When will the first pine lily bloom in the Arboretum savanna?

Published 10:19 am Saturday, August 20, 2022

By Pat Drackett

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

In addition to the many mushrooms that have been popping up with the recent rains, another act is about to unfold at the Arboretum.  We are waiting for the first triumphant cry announcing the arrival of a scarlet pine lily (Lilium catesbaei) along the Savanna Exhibit pathways. Also called Catesby’s lily, these perennials are found in wet pine savannas and bogs of the coastal plain from Mississippi and Louisiana to Virginia. As August progresses, so do calls from wildflower enthusiasts who want to know if the striking wildflowers have been sighted so they can plan a visit to the Arboretum.

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On your next visit, be sure to bring along a camera! Walk to the south pitcher plant bog and look south from the Quaking Bog Educational Exhibit (the U-shaped boardwalk east of the Cypress Cove deck on the Pond Journey). Here, you will see you are surrounded by hundreds of blooming blazing stars offering a feast for late-summer butterflies such as eastern black and yellow swallowtails, skippers, buckeyes, and maybe even a monarch or two. These tall purple spikes stand tall against a backdrop of thousands of pipewort (Eriocaulon) plants.

Eriocaulon is also called lady’s hatpin or bog buttons. The unusual flower, which resembles a hatpin, is found in great profusion in the bog, which has an appearance of a swaying sea of polka dots. Earlier this summer, there were dozens of orange-red fewflower milkweed blooms (Asclepias lanceolata), conspicuously held high on thin stems that are 3 to 4 feet in height.

Mixed in with the lady’s hatpins, you’ll see dashes of yellow-eyed grass (Xyris) clusters, another wispy-stemmed perennial with yellow flowers that sit on top of brown sphere-shaped heads. When the delicate yellow petals fall, the remaining “heads” look like tiny pinecones – a different look entirely.

Flowers in the grasslands range from the tall to the tiny. Five species of petite candy root (Polygala), also called milkworts or drumheads are common along our pathways. They occur in shades of pink, white, purple, yellow and orange. Typically ranging from around two to six inches tall, these plants have unusually shaped blooms that are attractive to butterflies such as skippers that will sip their nectar. They are known as candy root because the roots have an aroma reminiscent of wintergreen candy.

We’re entering the season of late summer wildflowers – when roadsides and meadows in Pearl River County become a crazy quilt of colors and textures. Some of these blooms you are passing by might be equally at home in your garden!  If you see something at the Arboretum and are curious about its identify, you can visit the Crosby Arboretum website and scroll down to the orange rectangle at the bottom of the home page.  This is our Native Plant Data Base, hosted by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.  Over 200 of our plants are listed here, along with photographs and cultural information.

In the “old days” as a kid, if I asked a grown up to identify a plant, it seemed there were so many who knew the names of the plants that surrounded us. Perhaps it was because at that time folks tended to spend more time outside.  We enjoy hearing Arboretum visitors tell stories about treasured times they had spent as children, exploring the outdoors.

What do you remember from your own childhood?  Was it filled with discoveries made when rocks or logs were overturned, crawling insects or newts that scurried away, wading in cool local streams on hot summer days, or weaving flower necklaces to crown a fairy princess?

The activities we took for granted as children in an earlier generation may not be quite as common today, but we do see our share of parents and grandparents who visit the Arboretum with children in tow, determined that they will also discover the simple joy of engaging with nature as they once did.

Currently, all August field walks are full, but don’t despair! Our 64-acre site has ample room for those who would like to stroll the pathways, feed the fish and turtles from the Pinecote Pavilion, and visit our newly renovated pollinator garden. Leashed pets are always welcome! For more information, see our website calendar at http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/ where you can sign up for event updates by email, or just check out our Facebook page. Remember, calling the office at 601-799-2311 to register for classes is highly recommended for all programs to guarantee your space, as we cannot always accommodate walk-ins. The Arboretum is open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and is located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune, at I-59 Exit 4.