Pitcher plants at The Crosby Arboretum!

Published 12:37 pm Wednesday, August 2, 2023

By Patricia R. Drackett

Are you acquainted with the tall yellow pitcher plants that grow among the grasses and blooming perennials in Pearl River County’s wet pine savanna landscapes? Perhaps you’ve seen their “buttercup” blooms that begin to unfurl in the early spring before their hollow leaves or “pitchers” appear. At the Arboretum, we plan to conduct a prescribed burn of the main pitcher plant bog in January or February. However, if the proper environmental conditions don’t occur during this planned two- month period, burning will need to wait until the following year, as a fire that is too late would be harmful to the developing flower buds.

As we didn’t get the chance to burn this year, there are many grasses remaining in the pitcher plan bog. Although the density of perennials may be a bit less this year because of this, you’ll still find many colorful blooming perennials sparkling in the savanna. On a trip “down south” to our lower bog, your journey will build in anticipation as you pass areas of complex and intensifying color, among them the pink and yellow meadow beauties in the company of other blooming species.

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The Savanna Exhibit is an ever-changing and colorful tapestry with constantly evolving patterns, textures, and colors. These grasslands are never boring and are typically humming with insect and animal life. Looking closely, you will see the dark green rosettes of narrowleaf sunflower (Helianthus angustifolia). In late summer they will begin to push forth stems that will soon explode with yellow blossoms. For now, they are simply a curiosity. If you feel the surface of the leaves, they are very much like a cat’s tongue, extremely rough and sandpaper-like.

Another flower that will be stealing the show in late summer is blazing star (Liatris spicata), also called gayfeather. Its short grayish-green leaves line short stems, resembling a bottle brush, but will later they will form tall purple spikes to mix with sunflowers and fall grasses. The spikes of the Liatris we grew from seed that was gathered in the south bog are already showing color in our Pollinator Garden!

The bog contains a high density of plants, all competing for space in this colorful mix. Many of these, if grown individually, will usually have a completely different, fuller appearance. For example, the blue-eyed grass looks quite spindly in the bog, but when grown in a container or in the Pollinator Garden, it will quickly take on the appearance of a dense Liriope-like plant that can be used similarly in your garden as a border plant.

Mississippi wildflowers are in their element in the summertime in this hot, humid climate. Learn to recognize the species that grow on your own property, or ones you see on your travels around Pearl River County. One excellent identification resource is the http://www.southeasternflora.com/ website, offering a simple method to identify native or naturalized plants without needing a background in botany. Just enter information such as the color, plant type, or whether the leaves are opposite or alternate, to receive a list of potential plants to pick from. Another great resource is the Crosby Arboretum Native Plant Data Base, hosted by the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, linked from the orange rectangle at the bottom of our website home page. Over 200 of our plants are listed, along with photographs and cultural information.

See the MSU Extension website (https://extension.msstate.edu/) and search for the title “Building a Bog Garden” to learn how to create your own bog, whether in a container such as the one on the Crosby Arboretum deck or within your home landscape. On the Extension home page, enter any subject you wish to know more about to view reliable, research-based articles and publications you can trust.

Call 601-799-2311 soon to sign up for our upcoming programs (pay the day of event)! On Saturday, August 12 from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m., bring your mat and join a gentle yoga class and short meditation sitting in the beautiful natural setting of Pinecote Pavilion with certified yoga instructors James and Kate Sones. Members $3, non-members $5. Reservations requested. Enjoy a summer field walk through the Arboretum’s exhibits on Saturday, August 12, 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. with Arboretum Director Pat Drackett. Members free; Non-members $5. Two workshops in Making Pine Needle Baskets with skilled basket maker Denine Jones will be held this month! Choose Sunday, August 13, or Saturday August 26, from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Members $20; non-members $25.

The Arboretum is located off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road and 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.