Pollinator Plaza

Hi River Roaders.

A little over a year ago, Jan planted a wildflower garden by the front plaza. The plants are all quite happy, especially with the added sun exposure provided by the tree removal and this year’s abundant rain. The garden is now in full bloom, and the location by the driveway allows great pollinator watching. Let’s take a look at what’s happening now on pollinator plaza.

The garden was planted with mountain mint (white flowers), butterfly weed (orange flowers), and swamp milkweed (pink flowers). The garden also has blue mistflower and little bluestem grass from prior plantings.

Honey bee on the butterfly weed.

Honey bee approaching a swamp milkweed.

We have three types of milkweeds on our grounds, including butterfly weed, swamp milkweed, and this common milkweed (pictured above). If you look closely, you can see a small pollinator on the flower. Milkweeds are the exclusive host plant for monarch butterfly caterpillars, and I’m optimistic we will see these caterpillars later in the year.

Honey bee on mountain mint, which was rated as the best plant for pollinators in a study by Penn State. It was #1 in longevity with a ten week bloom, #1 in pollinator diversity, and #1 in insect visits. It’s not a real showy flower but it looks great planted in drifts.

Bumble bees (above) are a common pollinator on our grounds. Our native bumble bees nest in colonies either in an above ground cavity or underground. They are generalist pollinators that don’t depend on one type of flower.

Non-native (European) honey bees are also common on our grounds. Honey bees are the only insect that produces food eaten by humans. This photo was taken in the early morning before this bee collected pollen on it’s legs.

Another flowering plant on our plaza are these Adam’s needles (Yucca filamentosa). These yuccas are pollinated by small, white yucca moths at night.

Next year the Grounds Committee will be developing options for how to best use our front plaza. Some ideas include an expanded wildflower garden with shrubs and small trees, a new vegetable garden with much improved sun exposure than the current location has, or a labyrinth. Please contact the Grounds Committee (grounds@rruuc.org) if you have ideas or would like to help with next steps.

Next time you are on-site, I encourage you to take a couple of minutes to sit on the stone wall by our garden to get to know our pollinators.