Some Outstanding Mississippi Native Trees For Your Winter Planting Projects – Picayune Item
By Patricia Drackett
Director of the Crosby Arboretum and
Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture Extension in the Extension Service at Mississippi State University.
Bald Cypresses (Taxodium distichum) are one of the iconic trees of our coastal south. Many who claim to have little plant knowledge can usually quickly identify cypresses, live oaks, and southern magnolias. Can you spot a bald cypress in the winter landscape? The tree has a characteristic shape, with its multiple small branches and pyramidal shape and one of the best trees to withstand hurricane damage. Have you noticed the cypress trees growing in the middle of Memorial Boulevard in Picayune?
Bald Cypress is a native tree that occurs naturally in moist habitats on the Southern Coastal Plain, such as the edges of the ponds in the Arboretum Aquatic Exhibit. It prefers acidic soils and full sun. Although it tolerates moist sites, this tree also thrives in dry environments.
According to the publication “Champion Trees of Mississippi,” published by the Mississippi Forestry Commission, the tallest tree in Mississippi is a bald cypress located near the town of Belzoni in Humphreys County on property owned by the Department of Wildlife, Mississippi Fisheries and Parks. The tree measures 46 feet, 9 inches in circumference, approximately 15 feet in diameter, and 70 feet in height. This state champion sits 300 feet from the former champion bald cypress, which is only slightly smaller and is the second tallest tree in the state. According to the publication, one of these trees would produce enough wood to build six ordinary houses!
This tree will grow quite tall, up to 70 feet or more, but it will take some time to reach those heights. Bald cypress also grows very quickly when young, and is attractive in the landscape due to its uniform shape and feathery leaves that turn rusty orange in fall.
Want free mulch? Cypress leaves are an attractive cover in landscaped beds. Simply rake delicate leaves from your lawn areas and use them to conserve soil moisture and reduce weed growth in your flower beds. Do you have areas on your property that are constantly wet? You may know this tree because of its tendency to grow “knees” in lawns. If you don’t like the idea of bald cypress knees growing in your lawn, consider planting a group of three or more trees and add native irises such as Southern Blue Flag (Iris virginiana) or some of the beautiful natives of Louisiana. hybrid iris at the base to create an “island” area in your lawn. The trees will provide you with a light, lacy shade.
Bald Cypress is found planted in groupings around the Arboretum’s Piney Woods Pond. On your next visit, observe where it grows on our site and repeat these patterns in the landscape of your home. Stand at the edge of our Pinecote lodge and look slightly to your left towards the area called Cypress Head. Follow the Pond Journey to this area and you will discover a hidden gazebo surrounded by both Bald Cypress and Pond Cypress (Taxodium ascendens). Pond cypress has a sparser, finer appearance than bald cypress and is naturally found in moist savannahs and shallow ponds, while bald cypress is found in much wetter areas such as swamps, floodplains and lowlands.
At the Mississippi State University Extension website (http://extension.msstate.edu/), home gardeners can download two excellent publications on native Mississippi shrubs and trees, “Native Trees for Mississippi Landscapes” and “Native Shrubs for Mississippi Landscapes”. Search by title on the MSU Extension website. Many additional resources on native plants and sustainable landscaping are also available to read or download here.
A winter botanical walk will take place on Saturday, February 26 from 1 to 2 p.m. with director Pat Drackett. Explore native plants in the Crosby Arboretum exhibits and learn about the uses of native species in the garden and home landscape, including those that are edible or have wildlife value. The walk is $3 for Arboretum members and $5 for non-members.
Join us for a relaxing Forest Therapy Walk with Nadine Phillips, Certified Forest Therapy Guide-in-Training with the International Nature and Forest Therapy Alliance, on Friday, February 25 or Saturday, March 5, from 12:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. 30. This inviting way to immerse our senses in the atmosphere of the forest is backed by significant medical and scientific research, and the plethora of health benefits is vast. Space is limited and reservations are required. Members $10; non-members $15. Call 601-799-2311 to register for programs.
Mark your calendar for our big native plant spring sale on Friday and Saturday, March 25 and 26. Check our website at crosbyarboretum.msstate.edu/ or our Facebook page for more information on programs and activities.
We are located at 370 Ridge Road in Picayune at I-59 exit 4. Leashed pets are always welcome!