Midsummer Pollinator Plants

Summer holidays might be halfway over, but the bees are still having a field day thanks to these flowering pollinator plants

August 8, 2023 | | Notes from the Wild

Throngs of flying insects come to my midsummer garden to sip nectar and collect pollen. Here are six of their favourite flowering plants.

1) Mountain mint: I grow two species – Virginia mountain mint and hoary mountain mint. Mountain mint flowers dance with pollinators on sunny afternoons, so many that they jostle each other as they seek nectar. Among them are blue-black spider wasps and great golden digger wasps. Both are impressively large. If you suffer from spheksophobia (fear of wasps), know that they are gentle giants.

Mountain Mint. Photography by Don Scallen.

2) Hoary vervain: All vervains are excellent bumblebee plants. Hoary vervain is a stalwart member of this tribe, offering purple flower spikes over much of the summer. Hoary vervain grows on dry gravel slopes near the parking lot at Forks of the Credit Provincial Park, demonstrating its remarkable drought tolerance.

Hoary vervain

3) Purple coneflower: The various cultivars of purple coneflower are garden mainstays. No wonder. They are beautiful, bloom for weeks, and are bee-friendly. The lovely green sweat bee – the official bee of the City of Toronto – lingers on purple coneflowers, collecting pollen to feed its larvae in underground nests.

Purple coneflower

4) Butterfly milkweed: This gorgeous member of the milkweed family brings brilliant orange to my garden, matching the intensity of the monarch butterflies that visit it. Honeybees and bumblebees enjoy its nectar as well.

5) Kalm’s St. John’s wort: This low growing shrub has fluffy yellow flowers that, for reasons unknown, inspire bumblebees to dash around manically. The same bees are the essence of calm when visiting other plants.

Kalm’s St. Johns Wort

6) Anise hyssop: This plant produces purple bottlebrush spires that bumblebees find irresistible. It grows quickly and blooms over an extended period.

Anise Hysop

These plants are ecological stars, supporting a vast array of pollinators and other insects. I benefit too. Stepping into a garden abuzz with bees and wasps is one of my elemental summertime joys.

About the Author More by Don Scallen

Don Scallen enjoys sharing his love of nature through his writing and presentations. Check out his blog "Notes from the Wild".

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