Coming up at the Arboretum: Native plants, snakes, and birds

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2019

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


Visitors to the Arboretum who stroll along our three miles of walking trails inevitably will catch a glimpse of some critter or another. Perhaps it will be a jewel-toned damselfly resting on a leaf near the water flowing from under the Cypress Cove deck, the turtles that enjoy a meal of fish food in the Piney Woods Pond, or the thrilling call of a wood thrush in the forest. So much is waiting for you along our pathways!

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It seems like everywhere you walk here during the summer months, you find some type of insect.

Swallowtail butterflies glide through our pitcher plant bog. You might even discover a walking stick, praying mantis, or golden orb weaver spider awaiting your examination.

Are you a butterfly fan? You won’t be disappointed on a walk through our pitcher plant bog on a hot, sunny afternoon, particularly toward the end of the summer, as you will find many of these delicate insects on their constant search for nectar.

Butterflies need shelter from the wind and rain and roost at night in shrubs. You can provide additional shelter for them by building a brush pile in a corner of your garden. Other butterfly-friendly garden items are flat rocks for basking in the sun on cool mornings, wet muddy areas where butterflies can sip water and minerals, and shallow water sources such as saucers filled with pebbles and water.

One quick and easy way to attract butterflies to your garden doesn’t involve any gardening at all. Whip up a “butterfly fruit cocktail” to attract them to your yard – a platter of overripe and rotting fruit. Use a mixture of fruit such as bananas, apples, cantaloupe, apples, mango, citrus, and strawberries, in a low dish or plate. If you already have a bird feeder, the type that hangs on a chain from a branch or hook, this is a wonderfully simple way to “serve” the fruit mixture.

For more information, MSU Extension Publication 2402,”Establishing a Backyard Wildlife Habitat” is an excellent guide available at that contains many lists of plants, native and non-native, to attract birds, hummingbirds, butterflies, pollinators, and other wildlife to your yard.

Plantings along the Arboretum’s pathways include many native species which are favored by local wildlife. Native trees at the Arboretum with a high value to wildlife include mayhaw, parsley hawthorn, American holly, Southern magnolia, wax myrtle, Southern crabapple, black gum, longleaf pine, persimmon, and numerous species of oaks. Shrubs include American beautyberry, buttonbush, fringe tree (Grancy gray beard), “huckleberries” such as Elliott’s blueberry and dwarf blueberry (Vaccinium darrowii), and numerous species of holly and Viburnum. For more information, you may research these plants in the Crosby Arboretum’s Native Plant Data Base, linked from our homepage at<>.

Landscaping with Native Plants will be held Saturday, July 13, from 11:00 a.m. to Noon. Learn how to have a low-maintenance and attractive home landscape by incorporating Mississippi native plant species into your yard with Arboretum Director Pat Drackett. The program is $2 for members, and $5 for non-members $5. A children’s program on Learning about Venomous Mississippi Snakes will be held Wednesday, July 17, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. a fun and informative program with Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. Lifelike snake replicas will be used in this program, not live snakes! This program is a great activity for homeschool students. Children attending the program must be accompanied by an adult. Members’ children $1; non-members’ children $3; and no charge for adults.

Following the children’s program, an adult program on Gardening to Attract Birds will also be held Wednesday, July 17, from 11:00 a.m. to Noon. Learn about what types of birds are found here in the coastal Mississippi area, the plants that are useful to them, and how you can encourage them in your home garden, with Dr. Eddie Smith. Members $2, and non-members $5. Please call 601-799-2311 to register for programs. Drawings by Robin Veerkamp will also be on display in the Arboretum gallery through the end of August.

For more information on programs, please see the Crosby Arboretum website at To sign up for programs, please call 601-799-2311. The 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.