Celebrate history at the Arboretum’s Strawberries & Cream Festival next Sunday!

Published 7:13 pm Friday, April 7, 2023

By The Crosby Arboretum

You are invited!  Come celebrate The Crosby Arboretum property history of having once been a Depression-era strawberry farm at the Strawberries & Cream Festival on Sunday, April 16, from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. This long-running community event is free to the public.


The Arboretum’s 64-acre interpretive site is just one-tenth of the square mile of strawberry fields that once stretched westward across the land where Interstate 59 is humming today. Enjoy fresh strawberries, ice cream, Picayune Frog Lemonade, and live music on the beautiful Pinecote Pavilion. Children will enjoy participating in a cupcake decorating contest in “Cupcake Alley” that celebrates the beauty of our Mississippi native plant species by a theme of native plant blooms!  See our website (http://crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/) for contest rules, posted under the calendar link to the event description, or pick up a copy of the rules at the Visitor Center.


The Crosby Arboretum was established as a living memorial to local timber pioneer L.O. Crosby, Jr., who passed away in December 1978, by members of his family. Mr. Crosby was the president and general manager of Crosby Forest Products Company of Picayune.  Creating the Arboretum was also for the purpose of providing a cultural, educational, and economic benefit for the local community.  Our public garden’s mission is to protect, preserve, and display plants that are native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin.  The Arboretum is dedicated to educating the public about their natural environment.


On your journey through our three-mile trail system you pass through our educational exhibits which feature Gulf Coast ecosystems, such as the Quaking Bog, Swamp Forest, and Gum Pond exhibits.  Woodland, Savanna, and Aquatic habitats are found at the Arboretum.  Here, you will see a variety of Mississippi native plant species, which are displayed in their natural communities rather than individual specimens.  Plants displayed in our Savanna Exhibit, such as the pale pitcher plants, are adapted to live with fire.  Prescribed burning is used as a management tool, so that visitors can view a landscape that appears much like it would have been hundreds of years ago, when periodic wildfires started by lightening would burn for great distances until encountering a barrier such as a river.


In the early years of the planning and development of the Arboretum, the property was called “the Strawberry farm”, although the crop was only grown for a few short years. Ed Blake, Jr., the Arboretum’s first director and developer of the site’s master plan, at times commented on how difficult it must have been to grow strawberries in the wet pine savanna landscape.


Following the use of the site for the agricultural crop, the land was later planted in slash pine in the 1940’s, which never made it to harvest as the trees were damaged in Hurricane Camille in 1969. On a walk through the Arboretum grounds, you will see these seventy-plus year old trees still standing, towering over the savannas and young forest.


In 1997, the public garden became part of Mississippi State University, and is operated by the MSU Extension Service. Gardeners will find the site of particular interest because of the variety of plants found here. More than 15,000 native plants have been installed in our exhibits. What are “native” plants, you may wonder? A simple definition is that they are the plants which were found here prior to European settlement. Mississippi native plants are well-adapted to our particular region, soils, and climate. Extension publications and other information on native plants is available at the Visitor Center, or on the MSU Extension website at http://extension.msstate.edu/.


So, come join us at Strawberries & Cream on April 16, and if you have never visited you may join the many visitors who have told us, “I’ve lived here all my life, and I’ve never been out to the Arboretum. Now that I visited today, I wish I’d started coming out here years ago.” Just remember, it is never too late to discover us!


Attend the Yoga program on the Pinecote Pavilion Saturday, April 15, from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. Then, learn how to “Design a Pollinator Garden,” that afternoon from 1:00 to 2:00 p.m. We still have openings in the pendant-making jewelry workshop on Saturday, April 22 at 1:00 p.m.  See website for details. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up for classes (pay when you arrive).


Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59) and is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last admission at 4:00 p.m.). Leashed pets are always welcome on our three miles of walking trails.