these grasslands we have seen Gulf fritillary and monarch butterflies, common buckeyes, several species of swallowtails, skippers, and sulphurs.

One of my favorite butterflies is the giant swallowtail. It has a peculiar bouncy, restless manner of flying about. An interesting fact is that its caterpillars look like bird droppings – a great way to avoid being eaten!

See the fact sheet, “Attracting Butterflies to Mississippi Gardens,” at the Extension website at which contains a list of species to include in your garden. Butterflies require not only nectar plants such as butterfly weed, black-eyed Susan, Coreopsis, ironweed, clover, and Queen Anne’s lace, but “host” plants. These are the specific plants that butterflies will lay their eggs on, for the caterpillars to consume once they hatch.

Butterflies will take shelter from the wind and rain, and roost at night, in shrubs. Provide additional shelter for them by creating a log pile in a corner of your garden. Other butterfly-friendly garden items are flat rocks where they can bask in the sun on cool mornings, wet muddy areas, and shallow water sources such as a saucer filled with pebbles and water.

When designing a butterfly garden, include both the host and nectar plants to maximize the number of butterflies you will attract. If you are lucky, your butterfly weed will become laden with the green chrysalises of monarch butterflies. These amazing structures are decorated with metallic gold dots and will awe you as they will turn from opaque green to clear, shortly before the butterfly emerges. It is an incredible experience to watch the orange and black folded wings moving inside these structures as the insect prepares to split the walls of its chrysalis and begin the process of unfolding new wings.

This summer, the Arboretum will be offering many children’s programs. “Storytime at the Arboretum” will be held on Friday, June 21 at 10:00 a.m. and then for every Friday in the month of July. Upcoming programs include a children’s insect workshop on Wednesday, June 19 from 9:00 to 11:00 a.m. led by Hancock County Extension Agent, Dr. Christian Stephenson, a kids’ Storybook Tea and Craft Party on Saturday, June 22, 10:00 to 11:00 a.m., and a program on Venomous Mississippi Snakes Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith on Wednesday, July 17, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Drawings by Robin Veerkamp will be on display in the Arboretum gallery through the end of August.

For information on children’s programs, please see the Arboretum website at To reserve your child’s seat, please call 601-799-2311. Children must be accompanied by an adult (no charge for adults). The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4, and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 to 4:30. Leashed pets are welcome.