Plant for Pollinators

echinacea 2006 Louis-M.Landry
echinacea 2006 Louis-M.Landry

“From melons to chocolate, pollinators make it possible!” (Utah State University). Almost all of our food – nuts, seeds, berries, fruits, grains, even milk (after all the cow has to eat!) – requires pollination. Pizza, cheese, pretzels, chips, hamburgers, beer, wine, fruit drinks and even medicines can require pollination. According to Natural Resource Conservation Service, 90 percent of our human food crops need animal, including insect, pollination for reproduction. Pollinators include bees, butterflies, wasps, hummingbirds, moths, flies, beetles, birds or bats.

Flowering plants have co-evolved with their pollinator partners producing fascinating pollinator adaptations. These include color, fragrance, shape, visual clues and even entrapment. Some flowers such as iris have nectar guides that lead a bumblebee down the throat of the flower to the pollen and nectar. The shape of native azaleas invites hummingbirds in to sample the nectar. Some flowers are big, such as lilies, so they can be seen from a distance beckoning pollinators. Many provide landing sites for critters, especially beetles. Certain pollinators are attracted to the blue of violets or the red of penstemons. Red and yellow flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Bats and moths come out at night feeding on white or cream-colored flowers with heady fragrances.

Gardeners can increase the pollinator team by using a diversity of plants, particularly natives, that feed and shelter these important critters. Native and adapted plants that attract pollinators include columbine, violet, goldenrod, coneflower, evening primrose, buckwheat, paintbrush, arrowleaf balsamroot, sticky geranium, beebalm, gentian and lilies. Visit this U.S. Forest service site on pollinators http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/syndromes.shtml.

Another thing you can do is to reduce your lawn area. Lawns offer little food or shelter to pollinators and take up space that could be planted with flowers. Also, minimize your pesticide use. Never contact flowers with insecticides or time applications when plants aren’t blooming. Avoid systemic insecticides in trees and shrubs. Provide a water source such as a birdbath or shallow dish of water on the ground.

If you are a gardener, cultivate pollinators along with your veggies and fruits by planting climate-adapted plants to ensure garden success.

On June 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. learn how to “Gain the Upper Hand on Weeds” with Dr. Sue Donaldson, Cooperative Extension’s water quality specialist. If weeds are driving you crazy, learn how to match the best control method to each weed. Location is Cooperative Extension, 2621 Northgate #12, Carson City. Please RSVP to 887-2252.