Spring blooms have been putting on a show at the Crosby Arboretum

Published 7:00 am Sunday, April 3, 2022

By Patricia Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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New spring blossoms are popping up everywhere at the Crosby Arboretum, and the show is building towards a multi-colored crescendo. Southern blue flag iris can be spotted along the water’s edge in the Piney Woods Pond and Slough Exhibit, pink honeysuckle azaleas are in full flower along the pathways, and the yellow blooms of the pitcher plants are unfurling in the South Pitcher Plant Bog.

In my first spring at the Arboretum, I would receive calls from people who asked, “When will the buttercups start blooming?” I didn’t realize until later that the blooms they were asking about was the local term for pitcher plant blooms, although the plant known botanically as a “buttercup” is a different species from the yellow pitcher plants common to our savannas. I can report now that our “buttercups” are in bloom!

Residents of Pearl River County are fortunate to live near a public garden that provides education and research-based information about coastal ecosystems of Mississippi and its native plant species. Established as a living memorial to local businessman and philanthropist L.O. Crosby Jr., the mission of our facility is to “preserve, protect, and display plants native to the Pearl River drainage basin”.

Would you like to know more about some useful low-maintenance species for your home garden that are adapted to local soils and climate? There is much to learn on a journey down our pathways. The plants you will see here have been fitted to the environmental conditions they prefer. Many resources on home landscape design, native plants, and gardening are available from the MSU Extension website (http://extension.msstate.edu/) and the Smart Landscapes Extension webpage.

This past Thursday, a group of participants from the Gulf Park campus of The University of Southern Mississippi’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute toured the Arboretum. Most of the persons had never visited the Arboretum before, and it is a true joy to introduce our garden to those who are visiting the first time. We paused to talk on the Arrival Journey bridge, where we were surrounded by a number of plants that evoked discussion, such as a specimen of needle palm (Rhapidophyllum hystrix), mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and a bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macophylla).

Here at the Arboretum, we sometimes forget that sights that are common to us can make a big impression on our visitors.  One example of this was this was the large expanse of  the aquatic golden club (Orontium aquaticum) that sports unusual white blooms spikes that are tipped with yellow, in full bloom in the shallow water.. Also called “neverwet”, golden club is found in the shallow, flowing water of coastal swamps and streams.

While neverwet can occur in large masses, it is typically found as individual plants or in small groupings. Some attractive specimens can be seen in the moving water along the edge of the Cypress Cove deck west of our South Pitcher Plant Bog. But if you want a show, just cross the first bridge on the Arrival Journey and look to your left in the shallow water. Prepare to be amazed!

Another plant that has been catching our eye lately is the red chokecherry (Photinia pyrifolia). The white flower clusters of this native shrub can be spotted throughout the Arboretum, mixed among the grasses in the Savanna Exhibit. You’ll notice that these flowers resemble those found on other plants in the rose family (Rosaceae) such as blackberry and dewberry. The shrub is found in the acidic, moist and rich soils of bogs, swamps, and wet pine savannas, and will fruit and flower best in full sun.

We have some outstanding plants available on the Visitor Center deck, such as scarlet sage and cardinal flower (both excellent for hummingbirds) saw palmetto, blue-eyed grass, and Coreopsis.  Join us Saturday, April 9 for a gentle yoga class from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. with James Sones, followed by a short meditation sitting in the beautiful natural setting of Pinecote Pavilion.  Limited to 16. Please arrive 10 minutes early. Members free, non-members $5. Reservations requested. Members $3, non-members $8.

A Nature Photography Workshop will be led by Diana Thornton on Saturday, April 16 from 10:00 a.m. to Noon. Diana will show you how to get stunning images with your SLR or phone camera. Ages 12 and up. Members $5, non-members $10. Reservations required. Limit 12 persons. A Guided Forest Therapy Walk will be held the same day from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m.  To sign up for programs call 601-799-2311. More information is available on our website at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/ and our Facebook page. The Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4. Leashed pets are always welcome!