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The season of pine lilies is approaching!

By Patricia Drackett

Director of the Crosby Arboretum and

assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

We may be currently in the middle of the season traditionally referred to as “hot as blazes”, but a steady number of visitors have been out for a walk at the Arboretum over the past weeks. Family groups are taking advantage of time to visit before school days return, and gardeners come looking for some low-maintenance plants to add color to their summer landscapes. Others are simply in search of a stroll to experience the beauty of Mississippi wildflowers.

It’s heartening to know that more and more people in the local community are discovering the Arboretum and the wealth of experiences found here. With each season comes a chance to revel in the emergence of favorite, long-anticipated blooms. Late summer is no exception, and we are beginning to anticipate the time when the pine lilies will appear in the Savanna Exhibit.

Pine lily (Lilium catesbaei) is also called Catesby’s lily. To come across a fresh pine lily for the first time is an awesome experience. They are a single huge scarlet bloom held atop a thin, almost leafless stalk, which resemble a common daylily (so-named because like their blooms are glorious for just one day). Pine lilies are also ephemeral, so if you drag a friend back to see the stunning bloom the next day it will most likely be fading away, so you must appreciate these unusual plants when first spotted.

Mr. Catesby, who named this lily, was an English naturalist who visited Virginia in the early 1700’s and spent many years documenting the plants and animals in the region. I remember learning about Catesby’s work at a native plant conference and a book by the University of Georgia Press called, “The Curious Mister Catesby”. I had had the chance to look through this beautiful volume and can report this is one book you will most definitely appreciate holding and leafing through rather than reading electronically.

While some of the native wildflowers in our exhibits are more “social”, and are quite prevalent throughout the savanna grasslands, such as the pink meadow beauty (Rhexia), it is not easy to predict where pine lilies will be seen emerging. Pine lilies are not tall plants – they might otherwise be lost among the surrounding grasses were it not for their bright scarlet color. So to come across a bloom on a walk in the savanna is definitely a thrilling event, so make plans to visit the Crosby Arboretum in the month of August, and keep your eyes peeled for pine lilies!

Purple-blooming Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis) is a very adaptable and easy to grow perennial, considered by many as one of the most attractive late-flowering perennials, and it is also growing in the Arboretum’s savannas.  Stokesia is native to acidic coastal wetlands such as pine flatwoods or savannas, but it’s not unusual to find it in the garden center. Many cultivars are available, in a wide variety of colors.

An “All About Hummingbirds” program with long-time hummingbird bander James Bell takes place Saturday, August 14 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.  An “All About Hummingbirds” program with long-time hummingbird bander James Bell takes place Saturday, August 14 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Learn what is going on in the hummingbird’s life, how they feed, why they fight so much, and simple tips and tricks to attract them, giving you a chance to enjoy the beauty of one of nature’s most dazzling creations. Suited to ages 12 and up.

Do you enjoy watching hummingbirds? Try a coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) on your mailbox or arbor. The tubular scarlet blooms can be spotted growing wild along local roadsides, perhaps scrambling up a tree or a fence.

The vine prefers full sun, but tolerates partial sun, and is drought tolerant. It’s easy to grow and propagate, and happy in a container or on a trellis. Prune it back in the winter months to encourage flowering. Birds are also attracted to the fruits.

Join Dr. Juan Mata for a guided mushroom field walk through the Arboretum on Saturday, August 28, from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Learn about fungi’s fascinating ecology, taxonomy, and relationship to mankind. Come dressed for being outdoors.

A knife, gloves, basket or bag are helpful, but not necessary. Registration is required. Limited to 30 persons. Members $4; non-members $7.

To make reservations call 601-799-2311 to sign up and pay when you arrive. The Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59). For more information about our programs and events, see the website at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu.