If you live in the states of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina and would like to take part in a citizen science project that will help you hone your ability to identify pollinators while collecting valuable data concerning the status and abundance of our valuable pollinators; you should take part in the 2023 Great Southeast Pollinator Census. The count will take place August 18 and 19.
For more information regarding the census, click on the link Great Southeast Pollinator Census | UGA Cooperative Extension Here you will learn how to participate in the count as well as a list of the neat things you can receive for taking part in this important survey.
For quite some time now, I have been letting you know when somebody recommends a nursery that deals in native plants. Here is a new one.
At this year’s Fantasy of Flowers staged by the Fort Valley Garden Club, I met the folks that run Everyday Farm and Garden (Josh and Nikki Perry). They were one of the vendors at this year’s event. They were selling a variety of ornamental and wild plants. They also sell plants that they say are neonicotinoid-free. As you know there are not enough folks that can boast that their plants are free of these systemic pesticides. This is great news for wild pollinators and other backyard neighbors.
Here is the contact information for this retailer:
Everyday Farm & Garden
1028 Macon Road,
Perry, Georgia 31069
478-256-2045 and 478-338-2821
If you are looking for an attractive native wildlife friendly plant that blooms early in the spring, Chickasaw plum (Prunus angustifolia) is a plant you should consider.
Normally the Chickasaw plum reaches a maximum height of only 15 feet (most I encounter are much shorter). In March-April, the plant produces a bounty of delicate, fragrant flowers well before the plant’s leaves burst forth.
Since it is an early bloomer, it is an important source of for pollinators such as butterflies. Some of the butterflies I find nectaring on the flowers are hairstreaks like the great purple hairstreak, and the eastern tiger swallowtail. However, other pollinators are also drawn to the woody plant’s pollen.
From May to July, the plant is laden with small drupes. These tasty plums can be range in color from red to yellow. If you want to eat your share of these sweet morsels, you had better do so early as they are also relished by a host of birds and mammals such as the red-headed woodpecker, quail, gray catbird, American robin, wood thrush, northern mockingbird, gray fox, raccoon, white-tailed deer and others.
Insectivorous birds feed the insects drawn to the large shrubs especially when they are in bloom.
If allowed to form a small thicket, birds such as catbirds, loggerhead shrikes, brown thrashers are others will nest and among this native plum’s thorny branches.
Butterfly enthusiasts will be happy to know that a number of butterflies such as the eastern tiger swallowtail, coral hairstreak, and spring azure lay their eggs on the Chickasaw plum.
Chickasaw plums do well in most soil types, are drought tolerant, and grow best in partial shade to full sun.
Should you decide to transplant this valuable native plant in your yard, set out a couple. This ensures cross-pollination will occur.
Also, be aware that Chickasaw plum produces suckers. This is great if you want to create a thicket. However, if you prefer to grow the plant as a single tree, simply cut down the suckers.
I am sure you have recently been enjoying waking up to temperatures in the low 50s as much as I have. On these special early fall mornings, I love stepping out on the deck and take in the sights and sounds that surround me.
One thing that I have noticed is no butterflies are visiting the globe amaranth, zinnias, garden balsam, and scarlet sage growing in pots on the deck. However, each day I have spotted small bumblebees visiting scarlet sage blossoms.
Being able to begin feeding before butterflies and other pollinators arrive is a definite advantage to the hard-working bumblebees.
Remarkably, bumblebees can fly when it dips down as low as 40º F. As such, since the temperatures in my neck of woods should not drop below 40º F for a few weeks, I will be able to enjoy a cup of coffee while watching bumblebees are hard at work for some time to come.
If you want to engage in an activity designed to help conserve our valuable pollinators, take part in The Great Georgia Pollinator census. This year the census takes place August 19-20, 2022.
The University of Georgia, Garden Club of Georgia, Inc., and a number of other conservation groups sponsor the count.
You do not have to be an expert in the identification of the state’s pollinators to take part. The reason for this is UGA provides participants with a color tally sheet. The pollinators are divided into eight broad categories ranging from honeybees and butterflies to flies and spiders. All you have to match the insects you spot with photos on sheet.
Simply select an area you want to census. Then count all of the pollinators you see in just 15 minutes. Once the survey is complete, upload your data and your duties as a citizen scientist are completed.
Now that is what I call simple.
If you would like more information concerning all aspects of the count, visit the count’s official website The Great Georgia Pollinator Count – Citizen Science at Work (ggapc.org)
The Confederate rose brings spectacular beauty to yards across Georgia. However, my wife, Donna, and I have found that its showy blossoms are also used as places for bumblebees to escape the cold on chilly autumn nights.
This large multi-stemmed shrub or small tree was brought to North America in the 1600s. Since then it has been widely planted throughout the Southeast. It popularity stems from the fact that, from late summer until frost, it bears scores of white blossoms that measure up to six inches in diameter. These flowers eventually turn light pink before finally becoming rose-colored.
While my wife and I thoroughly enjoy the beauty the flowers bring to our yard, our discovery that these stunning blooms provide bumblebees with warm refuges on chilly fall nights has heightened our appreciation for the plant.
