Development Direction

A woman, smiling, wearing a blue polo and sitting on a wooden fence.

Ruth Cook, MSU Crosby Arboretum volunteer and donor

Strong Support

Donors make arboretum mission possible

Story by Susan Collins-Smith • Photo by Kevin Hudson

Crosby Arboretum is a living memorial to L. O. Crosby, a philanthropist, forester, and civic leader who loved nature. In the early 1980s, his family turned his former strawberry farm into a place that could instill a love of nature in others. Today, it’s a culmination of this family’s hope, an architecture team’s vision, and countless volunteers’ dedication and hard work.

“This is an incredible place,” reflects Ruth Cook, one of several longtime volunteers and donors to the arboretum. “We offer so many experiences. There is something here for everyone. The team here does an excellent job of offering a wide variety of programs—from hands-on education on pollinators, mushrooms, and beekeeping to cultural events like Forge Day.”

Located in Picayune, the largest city in Pearl River County, the 104-acre plant conservatory serves as a vehicle for research, education, and preservation focused on the native ecosystems of the Pearl River Drainage Basin. The arboretum is managed by the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

The arboretum is also intended to be a space for interpretation and immersion, and people come to the site for different reasons—a day of exploration, quiet solace, or ideas for creating their own natural landscapes.

“I believe in the arboretum’s mission,” declares Cook, a forester and MSU graduate. “The more you work here, the more it seeps into you. The more I am here, the more it is a part of home. I’m excited to see how it continues to evolve.”

Some of the many projects to which she contributed include the plant propagation program, art gallery lighting, shade sails for the pollinator garden, and various donations to all three of the arboretum’s major educational exhibits: the Gum Pond, Swamp Forest, and Quaking Bog.

“I’m just a small piece of it,” Cook insists, sharing credit with all supporters. “We have so many donors who give of their time, money, or materials.

“If I see something that is needed, I try to pitch in and help. When others see you doing that, they realize they can do it, too. Those small things become really great things in time.”

Pat Drackett, arboretum director, says support opportunities are many.

“There are plenty of ways people can donate here, whether it’s in the form of time, materials, or money,” she explains. “Everything helps us meet our goal, which is to have people leave here transformed in some way.”

Visit the Crosby Arboretum’s website at

Video by Brian Utley

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