(News article for February 26, 2020)
My professional interests are largely in the fruit and vegetable realm. I think this is related to having a bent towards the utilitarian. I like things that I can eat (preferably without cooking). At the same time, I like pretty plants, too.
In reality, there are a lot of cases in which “useful” and “pretty” intersect. One of my favorite horticultural quotes is from landscape designer Andrew Jackson Downing: “Fine fruit is the flower of commodities. It is the most perfect union of the useful and the beautiful that the earth knows.”
Another case in which “useful” and “beautiful” cross paths is in plants that support pollinating insects. Honeybees have gotten quite a bit of attention in recent years, and these European natives are very important. There are also roughly 4000 species of bees native to North America – including bumblebees, mason bees, leafcutting bees, and carpenter bees – that pollinate plants. Some butterflies, moths, flies, and beetles act as pollinators, too.
If you want to support pollinators, there are many options, including trees, shrubs, and herbaceous (non-woody) plants. They include commonly grown plants – like crapemyrtles, citrus trees, yaupon hollies, chrysanthemums, and zinnias – as well as less common ones.
A number of plants that have been chosen as Louisiana Super Plants support pollinators. These include Homestead Purple verbena, Mesa Gaillardia (blanket flower), Intenz Classic celosia, Butterfly pentas, rabbiteye blueberry, Shoal Creek Vitex (chaste tree), Little Gem southern magnolia, and sweetbay magnolia.
There a several fact sheets on our website that provide lists of plants that support pollinators. The Use of Flowering Plants publication has an extensive list. It is part of the Protecting Pollinators in Urban Areas series, which also includes fact sheets titled Pollinator Ecology, Reducing Hazards from Pesticide Use, and Safe Use of Integrated Pest Management.
There is another list of pollinator-supporting plants in the Pollinator Gardening in Louisiana publication, which is part of the Urban Pollinator Conservation series. This series also includes the fact sheets Conserving Pollinators with Edible Landscaping and Constructing Backyard Bee Hotels.
Finally, our Beginning with Bees publication has a list of plants that provide either nectar and/or pollen for honeybees.
If you’re interested in these publications and have trouble finding them, please contact me.
Let me know if you have questions.
Contact Mary Helen Ferguson.
Bee on an Intenz Classic celosia flower at the Hammond Research Station (Photo by M.H. Ferguson)
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture