PICAYUNE — One of the interesting facts about sweetgum we tell tour groups at the Crosby Arboretum is that it was once used by early settlers to fashion a toothbrush. Pioneers would cut a twig from the tree and chew on it until the fibers were separated, and then use this “brush” to clean their teeth. Sweetgum is a tree that is not only easy to identify, but has a lot of great stories to tell about it. For those of you who would like to learn more about the plants found in Pearl River County, this is a good tree to start with. Just like people, if you learn some things about a plant, it’s much easier to remember. Parents will occasionally visit our public garden on a quest with their child as they attempt to fulfill the requirements of making a leaf collection for school. We have several Extension publications available in our Visitor Center on Mississippi tree species to help with this project. But when the assignment is turned in, how many of these species will stick with them through the years? The aim of a leaf collecting project is to learn new trees, but often the rush to accumulate the required number seems to be the main focus. For those who would like to learn stories about some of the trees at the Arboretum, we have created a small leaf collecting journal to help identify about a dozen species. The journal contains interesting facts, such as sweetgum being known as the “toothbrush” tree. Sweetgum is an easy tree to identify because its leaves are distinctly star-shaped, usually having 5 and sometimes 7 lobes. Another identifying feature is its tendency to have corky protrusions, or “wings” on the twigs. The leaf buds are very shiny and its crushed leaves are aromatic. Another name for sweetgum is alligator-tree, because on older trees the bark is deeply furrowed. Many different autumn hues are displayed by this tree. As sweetgum begins to show fall color, it really stands out along the area roadsides, cloaked in bright crimson and purple. And even now, along our service road there are sweetgums still holding onto leaves of dark purplish burgundy. However, on the Mississippi State University Campus in late October, sweetgum trees glowed with golden yellow leaves in contrast to the dark trunk and branches. Sweetgum is a tough and highly adaptable tree that is found on a wide variety of soils. It is a “pioneer” species often found growing in open fields. It grows best in full sun, but will tolerate light shade. Although it is somewhat drought-resistant, it does best on moist bottomland sites. In rich soils it will sometimes form dense thickets. When given ideal conditions, sweetgum will grow as much as 100 feet, developing into a beautiful specimen tree. The Latin name of the sweetgum - Liquidambar styraciflua - is easy to remember if you think of its genus name being a combination of liquid and ambar, referring to the sap of the tree. Other species of Liquidambar are found in tropical and subtropical areas, and several, including our sweetgum, are used commercially. Liquidambar resin is also called styrax, thus its Latin species name. Both our American sweetgum and other species have historically been in demand for its medicinal use as well as other uses. While most of you may not recognize sweetgum from its Latin name, you most likely will recognize it as “that tree that drops those spiny balls in the lawn that hurt to walk on barefoot”. Yes, this is the tree whose dried seed capsules have been the subject of many craft projects, especially those around Christmas-time, when they are sprayed silver and gold and incorporated into wreaths and other decorations. Sweetgum seeds are eaten by many wildlife. According to the publication “Mississippi Trees” available from the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the seeds are consumed by goldfinches, mallard ducks, bobwhite quail, Carolina chickadees, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, white-throated sparrows, towhees, Carolina wrens, squirrels, and chipmunks. Luna moth caterpillars will feast on sweetgum leaves, and ruby-throated hummingbirds will drink nectar from the flowers. The “Mississippi Trees” publication lists sweetgum as one of the most valuable commercial hardwoods in the Southeast, with regard to the volume of timber produced. The tree provides pulp, veneer and lumber, and is used in cabinetry, home interiors, boxes and utensils. All parts of the sweetgum tree were used by Native American tribes, for many purposes. The dried sap was used as chewing gum, and also to treat distemper by placing rolled up pieces into a dog’s nose. The sap was used to make a “drawing plaster” and to reduce fever. Roots, bark, and leaves were used to make teas. Currently, the aromatic sap (styrax) is used as an ingredient in both medicine and perfume. As a landscape tree, sweetgum is a favorite fast-growing tree. But take care to locate it away from structures such as walks, driveways, and foundations as the root system is extensive. Its beautiful fall color makes it an attractive specimen tree. Would you like to learn more about birds and birdwatching? Mark your calendar to attend our “Introduction to Birding” program on Saturday, January 12 from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. Our fifth annual Forge Day takes place on Saturday, January 26, featuring metalworking demonstrations by area blacksmiths and knifemakers from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Those who would like to try their hand at the forge may do so (a waiver is required). Paul Lebatard, a member of the Gulf Coast Custom Knifemakers club, will be sharpening knives for free at this event. This is a great opportunity to bring in those dull kitchen knives! For more information, visit our website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu or call the Arboretum office at 601-799-2311. We are located in Picayune, off I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).