For quite some time, I had not given any thought to this interesting behavior until late one afternoon this past week. Late one afternoon I noticed that my wife, was looking deep into the one of the blossoms adorning a Confederate rose growing alongside our driveway. I walked up to find out what had caught her attention. When she said she was looking at a bumblebee that had settled in for the night deep inside a Confederate rose bloom, I peered down into the throat of the flower and spotted the insect. As we stood nearby discussing her find, a couple of other bumblebees flew into other blossoms.
When I returned to the flowers well after dark, sure enough, the bumblebees were still there awaiting morning when temperatures warmed to the point where they could utilize the muscles that control their wings and fly away.
A number of animals seek cover on chilly nights. Many birds and mammals retreat to natural cavities, nesting boxes, thick vegetation, and other places. However, I doubt that many spend cold nights nestled in cover as beautiful a Confederate rose blossom.
If you have a Confederate rose growing in your yard, before the blossoms nipped by a frost, as the sun is setting check them out. If bumblebees are still flying about in your neck of the woods, chances are one or more might be using some of gorgeous blooms for nighttime cover also.
If you are concerned about the plight of Georgia’s pollinators, I urge you to become a citizen scientist and take part in the Great Georgia Pollinator Census. This year’s count will be staged August 20 and 21.
This will mark the third year the census has been conducted. Last year, in spite of Covid-19, 3,755 Georgians representing 124 counties took part in the survey. Their efforts resulted in data collected on almost 82,000 individual pollinators.
The counts have been carefully designed so that Georgians of all ages and skill levels can take part. There is no participation fee and a census requires only 15 minutes of your time. Most counts are held in yards. However, a number of teachers and other youth leaders involve young people in counts held in such locations as school grounds.
The survey is conducted by the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Becky Griffin is the Project Coordinator (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The information gathered is being utilized by UGA researchers for economic valuation studies of pollinators.
For details regarding the count, go to Great Georgia Pollinator Census (http://ggapc.org). When you visit the site, take the time to download the fantastic, full-color pollinator guide.
As odd as it may sound, many of our native bees are at least three times more efficient pollinators as the introduced honeybee.
Take for example the bumblebee: many of us grow blueberries in our yards. Many pollinators including honeybees and bumblebees visit the blueberry plant’s creamy white flowers. Studies have demonstrated that a honeybee would have to visit a blueberry flower four times to deposit the same amount of pollen as a bumblebee can in only one visit.
In addition, native bees are more common than honeybees in many of our yards. Unfortunately, few honey bees visit the flowers in my yard. Luckily, tiny solitary, bumble, and carpenter bees are routinely seen visiting a wide range of flowers found there.
This summer, as you walk around your flower and vegetable gardens take note of the bees you find pollinating your flowers. If you do, don’t be surprised if you see very few honeybees and an abundance of native bees hard at work pollinating the plants that provide you with food and a cascade of beautiful flowers.
I am convinced that we are guilty of underestimating the value of the 532 species of native bees that can be found flying throughout Georgia.
Over the years, my wife and I have been planting a diversity of nectar/pollen-producing plants in our gardens. This has been done in an effort to provide our backyard pollinators with sources of food throughout the year. This approach has offered us the opportunity to watch pollinators feed at a parade of plants from week to week as well as season to season. As the blossoms of one plant wither and die, pollinators redirect their attention to plants that are currently blooming. Right now, many of these pollinators are visiting mountain mint (Pycnanthemum sp.), one of the more recent additions to our landscape.
Mountain mint is a native perennial herb that grows two to three feet tall. Eight species of this hardy plant are found in the Southeast. Plants grow two to three tall. They exist in a variety of soil conditions, including the dry clay soil found in our yard. While the plant does best in moist soil types, it is drought tolerant. Mountain mint will grow in partial shade as well as full sun.
Mountain mint has a unique, eye-catching appearance. What makes this plant stand out is the fact that the leaves growing just below its flowers look like they have received a dusting of powdered sugar. In fact, to me, this foliage is far more attractive than the plant’s small white-purple blooms. In fact, these blossoms or so small you might overlook them if they were not arranged in clusters.
However, though mountain mint plants won’t win any awards for beauty, the fact that it blooms from June into October makes it an important source of food for wild pollinators.
Speaking of awards, in 2013 the Penn State Extension Service evaluated 88 pollinator-rewarding perennial plants for their importance to pollinators. At the end of the trial, mountain mint (P. muticum) received the highest rating for longevity of flowers, diversity of pollinators that use the plants, and the most insects attracted during the trials. In one trial, 76 insects visited the plants in just two minutes.
I am not surprised at these findings. When my wife and daughter found our mountain mint blooming a few days ago, they saw a stand of mint being visited by three species of butterflies (juniper hairstreak, red-banded hairstreak, and pearl crescent). They competed with the likes of thread-waisted wasps, hornets, and bumblebees.
One thing I like about mountain mint is that it is easy to grow. A friend gave us some mountain mint plants two summers ago. We set them out and kept them watered. The very next year the plants produced a crop of flowers.
If you like to create dried arrangements, you will love mountain mint. Each fall after the flowers have disappeared, you are left with scores of unique prickly, round, brown seed heads displayed on long stems.
Mountain mint is a plant that definitely deserves a place in your flower gardens.