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Bog beauties blooming at the Arboretum

By Pat Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and  assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service

On a recent walk through our south pitcher plant bog last week, we were excited to see that our longleaf milkweed is blooming!  Two native milkweeds occur at the Crosby Arboretum – fewflower milkweed (Asclepias lanceolata), which usually has a single tiny cluster of orange flowers held high on its tall, wiry stems, and longleaf milkweed (Asclepias longifolia), a much lower-growing perennial with clusters of purple blossoms. Both coastal species are found in wet pine savanna habitats such as our south bog.

I’ve seen fewflower milkweed growing in wet ditches along Pearl River County roadsides, as well as patches of longleaf milkweed.  Fewflower milkweed blooms a little later than longleaf and persists through the summer months. Once you learn to recognize these two species, you will begin spotting them on your drives. Pay a visit to the Arboretum where you can observe, and photograph, these attractive plants. If you are a fan of Mississippi wildflowers, we certainly have a variety here!

Last week, grounds manager Terry Johnson snapped a photo of a stunning native orchid called a tuberous grasspink (Calopogon tuberosus) which are currently blooming in the south bog. Once you spot one of these brilliant pink blooms, you’ll be able to pick out more of them. Although purple longleaf milkweed blends in with the surrounding plants, it will also be easy to locate more of them once you are acquainted with its shape.

Miniscule carnivorous planted called sundews (Drosera brevifolia) are about to bloom along the bog’s main path. They are so easy to see once you know what you are looking for! Coin-sized sundews grow tightly against the bare earth and are covered in tiny sparkles of ruby “dew”.  Nearby you may find an unusual orange-flowering plant called candy root (Polygala lutea).

At least five different species of candy root, or milkwort, occur at the Arboretum, and range from shades of pink, white, purple, yellow and orange. Typically growing two to six inches tall, they are also known as drumheads because of the shape of their blooms. Their roots have an aroma that resembles wintergreen candy.

Are you putting a few touches on your landscape before summer’s heat returns? Pick up any gardening magazine or browse your favorite bookstore’s garden section and you’ll notice a seemingly endless amount of advice on designing gardens to draw wildlife, hummingbirds, and pollinators, including butterflies. However, you’ll be pleased to discover an excellent resource for home gardening and landscaping can be found at the Mississippi State University Extension Service website at http://extension.msstate.edu/ – absolutely free! Enter a topic in the search field such as backyard wildlife gardening, native plants, or plants attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators, and start reading or downloading. This research-based information you can trust includes publications specific to Mississippi. Another great Extension program is “Smart Landscapes” – enter this term in the search engine to access this webpage focused on attractive, low-maintenance, sustainable gardening.

Browse a great selection of low-care native perennials on the Arboretum’s Visitor Center deck, including several species of milkweed. Use your phone to snap a photo of the plant profiles displayed for each species so you can learn about the desired environmental conditions which will help you in locating your plants.

On Saturday, May 15, from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., bring your yoga mat and a friend and get fit while enjoying the natural beauty surrounding Pinecote Pavilion with yoga instructor Jim Sones! Arrive 10 minutes early. Members $3, non-members $6. Reservations are requested.

The first in a series of Guided Forest Therapy Walks will be held Sunday, May 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with Nadine Phillips, INFTA-Certified Forest Therapy Guide in training. This inviting way of immersing our senses in the atmosphere of the forest is backed by significant medical and scientific research, and the many health benefits are wide-reaching. Reservations are required. Read more about this program on the Arboretum website or our Facebook page.  Members $10. Non-members $15.

Mark your calendar for the Arboretum’s 5K “Through the Forest” Run (or walk!) Saturday, May 22, 8:00 a.m. to noon. Follow the ticket link on our Facebook event page to pay online or mail us a check or come by the Arboretum Visitors Center to register. Entry fee is $35 per athlete. Check-in opens at 8:00 a.m. and the 5K will begin at 9:00 am. Call the office or email nickie.smith@msstate.edu<mailto:nickie.smith@msstate.edu> for more info.

For more information on Arboretum events visit www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu<http://www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu> or call (601) 799-2311. We are located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).