The Science Series: All About Pollinators

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The Science Series: All About Pollinators

Welcome to our newest adventure—our Science Series! This will be our corner of the blog devoted to plant science, with particular attention to the Colorado environment, Beet & Yarrow’s home state. This month, we want to talk about our native pollinators here in Colorado, along with which plants they love best; this is just one way to be mindful of your landscape and support a healthy, thriving ecology.

Talking About the Birds and the Bees

Our plains, prairies, mountains, and valleys—and of course, our city blocks!—are home to a host of pollinators—honey bees are the most common pollinator, along with butterflies, beetles, wasps, flies, hummingbirds, and even bats. We have 946 species of native bees—more than the whole eastern U.S. combined—because of our breadth of diverse habitats and regional climates within the state. Butterflies—of which there are 250 species—typically visit flowers that are in clusters and provide landing platforms, are brightly colored, open during the day, and are ample nectar producers. Moths (1,000 species here—amazing!) step in at night, working the graveyard shift in the pollination world; they love nocturnal flowers with pale flowers and a heady fragrance. Hummingbirds are effective pollinators because their faces become dusted in pollen when they are extracting nectar with their long slender bills, as they move from flower to flower.

A honeybee pollinating delicate purple flowers

Happy Home Garden Pollinators

The way we plant our yards and gardens can have a vital impact on the support of these species: for example, replacing grass with drought-tolerant plants will have beneficial birds, bees, butterflies, and moths flocking to it. They also look for water sources, along with certain plants they favor. 

When it comes to pollinator happiness, there are a few standout options to consider planting. White Coneflower—or echinacea—attracts birds and butterflies, and is native to prairies and meadows. It’s adaptable in that it tolerates drought, heat, and low-fertility soil. Simple Garden Sage—the kind also enjoyed in your kitchen—has a strong, earthy fragrance that’s irresistible to us, and to bees; it’s also a hardy drought tolerator. Native Bee Balm requires little water and holds strong in dry heat and sunny Colorado summers—this one brings bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds in droves; Rocky Mountain Penstemon is another easy-growing and vibrant purple flowering plant. Sunset Hyssop is gratifying on two accounts: it has gorgeous orange, tubular flowers, and blooms in the hottest, driest days of summer, providing a much-needed nectar source when most other perennials have stopped blooming.  Fun fact: you can recognize a hummingbird-pollinated plant by its long trumpet shape flower (think honeysuckle, hummingbird vine, and columbines—our state flower!); it’s like they were made for each other. Outside of our state, there are all kinds of fascinating pollinator stories—for example, in Central America, South America, Africa, and Asia, flies pollinate cacao trees

Even the smallest of garden spaces, including potted and window gardens, can help pollinators thrive. If you’re looking for planting recs for pollinators, call us up or come into the shop for guidance!