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Today is January 27, 2022

Crosby Arboretum: An ecological paradise in our backyard

By Steven Ward

Crosby Arboretum: An ecological paradise in our backyard

There are so many places to visit and “see the sights” in Mississippi that, sometimes, both tourists and locals need a reminder of all the hidden gems just waiting for discovery or rediscovery.

One of those gems sits on 64 acres in Picayune near Interstate 59.

The Crosby Arboretum is a public garden owned by Mississippi State University and operated by the MSU Extension Service and is a unit of the Coastal Research and Extension Center. The site offers both recreational and educational opportunities and is dedicated to educating the public about their environment as well as serving as a scientific and educational organization that documents and shares information about nature with the public. The Arboretum manages acreage in seven associated natural areas and supports over 300 species of plants.

The Crosby site functions as a celebration of local native flora. The Arboretum’s mission is to preserve, protect, and display plants native to the Pearl River Drainage Basin ecosystem.

The American Society of Landscape Architects awarded the site an ASLA award in 1991 calling it the “first fully realized ecological garden in the U.S.”

“Many times we’ve heard our visitors say, ‘I’ve always known you were here, but I never stopped in.’ Or, ‘I wish I had come 20 years ago, so I could have been enjoying it all this time.’ Visits to the Arboretum are much like peeling back the layers of an onion. No two days are alike. New creatures, blooms, and experiences are always waiting for you just around the bend in the path,” Arboretum Director Pat Drackett said.

One of the highlights of the site is the award-winning Pinecote Pavilion designed by architect E. Fay Jones of Fayetteville, Arkansas. The structure received an Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects in 1990 and was recognized by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History as a Mississippi Landmark.

Some of the more recent visitor draws at the Arboretum include, The Gum Pond Bridge, a bridge spanning the headwaters inlet of the site’s gum pond and The Rosen Memorial Pavilion, accessed by a crisscrossing boardwalk that extends from the bulkhead of a new pond overlook.

A visit to the Arboretum means moving through exhibits on the pathways, or “landscape journeys.”

Visitors to the public garden who walk the three-mile trail system will travel through three main exhibits: a woodland exhibit, an aquatic exhibit, and a Savanna exhibit. Along the pathways, interpretive signage focuses on various coastal ecosystems and their values, and native plant communities and the species within them.

“My favorite area is the south pitcher plant bog, where changes are dynamic, plant populations, patterns, and textures are continually shifting due to fl uctuations in moisture and are never the same from year to year,” Drackett said.

Drackett said the bog changes in color constantly.

“The bog will change from the blackened landscape following a prescribed fire, to the yellow pitcher plant blooms in early spring to the pinks and yellows of delicate spring ephemeral blossoms and orange and purple milkweeds,” Drackett said.

“This constant change is the reason behind the stories we hear about the magic experienced in visitors’ journeys — each walk brings unexpected and delightful discoveries.”

 

Visit crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu or call 601-799-2311 for more information.

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