Sweetgum, the ‘toothbrush’ tree
- 2013 Partners for Pearl River County By Jodi Marze The 10th class of Partners for Pearl River County celebrated its graduation at First Baptist Church on Friday, May 10, in the Fellowship Hall. The graduating class included: Jason Bounds, Nacole Dillon, Christy Goss, John Huck, Jeff McClain, Teenia Perry, Paul Reese, Brooke Rester, Eric Stafne, Richelle Stafne, Kristin Thibodeaux, Pat Tidmore, and Jim Walker. The staff is comprised of: Jo Woods, Tricia Knight, Shirley Wiltshire, Marilyn Bailey, Rod Lincoln and Scott Langlois (Program Chairman).
Tami Harris takes state
Local business owner and community volunteer Tami Harris has won the coveted title of 2012 Greater Federation of Women’s Clubs-Mississippi Federation of Women's Clubs (MFWC) Club Woman of the Year for the state of Mississippi. A member of the Civic Woman’s Club of Picayune, Harris is one of only three club members, along with Darlene Adams and Leslie Lincoln, to take the state title.
Last week, students participating in the 2013 Mississippi Master Naturalist Program visited the Crosby Arboretum for an all-day training. The session was part of 40 hours of field and classroom instruction they will receive, educating them about natural resource management and environmental stewardship, and is a part of their preparation to become Certified Mississippi Master Naturalists.
- Chamber Ribbon Cutting Children's International Medical Group held a grand opening and Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting at their first Mississippi location, located in Picayune.
Historic City Hall Dedication Friday
Friday, May 3 at 10 a.m. the New City Hall will be dedicated on Goodyear Boulevard. This event will coincide with the 75th Anniversary of the Dedication of the Old Historic City Hall building.
- PRC Community Band presents: An American Legacy The Pearl River County Community Band, under the direction of Johnny Baker, will present “An American Legacy: An afternoon of American music for concert bands,” on Sunday, May 5, at 2 p.m. at the Picayune Memorial High School Auditorium.
On their recent tour, fifth grade students from Lamar Christian School in Purvis encountered a seemingly endless variety of wildlife, ranging from crawfish to inchworms, to writhing masses of spiny, newly-emerged caterpillars. There is no such thing as a “typical” walk around the Arboretum’s Pond Journey and Pitcher Plant Bog. Every venture reveals something new to every group of visitors.
Beebe returns to Main Street
“I was excited when the Picayune Main Street, Inc. Board of Directors asked me to return as manager to the local Main Street program. Also, extremely grateful to Picayune City Manager Jim Luke, Mayor Ed Pinero and city council for their blessings and approval to relocate our office,” says Beebe. “One of my favorite sayings is ‘There is nothing stronger than the heart of a volunteer.’ I have to say, I had a blast working on committees, projects and events with the most dedicated staff and group of volunteers in Pearl River County from March 2005 to May 2010. I look forward to getting new committees in place and working with ‘seasoned’ volunteers as well as new volunteers who share the same passion and desire to keep Picayune moving forward.”
15th Annual Rotary Fishing Rodeo held in McNeill
“We are all fortunate to play a small part in the joy we see in their faces when they get a bite on their line and see the fish they catch. My wife, Sharon, and I hosted it last year on our anniversary and we would not have had it any other way. It was a perfect day.”
— Rotarian Tony Paternostro
Picayune Main Street relocates to Intermodal
Picayune Main Street, Inc. has relocated to the Intermodal Transportation and Tourism Center at 200 Hwy 11 South. With the change in location the organization is also shifting focus back to the four points of the Main Street Approach according to President Bill Edwards.
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