Late spring activities at the Crosby Arboretum

Published 8:00 am Sunday, May 8, 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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Over the last week at the Arboretum, we have been tending to late spring tasks, as we are very aware that hotter weather is arriving soon.  One task is to ensure that the new plants we’ve installed into the Pollinator Garden will be well-watered throughout the summer.  This is a wise idea for all you gardeners out there!  Just because those plants you bought this spring said they were “drought-tolerant” doesn’t mean it doesn’t need water to become established.  So keep a watchful eye on your new acquisitions so they will be here next spring.

Often, I look around and wonder where all the plants have come from in our greenhouse and nursery area!  New plants are growing like wildfire, with many of them being grown from seed, some of which originated from the Arboretum exhibits.  Blue mistflower (Ageratum), blazing star (Liatris), scarlet sage, Texas star Hibiscus, mountain mint, and blue wild indigo (Baptisia) are being grown for our big Pollinator Plant Sale on June 4, thanks to the Green Team volunteers and Pearl River County Master Gardener/Crosby Arboretum employee Lynne Hampton, who has been getting excellent results in rooting cuttings, including African blue basil and elderberry.

One new feature in the Pollinator Garden will be an open fence on the area’s south perimeter. Here, and on our arbor structures, we will plant vines such as Dutchman’s pipe (a host plant for pipevine swallowtail butterflies), coral honeysuckle (loved by hummingbirds), and passionflower vine (a host plant of Gulf fritillary butterflies).

A late spring burn was conducted Friday, April 29, the first that was led by Crosby grounds superintendent Forrest Blass, who was recently certified as a burn manager. Although we typically burn in January or February, late-season burns remove more of the small trees and shrubs such as gallberry holly, increasing the abundance of grasses and wildflowers.

Because the Arboretum uses fire as a management tool, the savanna habitat contains fire-dependent plant and animal species, for example, Henslow’s Sparrows.  Dr. Mark Woodry, a Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station scientist, has spent two decades researching coastal bird ecology and conservation at the MSU Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, has led mist-netting and banding activities at the Arboretum.  Dr. Woodry is one of the Mississippi State University scientists studying the winter ecology of Henslow’s Sparrows with the goal of understanding the importance of prescribed fire on the abundance and distribution of this rare species. Frequent prescribed fires on the wintering grounds are extremely important for the sparrows. According to Dr. Woodry, if a site is not burned at least every 3-4 years, Henslow’s Sparrows will not use the area. Luckily, these small migratory birds have many places along the Gulf Coast, like Crosby Arboretum, that they can call home during the winter.

On Saturday, May 14, children will learn about trees in an instructional program led by Jennifer Buchanan called “Seven Common Mississippi Trees” from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m., a great intergeneration activity, as children must be accompanied by an adult.  Each family will receive a FREE durable plant press keep and to collect their leaves, made possible through a pollinator education grant which is supported by the MEMBERS of Coast Electric through Operation Round Up and their Community Trust, in partnership with the Gulf Coast Community Foundation. Member adults $4; members’ children $2; non-member adults $6; non-member children $3.

On May 14 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., a yoga program with certified instructor James Sones will be held on the Pinecote Pavilion. Please arrive 10 minutes early. Members $3, non-members $5.   A Project WET Teachers Workshop for Educators on “Climate, Weather and Water Resilience” will be held Saturday, May 21, 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., a hands-on interdisciplinary workshop for teachers, homeschool educators, and others who serve in a teaching role, led by Mississippi Museum of Natural Science Outreach Educator Sabrina Cummings.  Bring a lunch. Workshop cost of $25 includes workbook. CEU’s (0.6) available for $10.  Call early to sign up (pay on day of workshop). See our website calendar for a complete description.

Children will learn about gardening for pollinators and other purposes in a Family Workshop, “Introducing Children to Plant Propagation and Planting Gardens for Pollinators” on Sunday, May 22, 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. led by Pearl River County Extension Agent Dr. Eddie Smith. Children must be accompanied by parent or guardian Members free, non-members adults: $5 site admission, non-member children $2. See our website calendar for details.

Botanical illustrations by Penny Wallace Crawford are on display in the Arboretum gallery through June 19. Registration is required for all programs. Call 601-799-2311 to reserve your space. For more information, see the calendar at or the Arboretum Facebook page. Crosby Arboretum is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4. The garden is open 9 AM to 4:30 PM Wednesday through Sunday.