Plenty of tree planting options this Arbor Day

Published 10:33 am Friday, January 24, 2020

We couldn’t determine exactly how long the county Soil and Water Conservation District has conducted its Arbor Day tree seedling giveaway program, but over 30 years for sure.

The 2020 version will take place Friday, Feb. 7 from 8 a.m. until noon or until the seedlings are all gone, whichever comes first. The location is the parking lot of the USDA office, 2660 Sherman Ave.

Each person coming for seedlings will get a packet of six different native species plus a handful of pines, the pines being optional. This year’s lineup of species should make for hardy additions for both home landscapes and wildlife plantings.

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I’m starting with the pines since it will be Slash pine seedlings instead of the traditional Loblolly. There’s a shortage of Loblolly seedlings everywhere this winter. If someone were going to plant a hundred acres of pines, I’d say wait until next year and get Loblolly. But for yards or mixed woods on small acreage, Slash will be fine.

Loblolly accounts for most of the state’s planted acreage, but Slash is the choice for the more acidic, lower fertility and sandy soils of Southeast Mississippi. Both species are original to this area and most of us couldn’t stand back from a growing pine and tell if it’s a Slash or Loblolly. The discernible differences we laymen would have to learn are the length and number of needles.

Mayhaw is another species to be handed out. Mayhaws are small, fruit-bearing trees best known for jelly made with the fruit.

While some old-timers might recall mayhaw trees growing in sloughs with shallow water in the spring and scooping up floating mayhaws, the trees and their fruit do just fine on well-drained land. There was even a push about 20 years ago to initiate a mayhaw farming enterprise in the state.

You don’t need to commit to making jelly to plant a free mayhaw tree: the birds and furry critters are the real target here.

Overcup oak is in the white oak family and, being a heavy acorn producer, it is indeed a wildlife plant. Like the mayhaw, Overcup will tolerate some wet soil part of the year, but the hillside soils around here are in its native range.

The pollen of Red Maple is a honeybee favorite and the seeds are gathered and stored for later by squirrels. The fall leaf color alone makes this one a favorite in landscapes.

Waxmyrtle is a tall, multi-trunk evergreen shrub that used to be in many landscapes. It has somewhat of a comeback because it’s low maintenance. Bees, butterflies and birds appreciate this one.

The berries of Black Cherry are eaten by several types of wildlife which seem to know the leaves, twigs and bark contain a toxin. In bygone days, Appalachian folks used the toxin as a cough remedy.

Finally, Sycamore is the fastest-growing of our long-lived large trees. Most of us now mow leaves instead of raking them, so there’s that.

If needed, the seedling phone number is 601-630-0278 Ext 3.


Terry Rector writes for the Warren County Soil and Water Conservation District.