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A walk through the woods: The Crosby Arboretum

By Patricia Drackett

Crosby Arboretum Director

Learn about trees this winter at the Crosby Arboretum! Mark your calendar for Saturday, February 8, and the rare opportunity to enjoy a winter botany walk with retired MSU Extension Forestry specialist Dr. Glenn Hughes. For years, Dr. Hughes has delighted plant enthusiasts in numerous Arboretum field walks, passing on the secrets to identifying trees and shrubs during the winter months by characteristics of their twigs, buds, and bark.

It is a true joy to be in the presence of a professor as knowledgeable as Dr. Hughes, who seems to be able to provide an immediate answer to any question, and in the rare chance he does not know it, to recommend where to find it. With his familiarity with resources on Southeastern trees and pertinent information, he will also provide expert advice on useful books, apps, and websites.

I remember one of Dr. Hughes’ tips is to not depend on just one book that would be considered the ultimate resource, his recommendation is to instead have a variety of references on hand. As many visitors to the Arboretum are book collectors, it wouldn’t be difficult to find many who would quickly agree that one can never own too many books!

On his field walk, Dr. Hughes will point out the characteristics of trees that become more evident in winter, for example, the patterns of tree bark or the shape of buds. For instance, slash pine has a characteristic orange flaky bark, while American beech trees have cigar-shaped buds. Interestingly, beech trees hold their leaves throughout the winter months, as do some oak trees. Oaks, by the way, have clusters of buds arranged at the tips of the branches.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service website (http://extension.msstate.edu/) has state-specific publications and resources to help you choose the appropriate trees and shrubs for your property’s environmental conditions. Enter keywords such as “native trees” or “native shrubs” or “selecting shrubs” or “selecting trees” in the search field to locate research-based information you can trust.

Another excellent plant ID resource is available for download, a PDF file for a book jam-packed with information called Mississippi Trees, written in conjunction with the Mississippi Forestry Commission and the Department of Forestry at Mississippi State University.  A free Mississippi Trees app is also available, 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.

The group will most likely be treated to learning the differences between the four species of pine trees found at the Arboretum: spruce, loblolly, slash, and longleaf pine. Dr. Hughes will often illustrate needle length, an identifying characteristic, by holing the needles against the palm of his hand so he may quickly identify the tree by the length of the needles.

You may call now to reserve your place in Dr. Hughes’ walk by calling 601-799-2311. Another botany field walk will take place this Saturday from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. with Pat Drackett. We will journey down the Swamp Forest Trail to learn the trees and shrubs growing in this exhibit. The cost is $5 for non-members and is free to Arboretum members.

Arboretum memberships are a wonderful value. Not only do they include unlimited visits to our garden, but if you travel, you will be delighted to know that your Arboretum membership also includes a membership in the American Horticultural Society’s Reciprocal Membership Program, giving free or reduced admission to over 300 public gardens in North America. Arboretum memberships are only $35 for an individual membership and $45 for a family membership. Senior and military discounts are available.

Start the year off right! Attend a yoga class this Saturday, January 11 on the Pinecote Pavilion from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m. The cost is $2 for members and $5 for non-members. Call to sign up for programs to guarantee your place. Remember to check out our winter gallery exhibit, nature photography by Nadine Phillips, on display through February 28.

Mark your calendar for the Arboretum’s Forge Day on Saturday, January 25 from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. You’ll enjoy our annual event featuring blacksmithing and metalworking demonstrations. An Arbor Day Plant Sale will take place on Saturday, February 15 from 10:00 a.m. to Noon (members enter at 9:00 a.m.).

The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4, and open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 to 4:30. For more information call 601-799-2311 or see our website at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/. Leashed pets are always welcome!