Southern Region Viewing Area
LOCATION and PHOTOS
Forest: National Forests in Mississippi
District: De Soto Ranger District
Description: The first five miles of Tuxachanie Trail (between the trailhead on Highway 49 and the Airey Campground offer a variety of habitats, all offering wildflower viewing opportunities in season. The trail crosses a variety of wetland situations including sloughs, creeks, ponds, pitcher-plant bogs, and lowland swamps. Intermixed with these wet habitats are acres of dry, sandy longleaf pine woods. There is even a small beech-magnolia forest about a mile from the trailhead. This section of trail follows an old abandoned logging railroad built in the early 1900s by immigrants using hand tools and mule-drawn earthmovers. Visitors enter the trail through long rows of live oaks planted at the site in 1935. The trail is fairly flat and easy walking and includes several sections of elevated wooden footbridges. There is a short section of the trail that is shared by a horse trail.
Wildflower viewing: Wildflower viewing can be done from mid to late march with early blooming shrubs and wildflowers including but not limited to horse-sugar (Symplocos tinctoria), star-anise (Illicium floridanum), wild azalea (Rhododendron canescens), yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens), with various violets (Viola spp.) and heart-leafs (Hexastylis arifolia) on the forest floor. In the creeks and drains crossing the trail you can find abundant golden club (Orontium aquaticum). In the longleaf pine forest, look for the saw palmetto (Serenoa repens) in the sandy soil and compare it to the palmetto (Sabal minor) in the wetter sites in the woods. The pitcher plant bogs will start with Stoke’s aster (Stokesia laevis), butterworts (Pinguicula lutea and P. primuliflora), sundews (Drosera spp.), and be followed in short order by the aspect dominant yellow pitcher plant (Sarracenia alata), the low growing parrot’s beak pitcher plant (Sarracenia psittacina) and various orchids including members of the genera Platanthera, Spiranthes, Calapogon, Pogonia, and Cleistes. Later in the summer, at least two species of fairy-wands (Liatris spicata and L. pycnostachya) will seem to cover the bogs with their blooms. On the drier sites (Liatris squarrosa) and (Liatris squarrulosa) compete. Throughout the year various yellow flowered composites will add their color the mix: Balduina, Coreopsis, Helianthus, Heterotheca, Solidago, Rudbeckia, and Helenium. Various members of the genus Aster will bloom until first frost in varying shades of white, lavenders, and blues. For the truly adventurous, much more diversity can be found in the more taxonomically difficult members of the grass, sedge and rush families. The showy red-flowered Lilium catesbaei is truly spectacular when in bloom. Not as obvious but interesting are the Xyris and Eriocaulon with their odd appearing flower structures. The structure of the bogs is very fragile so visitors should limit their viewing to the edges of the bog since trampling through the bog leaves damage that may last for several years or longer.
Safety First: Hiking boots are advisable although the trail is fairly level, they do offer some protection in the event of an encounter with a poisonous snake. If bitten, seek medical attention immediately, do not attempt to suck out, or otherwise remove the venom. Mosquitoes, ticks, and chiggers will be active from early spring to late fall, so insect repellent should be liberally applied to trouser cuffs, arms, neck and head. Poison sumac and Poison ivy are both present and should not be touched. Long pants are necessary and long sleeved shirts are advisable. Be prepared for hot humid weather. Bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen and a hat. No drinking water is available along the trail but is available at the Airey Campground.
Directions: The trailhead can be reached from either U.S Highway 98 near Hattiesburg, Mississippi or I-10 near Gulfport, Mississippi. In both cases, take the U.S. Highway 49 exit and drive North from Gulfport (xx miles) or South from Hattiesburg (yy miles). The trailhead is located 2.5 miles north of Saucier, Mississippi, is on the east side of the highway, and well marked. Parking is available.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, National Forests in Mississippi, DeSoto Ranger District.
Nearest Town: Wiggins, Mississippi.