By Patricia Drackett
Director of the Crosby Arboretum and
assistant extension professor of landscape architecture with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.
Warm temperatures have recently convinced us that summer has arrived in coastal Mississippi. In addition to the plentiful bounty of summer perennials in the Savanna Exhibit which are all competing for the attention of our visitors, wildlife sightings are becoming more frequent.
A walk on our Visitor Center deck always seems to include a scurrying of a well-fed squirrel, lizard, or dragonfly. Birds serenade us upon our morning arrival, and as we depart in the evening. From here, we’ve observed chickadees and woodpeckers, skinks with electric blue tails, newly emerged luna moths, and fledgling cardinals trying out their new wings.
A trek through our exhibits rarely goes without a wildlife encounter. Perhaps you’ll flush out a group of yellow-rumped warblers or discover a mass of writhing caterpillars on the trunk of a tree. On the Pond Journey, you may be treated to the sight of a water bird such as a great blue heron or white egret.? Some lucky persons have even reported catching a glimpse of our elusive river otter.
One summer, a green tree frog took up residence under the plastic sign taped on the front door of our gift shop. Although he would go out exploring in the mornings, every afternoon he found his way up back under the sign. Hidden to visitors approaching the front door, he provided great entertainment to those of us on the inside, and we would marvel at his tiny feet and belly squished up against the door’s window glass.
Once, I glanced out my window to find a gray fox perched on a fallen pine tree (incidentally, right next to a bird feeder). A swift dash to grab my camera luckily froze this moment in time. The following year, a film crew shooting footage in the Gum Pond Exhibit captured a red fox bounding through the woods along the pond’s edge. Occasionally, bears make the journey up from the wooded, swampy sites south of the Arboretum, as I discovered a few years ago on my way home one day when I encountered that what looked to be a giant poodle sitting in the center of our service road turned out to be a bear. In the coming weeks, there were many other reports of bear sightings near the Arboretum. As the bear, unfortunately, did not pause for a photo, I was glad that other sightings finally confirmed my experience and my sanity!
Green anoles, the only anole species native to North American, are common at the Arboretum. You might see one scampering along the deck rail or creeping among the vines that cover the tree trunks along our pathways. Anoles are often called chameleons, but although they do resemble them, chameleons are not native to the Americas.
Want to attract birds and other wildlife to your yard? Visit the MSU Extension website at? http://extension.msstate.edu/ and search for “Establishing a Backyard Wildlife Habitat” (Publication No. 2402).
Make plans to visit our south Pitcher Plant Bog soon to experience the brilliant Mississippi wildflowers. And while you are checking in at the Visitor Center, see the spectacular exhibit on display in our gallery by artist Chatham Kemp. Stay tuned for more details about Chatham and her work, and the children’s painting workshop she will be leading in July.
Mark your calendar for a Yoga class on Pinecote Pavilion Saturday, June 19 from 9:30 – 10:30 a.m. or attend the wire-wrapped jewelry workshop with Connie Boyd of Unique Stones that same Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.? Make and take a beautiful handmade pendant with a semi-precious stone wrapped in Sterling Silver wire. Cost is $70 and includes a chain, tools for use, silver wire, and your choice of stone, paid directly to the instructor the day of the workshop.
Sign up for our Plant Propagation Workshop with Dr. Eddie Smith, Pearl River County Extension Agent Friday, July 16, from 10:00 a.m. to Noon.? The program will include a presentation that covers basic propagation methods, and some hands-on activities in the greenhouse.
The “All About Hummingbirds” program with long-time hummingbird bander James Bell is Saturday, August 14 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. More details are available on these programs and more are our website program calendar. Reservations are required for our programs. Call 601-799-2311 to sign up (and pay when you arrive). More details on summer programs will be posted soon on our website calendar and Facebook page. Sign up for our email listserv to receive periodic announcements of upcoming programs on our website under “Event Updates” at www.crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu.
The Crosby Arboretum is located in Picayune, I-59 Exit 4, at 370 Ridge Road (south of Walmart and adjacent to I-59).