BY Patricia Drackett, Director/The Crosby Arboretum/ MSU Extension Service
Last week, driving along Highway 90 between Stennis Space Center and Bay St. Louis, I was pleasantly surprised to pass several areas along the road that I hadn’t noticed before which were loaded with the awesome purple spikes of Liatris in full bloom. Some of you might recall seeing this perennial in the Crosby Arboretum’s Savanna Exhibit. Liatris grows in its densest numbers at the south end of our site, near the boardwalk in the Pitcher Plant Bog. This plant is a favorite late summer subject to photograph, as it is often seen surrounded by butterflies attracted to the sweet nectar of the blooms.
Our Liatris at the Arboretum has really been on the increase. A few weeks ago, I was happy to see that we've gained some nice-sized clusters of the purple blooms on the west side of Ridge Road. Since our plants are now well past their peak bloom period, it was a treat to find some local plants that were still going strong.
As I drove further east along on Highway 90, through Bay St. Louis, and around the curve on Henderson Point, I was suddenly surrounded by a cloud of butterflies, including what appeared to be monarchs, gulf fritillaries, yellow sulphurs and common buckeyes. In the next second, I found myself imagining what it would be like to be one of these paper-thin creatures, either sipping nectar from flowers and preparing for a long journey across the Gulf of Mexico, or perhaps arriving in Mississippi after my long flight across the Gulf, ravenous with hunger. Would you rather find an expanse of nicely trimmed lawn, or a lot full of “weedy” blooms? I recall that the late summer and fall of 2006 was a banner year for our coastal butterflie. Journeys along this same stretch of highway often involved passing through what at times seemed to be “butterfly snow”. Anything of beauty appearing after Katrina was well-appreciated, and those weedy blooms covering the newly-vacant lots must have looked pretty yummy to traveling butterflies that year.
Gaillardia pulchella, called blanketflower or Indian blanket, is prevalent along the coastline in areas such as Pass Christian and Long Beach. Also found in our Children’s Butterfly Garden, this is one of the easiest wildflowers to grow. Although commonly classified as an annual, the plant is perennial in the warmer coastal areas. Take a hint from what you see along our roadsides. Why struggle with establishing tender flowering plants in a new landscape? Choose a tough, drought-tolerant plant such as blanketflower known to thrive under harsh conditions. Look up Gaillardia on a website such as www.wildflower.org. You’ll learn that it is a good addition to your butterfly garden, and find additional information on its propagation and cultivation.
At the Arboretum’s recent Bugfest celebration, visitors had the opportunity to observe monarch butterfly chrysalises. They could see the difference between a chrysalis when it was an opaque mint green, adorned with sparkling gold dots, and its later stage when it becomes translucent. Close by, they could see an even earlier stage – that of a very hungry caterpillar chomping on some milkweed, another dependable roadside perennial.
An unbelievable amount of energy is spilling forth from the soil over the last week or two. Grasses such as little bluestem (Schizachyrium) are seemingly bolting overnight. Swamp sunflower (Helianthus) is unfurling, and Joe-Pye weed (Eupatorium) are waving at passing butterflies, joining in the symphony our roadsides are now playing.
Swamp sunflower is one of those perennials that seems to grow a foot overnight. It is common in our Savanna Exhibit, and several are planted in the raised beds of our Children’s Garden. Although it is found growing in moist, boggy areas, it also does fine in regular garden soil. Swamp sunflower is particularly attractive to birds and native bees. But it is tough as well as drop-dead gorgeous. In the downtown urban neighborhood only a few blocks from my house, a large cluster of this dependable perennial is a stunning sight to those who pass by. Removing this plant from its roadside home and locating it in a cultivated landscape really gives it a stage on which it can shine. It looks exotic in the garden, but those who wonder about the identity of this plant would probably be surprised to learn it is so incredibly undemanding.
