It is fun to see the Morris F4P study garden – and visitors to the annual Horticulture Night in the Display garden were intrigued by the flowers. Many loved the Suntastic Bicolor Pink sunflower, and I saw a lot of people jotting down names and taking pictures on their phone. There was some visible deer damage, and a bunny was the focus of three toddlers, but made me nervous hiding in the Rudbeckia. Several people took the survey, but most wanted to just admire and plan their next annual garden. Thanks Joe Knight and Steve Poppe for taking care of the Morris F4P planting!
I stepped out of my office late this afternoon into the wicked heat wave to check the plants in the St. Paul Display garden. I am worried the Japanese beetles will find our zinnias (not yet – they are still absorbed in the plum tree, grape vines and milkweed flowers). While watering, I observed that, in spite of the 96 degree heat index, honey bees were active visiting almost all the flowers – even those not previously where activity hadn’t been seen to-date. I am curious why bumble bees – so active last year – have not been seen much this year. Will keep watching.
Though advertised as pollen-less, bees are still finding this sunflower irresistible. Perhaps there are nectar rewards. I watched the bee for quite a while to see if it stopped for a “big gulp”, but it seemed to just be searching and hoping to find.
Visitors to the St. Paul campus will find the Flowers for Pollinators garden in the Horticultural Science Display Garden at Gortner and Folwell avenues. Stop by throughout the summer and observe the interactions of pollinators and plants. Be part of the study by recording your observations on a survey.
2017 Plant List
Annuals are blooming, and bugs are buzzing at the HMR Flowers for Pollinators site. Because there are many native, and some non-native perennials surrounding our plants here, we know it’s a big deal when insects choose our flowers.
So far I’ve seen many native bees and flies enjoying the flowers of Salvia coccinea var. Coral Nymph. S. coccinea has unique stamen that protrude far from the flower. In some cases the pollinator burrows deep inside the bloom for nectar, while pollen from the long stamen is deposited unknowingly on the insect’s back. However, below we see a Green Sweat Bee who seems to be more interested in pollen than nectar – he dangles directly from the flower’s long stamen, and is covered in fluffy Salvia pollen. Many flies have also been using S. coccinea flowers to sun themselves, similar to the one pictured below.
Green Sweat Bee on S. coccinea var. Coral Nymph
Fly on S. coccinea var. Coral Nymph
Other critters have shown interest in various annuals planted at HMR. Melampodium ‘Showstar’ has been a popular choice for native bees, while Cosmos ‘Double Click’ and Marigold (Tagetes) ‘Bambino’ seem to be attracting an odd variety of caterpillars so far this summer. I’ll be keeping an eye on those and other flowers with the hopes that a wide variety of pollinators will enjoy the gifts they have to offer.
Native Bee on Melampodium ‘Showstar’
Caterpillar on Cosmos ‘Double Click’
Caterpillar on Marigold ‘Bambino’
It’s been very exciting to observe all the insects on our annuals so far this summer. I look forward to sharing more with you all soon!
Contributed by Mary H. Meyer, Extension horticulturist and Professor, U of M
Total insect counts on four zinnia cultivars and six salvia species or cultivars were taken at two locations during July-September 2015 (minimum of 18 counts/days at each location) in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Chaska, MN and the University of Minnesota campus Display and Trial Garden in St Paul, MN. A block of plants 6-12 plants per cultivar were planted in full sun in late May or early June.
Insects were counted on flowers (assumed to be pollinators) and included honeybees, bumblebees, ants, butterflies, native bees, flies and other insects. Four different people did the counts.
Counting pollinators on 15 annual flowers
In the summer of 2015, pollinator counts were taken from June 15-July 23, 2015 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum annual display garden. There were 23 collection times; all counts were taken by one person who counted pollinator insects on the following 15 annuals. Flowers are listed in order of pollinator visits. Michelle Wisdom, a student intern at the Arboretum in 2015, collected this data.