Monday, February 28, 2011

Virginia Mountain-mint

Virgina Mountain-mint is said to occur throughout much of eastern and central North America.

It is not a plant I remember seeing anywhere, however, except at the Evergreen Brick Works. There it has probably been planted as part of their re-naturalization program.

Pollinating insects love it. Here is a quote from the Illinois wildflower website: "Many insects are strongly attracted to the flowers, including various bees, wasps, flies, small butterflies, and beetles. Typical visitors from these groups include honeybees, Cuckoo bees, Halictid bees, Sphecid wasps, Eumenine wasps, bee flies, Tachinid flies, Wedge-shaped beetles, and Pearl Cresecent butterflies."

To this, as today's photo shows, we can definitely add bumblebees.

[Photo by D. Barr]

Friday, February 25, 2011

Wild Bergamot

I first encountered Bergamot as a kid. They were planted in our gardens at home and I loved to watch when they attracted pollinators. Hummingbirds came to them in the daytime. And at dusk the big sphinx moths could be seen hovering beside the flower heads and tanking up on nectar.

Little did I realize that there is a native form of this attractive flower as well - the Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa).

The native plant has lavender flowers instead of the bright red of the cultivated variety. Lavender is more attractive to bees, of course, who can't see red at all.

Wild Bergamot occurs throughout most of North America, and it drives insect pollinators wild. Another name for it (and for a closely related species) is Bee Balm.

This is a hardy plant that flowers from June to September - ideal to plant in pollinator habitats.

[Photo by D. Barr]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Common Wild Rose - A Pollinator Favorite

Native bee pollinator on Common Wild Rose

This rose is the type of ancestor from which all our cultivated roses came. This is Rosa virginica, which occurs naturally throughout eastern North America, from Alabama up to Newfoundland and Ontario. In the Canadian maritime provinces, it is said, this rose "grows with an almost invasive rhythm."

But note the differences with highly-selected, horticultural types like the American Beauty Rose. The native species has only five petals that spread widely around a shallow, cup-shaped blossom.

And most important of all, it still has loads of stamens, each loaded with pollen. So bees of all kinds, including bumblebees seek it out for a generous supply of the basic foods they need.

Plant any of these simple roses in the garden and they will thrive. In a sunny location they can flower all summer long. And your garden will be a quiet reserve for the preservation of natural pollinator populations.

[Photo by D. Barr]


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