Located in Picayune, Mississippi, the Crosby Arboretum is a facility of Mississippi State University, offering a variety of nature trails and landscaped plantings of trees, shrubs, and native plants of the Gulf Coast region and beyond as part of an outdoor natural recreation facility.
The Crosby Arboretum was created in honor of forestry advocate and civic leader L.O. Crosby, Jr., who was a major philanthropist throughout the southern Mississippi region. Following Crosby’s 1978 death, funds were dedicated by his family for the creation of an interpretive natural center to display native plants of the Pearl River Drainage Basin area. The Crosby Arboretum Foundation nonprofit organization was created to oversee the facility’s construction, which would be housed on a 64-acre parcel of land that had formerly been the site of a Depression-era strawberry farm Crosby had expressed interest in during his life. The arboretum’s interpretive center, known as Pinecote, was opened to the public in 1979 as a living memorial for Crosby and a natural educational resource for the Picayune community. The center was designed by architect E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, and is today considered one of the greatest architectural achievements in the Pearl County region. Construction on the arboretum facility began in the early 1980s, with the facility officially opening to the public in 1986. The facility became a partner organization of Mississippi State University in 1997.
Permanent Attractions and Facilities
Today, the Crosby Arboretum is operated as a partner facility of the University of Mississippi, with operations jointly overseen by the Crosby Arboretum Foundation. As a public nature park and interpretive center, the 64-acre arboretum showcases a variety of native trees, shrubs, and plants and offers public nature educational programming. In addition to the arboretum site, the Foundation manages more than 700 acres of natural habitats within the southern Mississippi region, protecting more than 300 indigenous species of trees, wildflowers, and grasses. As the largest and most renowned native plant conservatory in the American Southeast, the arboretum oversees a variety of environment conservation and management programming, contributing to the ecosystem of the Pearl River Drainage Basin through its habitat.
The centerpiece of the facility is its Pinecote Pavilion interpretive center, which was the 1991 recipient of an American Institute of Architects Honor Award and was the primary piece responsible for earning Jones his AIA Gold Medal. Constructed on former disused farmland and pine plantation space, the center’s architecture is strongly inspired by the design principles of Frank Lloyd Wright and is noted as one of the crowning architectural achievements of the Mississippi region. The pavilion serves as a gathering point for nature programming throughout the arboretum and a venue for concerts, performances, and community social gatherings. The structure is entirely constructed of indigenous materials, including native pine and earth-toned brick. All design elements are incorporated as functional parts of the pavilion’s operation, using the natural shadows of its landscape as ever-changing design elements.
A number of planting exhibits are showcased throughout the arboretum, including a Savannah Exhibit, which presents trees and grasses native to the area’s original grassland habitat landscaped around a central theme of fire. A Woodland Exhibit showcases more than 12,000 native trees and shrubs, including oak, beech, and hickory trees, while an Aquatic Exhibit contains a 2 ½-acre freshwater pond and reconstructs a wetland environment. Many trails and nature walks are offered throughout the facility, including a Slough Trail bordering a deep-water slough area, a Pond Journey that passes between the Pinecote Pavilion and the aquatic wetland pond, a Woodland Trail through the facility’s pine and hardwood forest area, and an interactive Children’s Trail that provides educational information about the area’s flora and fauna. Several trails have been named for prominent area naturalist and historical figures, including the Ross Hutchins Trail, the Ed Blake Trail, the William Bartram Trail, and the Bill Cibula Trail. Other trails available include north and south end Savannah Loop Trails and a themed Ethnobotany Trail.
Ongoing Programs and Education
Self-guided tours of the facility are available weekly on Wednesdays through Sundays, with guided tour reservations available for large groups, including curriculum-incorporated field trip opportunities for elementary and secondary student groups. A variety of nature programming is offered for community members and visitors, including nature walks and lectures embarking from the Pinecote Pavilion and the facility’s Visitor’s Center. Public special event programming throughout the year includes a Forge Day festival, a two-day Bugfest, a Piney Woods Heritage Festival, and a Native Plant field day event. Rotating quarterly art exhibitions are also presented at the facility’s art gallery within the Visitor’s Center building, showcasing works that depict and celebrate the natural world.
370 Ridge Rd, Picayune, MS 39466, Phone: 601-799-2311