Pollinators ♥ Native Plants Pt.2
Pollinators are animals which transport pollen from one plant to another aiding in the plants reproduction – creating seeds & fruits. Common pollinators include insects (especially bees), butterflies, moths, birds, bats and small mammals.
Pollinators are important for a healthy eco system & critical to many of our food crops, but are often lacking in urban gardens & landscapes. If plants are not pollinated, seeds & fruits are not produced. If these plants cannot reproduce, native pollinators will not have the necessary food & shelter to survive, thus creating a vicious cycle.
By planting native flowering plants & grasses in the garden and/or landscape you will likely improve native pollinator populations by providing this needed food and forage. Hedgerows of native plants can also be planted around vegetable gardens to increase pollination and decrease crop pests.
Native plants are also much more adaptive than exotics and require little care once established.
The following native plants will grow well in a sunny area & will attract a diverse group of native pollinators.
False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
There are over 40 native Bumble Bee species in North America. Bumble Bees are important pollinators of many native wildflowers and crops such as cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, squash and melons. Bumble Bees also use buzz pollination which makes them very efficient pollinators. They are considered to be much more efficient than Honey Bees.
False Sunflower is a native perennial growing 3-5′ tall. It is easy to grow, long blooming and somewhat shade tolerant, making it a good choice in the native garden.
Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera)
Long-horned Bees include 3 subspecies that are regarded as specialized pollinators, because they only visit certain plant species. Squash bees (Peponapis and Xenoglossa) are important pollinators of squash, pumpkins & gourds. Sunflower bees (Svastra) pollinate sunflower crops. Melissodes pollinate sunflowers, watermelons & cotton. Cotton is self pollinating but with cross-pollination from these bees, the plants yield a higher seed count.
Prairie Coneflower is a drought tolerant plant that withstands competition. It is also recognized by pollination ecologists as attracting large numbers of native bees.
Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)
Syrphid flies also known as hover flies or flower flies are especially beneficial because the larvae are predatory feeding on a variety of garden pests including aphids, scales, small caterpillars & thrips. A single larva can consume up to 400 aphids during its development. This is important to consider when using insecticides for aphid infested areas. Syrphid flies will lay their eggs on plants where aphids are present. Even insecticidal soap which generally will not harm adult syrphid flies, can be very disruptive to these soft bodied larvae. Adult syrphid flies are considered to be beneficial pollinators and can be found feeding on a large variety of flowering plants.
Spiderwort is very adaptable and will grow in full to partial sun, moist to slightly dry conditions in nearly all soil types. Flower clusters can be cut back after blooming to increase the blooming period.
Sedum (Sedum telephium ‘Autumn Joy’)
Honey bees are not native to North America but have become so important to crop pollination, they are mostly commercially managed in order to keep up with the pollination demands of many of our food crops. Unfortunately feral Honey bee colonies have almost disappeared due to urbanization, bacterial infections, mites & pesticide poisonings. More recently this has also affected commercial colonies, commonly known as Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD. This is one reason it is so important to embrace our native pollinators, as they are less likely to suffer these consequences if they are provided a native environment.
Paper wasps, Yellowjackets, Hornets and Potter wasps are beneficial predators in the garden by helping to keep leaf eating caterpillars such as corn earworms, armyworms, loopers, and hornworms under control. These pests are captured, chewed up and fed to the larvae. Adults are considered to be light pollinators, as they often nectar from flowering plants.
Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ although this is not native to North America, ‘Autumn Joy’ is a carefree, non invasive plant for late summer – fall color. This plant also provides food for honey bees that require pollen late in the season in order to overwinter in the hive.
Stokes’ Aster (Stokesia laevis)
Large Carpenter Bees
The Eastern Carpenter Bee is the most common large carpenter bee throughout the eastern United States. Large carpenter bees closely resemble large bumble bees, but have shiny dark abdomens. They are important pollinators of many open faced flowers, but will sometimes rob nectar by chewing a hole in the base of the flower, thus causing no pollination to occur.
Stokes’ Aster is in the Cichorioideae (Chicory) family. The cultivars come in a wide variety of colors from blue to pink to yellow. This plant is highly drought tolerant and is compact growing less than 24 inches tall, making it a great addition to border edges and small gardens!
Threadleaf Coreopsis (C. verticillata or C. rosea)
There are nearly 500 species of Sweat Bees or Halictid Bees in North America. They range in size from barely visible to slightly smaller than a honey bee. These native bees are important pollinators to a wide variety of plants. They are generalists, so they typically will visit most flowering plants in the garden or landscape from early spring into fall.
Threadleaf Coreopsis or commonly called Tickseed, is native to the southeastern United States. There are many cultivars that will perform well in colder climates, particularly ‘Moonbeam’ which is hardy down to zone 3. It is a versatile plant, relatively free from pests and diseases, and will attract a great number of pollinators throughout the growing season.
Read about more native plants and the pollinators that love them – Pollinators ♥ Native Plants Pt.1