A Love Affair: Bumbles and Common Milkweed
By Debra Knapke
Every second and fourth Wednesday, the Governor’s Gardeners work in the Heritage Garden at the Ohio Governor’s Residence. The Heritage Garden is special and the only one of its kind in the United States. It showcases Ohio’s natural history by representing the five major ecosystems – also called physiographic regions – of the state I call home.
I’ve been a member of the Heritage Garden Committee since 2004 and have assisted in the design of two areas of the garden. I have taken a lot of pictures of this special place and am constantly amazed at the beauty of these vignettes of Ohio’s natural landscapes.
Today, when I arrived, I was drawn to the area where the common milkweed is in full bloom. Imagine the sound of hundreds of bumbles (short for “bumblebees”) and the sweetest perfume that floats on a breeze. What a perfect way to celebrate pollinator week: showing them busily at work and apparently very happy. Please excuse my human assumption that they are happy, but I was happy, so they must have been happy, too.
It is not easy to catch bees as they harvest nectar and pollen from thousands of flowers. If you look closely, you can see several bumbles in the picture below. On the left-most umbel of flowers you can see a bumble with loaded pollen sacs.
Guy Denney, former Chief of Natural Areas and Preserves for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and one of the first advisors for the Heritage Garden, said that this stand of milkweed is one individual plant that has colonized this patch of the garden. This plant well deserves the “weed” portion of its name. plant it only if you have room to spare or are willing to “edit” your stand of plants.
I will be watching for seeds later in July. Can’t wait to start my own patch of common milkweed.