As I’ve often wondered where Joe-Pye weed got its name, I went online to search for the answer. Many sources offer a version of the same story, and I obtained the following from the lovely daily blog of the Ijams Nature Center in Knoxville, Tennessee (http://ijamsnature.blogspot.com), because I occasionally pine for my hometown, and once lived next door to this wonderful site. Blog writer tephen Lyn Bales says this plant can attain heights of eight feet. The ones growing in the ditches along Kiln-Delisle Road north of Diamondhead look to be about this height. Stephen reports that Joe Pye is believed to have a Native American medicine man who lived in New England in the 1700’s and used extracts from the plant to treat typhoid fever. If you search for the keywords Joe-Pye weed along with the nature center you’ll find a nice photo of this plant. It is a popular wildflower often recommended for the rear of a perennial border. For more information, please call the Crosby Arboretum office at 601-799-231 or see our program schedule on our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu. Social media links can be found on our homepage. We are open Wednesday through Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).
For further exploration:
Have you spotted a monarch butterfly? Find a site on the Internet where you can report your siting. There are also “apps” that you can download to your phone and report observations directly from the field.
Read about monarch migrations on the Web, or in a book such as Robert Michael Pyle’s “Chasing Monarchs: Migrating with the Butterflies of Passage.”
Find a video on the Internet that shows the monarchs arriving in Mexico. How far do they migrate? Learn and tell a friend.
BY Patricia Drackett, Director/The Crosby Arboretum/ MSU Extension Service
Every spring the home gardener is bombarded with new and improved petunias for the garden and landscape, making it hard to decide which to bring home from the garden center. In my opinion, you simply can’t go wrong selecting any of the Supertunias.
Spring is now in full swing at the Crosby Arboretum, and the show is well on its way toward a crescendo. The blooms of native purple Iris can be seen along the edge of the Piney Woods pond, pink “honeysuckle” azalea is flowering near the Pinecote Pavilion, and the yellow blooms of the pitcher plants — called “buttercups” by local residents — are beginning to carpet the south Savanna Exhibit.
USM set to host Children’s Book Festival
One of the most anticipated events celebrating children’s literature, the Fay B. Kaigler Children’s Book Festival at The University of Southern Mississippi, will be held April 10-12 at the Thad Cochran Center on the Hattiesburg campus.
Amber Bounds breaks six-year-old state swimming record
The Southern MS Aquatic Club (Mantarays) participated in the Santa’s Best Swim Invitational in Biloxi Nov. 30-Dec. 2. The Mantarays finished 6th out of 22 teams competing from LA, AL, FL, and MS.
- Capitol Pages Jonathan Fail of Picayune, and Lorrie Warren of Poplarville recently served as pages for the Mississippi Senate.
Yellow jasmine brightens yards
According to the calendar, we are just a few days away from the official start of the spring season. But if you have been watching the garden and landscape like I have, you’ve seen signs of spring for at least several weeks. The plants are starting to wake up.
Native blooms abound at the Arboretum’s spring plant sale
The long-awaited weekend is upon us – that time which comes but once a year. Yes, it’s the Crosby Arboretum’s spring native plant sale.
Welcome Center celebrates arts and literature in March
The Mississippi Development Authority, Division of Tourism will be celebrating “Arts and Literature” during the month of March. Each of the Welcome Centers will be decorated differently for this celebration.
Lamont Rowlands house important to historical heritage
Pat Crosby first moved to the Lamont Rowlands house in 1992.
Although she found the home in disrepair, she couldn’t imagine not living there and knew that was her new home.
“It just spoke to me, and it still does,” said Crosby, the wife of the late Tommy Crosby, son of R.H. Crosby. Tommy Crosby completely renovated the home and grounds.
Pearl River County Arts League Art Show and Sale
Pearl River County Arts League Art Show and Sale will be held on Saturday, March 23, from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. and Sunday, March 24, from noon till 4 p.m. at The Knights of Columbus Hall, 408 Carroll Drive. The show is open to all artists and admission is free to the public.
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