By Joyce Arleen Corson
Editor’s Note: Joyce Arleen Corson is a master gardener who resides at Papakeechie Lake, Syracuse.
SYRACUSE — When you look at a Roman stone arch, you can see that the stones stack on each other, held together by what is called the keystone, which ensures the stability of the structure. When the keystone is removed, the whole archway crumbles.
Why are we talking about Roman architecture when we are in my garden and bee yard?
The research of entomologists has identified native plants (the keystones) that support butterfly and moth lepidoptera species. The research of horticulturists has also shown North American native bee species are pollen specialists who only eat pollen from native plants.
Identifying species that support a wide variety of butterflies, moths and specialist bees can require a lot of research. The climate is a contributing factor, but fear not. These researchers and gardeners work for you.
Focusing on flowering herbaceous perennials, there are four genera of plants that will help support your local ecosystem if you can squeeze them into your garden. The best part? These native plants are beautiful. There are species from these keystone genera that can work in sunny or shady locations, meaning there is a plant for everyone. Even if you have a small yard, or a place where you can grow a few potted plants, you can help support native pollinators.
I’m getting on my soapbox. Goldenrods get a bad rap but we’re going to clear the air. Everyone thinks they cause seasonal allergies. Even when you’re at the allergist’s office, they tell you it’s the goldenrods that are making you sneeze in the fall.
However, the pollen of goldenrods is too sticky to fly through the air — what’s making you sneeze is the wind-pollinated ragweed blooming at the same time. Ragweed blooms green so people don’t notice them compared to the bright beacon of yellow goldenrods you can spot a mile away. Goldenrods take the fall for ragweed just because they dare to be brilliant?
Who doesn’t love a daisy-flowered aster blooming brightly on a fall day? Asters are an easy addition to the garden because we humans already love them and, conveniently, so do the pollinators. More than 100 species of caterpillars use asters as host plants and over 30 species of specialist pollinators prefer their pollen. Asters are great for every style of garden and are adaptable to a wide range of conditions.
We all know sunflower, totally edible by all that roams the earth. Never forget the milkweed and Joe Pie weed to referee the team.
There you have the keystone that holds the team of four pollinators and all that is hungry in their hand.
October to follow as summer is over and the rulers of the land, birds and other flying species are leaving us in the dust as they tank up with nutrition from the native team that allows them to have energy to get to Mexico or farther as they migrate to warmer climates.
To be continued, thanks to Doug Tallamy.