Asters, Sages and Milkweeds, Oh, My II

Pollinators and Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Gardens – Part 2

By Debra Knapke 

Last week, I introduced you to the pollinators in Part 1. Now, it’s time for the pollinator plants . . .

Let’s start with general plant groups and work toward some specific choices in each group. This is a start. Any plant that is not wind-pollinated has an associated pollinator. Once you start exploring your plant options, the sky is the limit.

Aster family

Most members of this family provide a perfect perch for many insects. You will see an array of bugs, beetles, flies, bees, wasps and spiders  crawling on the composite daisy flowers (Note: spiders are actually looking for their next meal; it’s a bug-eat-bug world out there!).

Echinacea purpurea skipper

Echinacea purpurea — purple coneflower, plus a skipper

Achillea filipendulina

Achillea filipendulina – yarrow; a full sun plant!

 

Silphium laciniatum flw Heritage Garden 7-20-07 resize

Silphium laciniatum – compass plant, a stately native

 

Aster Symphyotrichum purple Dome plant crop resize 2

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’ – one of the last flowers for butterflies & other pollinators

honey bee on aster pollen sacs 10-3-05 crop 2

In October, a honeybee sips a late drink from a ‘Purple Dome.’

IMG_2027 Cheekwood Gardens 9-12-208 resize

Zinnia angustifolia ‘Orange Profusion’– narrowleaf zinnia is an annual that is a pollinator magnet.

Bean/Pea family

Not only do the bumbles and other bees like the pea and bean family, but this group of plants has a lovely relationship with several species of bacteria that can fix gaseous nitrogen into a form that can be used by plants. Nitrogen is often the most limiting nutrient in built landscapes. This plant offers a way to fix the problem.

Baptisia australis staked resize

Baptisia australis – false indigo – is one of the most enduring plants in the garden.

Milkweed family

We have many species of milkweeds and butterflyweeds that are native to the Midwest. A recent study found that swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is the most likely to be chosen by the monarch butterfly as a larval host in the Midwest.  The Mexican tropical milkweed – Asclepias curassavica – is the host plant for the monarch when it travels south for the winter.

Asclepias tuberosa 6-24-10 resize

Asclepias tuberosa – butterflyweed for butterflies and bees

Mint family

Species in this herbal family should be in every garden.  Many of the species are our favorite culinary herbs (basil, mint, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme…) and many have anti-fungal, anti-bacterial attributes. The bilabiate flowers have long throats that lead to the nectaries. I have watched bumbles chew into the base of the flower because they could not enter the flower through the “front door.”

IMG_0965 crop

Lavandula angustifolia – English lavender with skipper

 

salvia elegans Innis 10-09-09 crop

Salvia elegans (red, pineapple sage) and Salvia leucantha (blue, Mexican bush sage) are hummingbird dream-plants. I have been “strafed” in the garden by hummingbirds when I have stood in the flight path to the flowers.

Salvia officinalis flowers 5-24-06 crop

Salvia officinalis – common sage which is tasty and beautiful.

Parsley/Celery family

Another family that contains many herbal plants and some of our most potent poisons, not only feeds pollinators but also attracts the “good” bugs that eat the “bad” bugs – at least from the human perspective.

bronze fennel aster laevis10-2-07 resize

Foeniculum vulgare ‘Purpureum’ – bronze fennel is another multi-tasker in the garden. It is a culinary and medicinal plant. It hosts a variety of butterfly larvae while offering pollen and nectar to many insects.

 

Eryngium yuccifolium lvs Knapke 8-10-09 resize

Eryngium yuccifolium – rattlesnake master – a tea made from its roots is reputed to be an antidote for snake venom; not sure I would trust that. Its flowers attract a myriad of insects.

 

All of the above are herbaceous perennials, but many trees and shrubs provide food for pollinators, too. Below is a bumble on her way to becoming drunk from the flowers of a littleleaf linden tree – Tilia cordata.

bee on Tilia flower Holden 6-25-09 resize

Wishing you awe in the garden!!!

Eryngium yuccifolium Knapke 8-10-09 resize 2

 

 

Asters, Sages & Milkweeds, Oh, My (I)

Pollinators and Plants for Pollinator-Friendly Gardens – Part 1

By Debra Knapke
Pollinators and plants: a beautiful symbiotic relationship that is usually mutually beneficial.  A plant gets to propagate itself, while the pollinator gets food. We’ve always known that these relationships exist, but there are threats that are interfering with plant and pollinator interactions. Global Climate Change, habitat reduction, and pesticide use are just a few.
We can be part of the solution. Resist using pesticides in the garden and let the “good” bugs have a chance to eat the “bad” bugs. Buy more plants and create pollinator habitats in your garden.
In order to choose which plants, you need to know who you are inviting in.
Meet the pollinators:
Bees
In the June/July 2016 National Wildlife magazine it was reported that bees contribute $300 billion toward global agricultural systems.  We are fortunate to have a diverse group of native bees in the Midwest. If you are interested in learning more about identification and good landscape practices for supporting our native bees, check out the resources at the Ohio State University Bee Lab website.
The non-native, but very important honeybee will benefit from the same plants and practices that you would use for our native bees.  This is a case where native/non-native is a non-issue. Both native and non-native bees are essential to our well-being.
bumble on Consolida ambigua 6-25-06

Bumblebee on annual larkspur

Flies
Some of the bees you see are actually flies; often called Hover flies or Syrphid flies. A bonus of this pollinator group is that the larval stage is a voracious eater of aphids.

How can you tell bees and flies apart? A quick way is to note the number of wings: bees have two pairs; flies have one pair.

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Fly on witch hazel

Sometimes we do not give flies their due in the insect world. I would like to offer this thought: without a small tropical fly, we would not have chocolate.
Hummingbirds
This flying jewel is particularly fond of deep-throated flowers. They typically live in the Midwest from the beginning of April to the beginning of October. On their quest for nectar, they also transfer pollen between flowers.61006 050
Butterflies, Skippers and Moths
Monarchs have been the poster child for creating habitat for pollinators, but there are so many other butterflies, skippers and moths that benefit from a ready source of nectar and their required larval plants. Some pollinators are night visitors. A moon garden filled with night-blooming white and pale yellow flowered species offers food to night-flying moths.
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Asclepias curassavica with monarch larva 8-9-15

Asclepias curassavica — tropical milkweed — with monarch larvae

 

There are other pollinators, but this is not meant to be an exhaustive treatise. It is an introduction. Hopefully you will be intrigued enough to do some research of your own.
On Friday, look for my follow-up post on pollinators’ favorite plants.

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