ARTICLE: California Native Plants that Bees Can’t Resist
by Bob Sussman – matilijanursery.com
“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not.” -Yogi Berra
There are tons of books, articles on the web, and scientific info. that will tell you what plants attract bees and why. Some info. will tell you to plant flowers that have purple, yellow, or white flowers to draw more bees to the garden. Well some purple flowers attract more than others and bees aren’t supposed to see red yet some red flowering plants attract plenty of bees. Truth is most flowering plants do indeed attract bees since most plants are pollenated by bees.
In the bee attraction business sometimes theory and practice diverge. Some flowers draw more bees than others and you can see it, those are the ones you want for your garden. You want the flowers that cause the bees to go “beemanic”. Here’s a list of the big “5” bee attractants at the nursery, this may not jibe with scientific theory but in practice it works.
Abutilon palmeri-a desert native and a member of the mallow family, it gets covered with orange- gold poppy colored flowers. They flower from spring through fall require full sun and are about 3’ x 4’. They seem to benefit for an annual trimming. Check these out.
Galvezia – Island Snapdragon- there are a few species and selections of Galvezia but they all come from either the Channel Islands off the coast of California or Cedros Island off the coast of Mexico. The Galvezia’s vary in size but are roughly 3’x3’, generally grow in semi-shade to full sun, flower from spring through fall. Their red tube flowers also attract hummingbirds. The Galviezia in the picture is Galvezia ‘Gran Canon’ and it flowers than most of the other verities, while they attract several types of bees this is the only one that would sit still long enough for me to focus the camera.
Sphaeralcea-Desert Mallows grow throughout the southwest and Mexico. They can range in color from red to light pink. While there is some variation in size, roughly 4’ x 4’ will be a pretty close approximation of what it will do in your garden. We grow mostly the orange flowering verity at the nursery we also have the pink flowering verity growing too and they seem to prefer the pink to the orange.
Romenya coulteri-Matilija Poppy– The Matilija poppy has the largest flowers of any poppy in the poppy family. It can be a large perennial shrub and its native range is from Monterey County to Baja Mexico growing sporatically about 30+/- inland from the Pacific Ocean. They are spring flowering but with a bit of watering the flowering can be extended through summer.
Monardella odoratissima-Mountain Mint-Mountain Beebalm-is a small growing perennial with purple to lavender flowers and a very strong minty fragrance. It’s got to be a big nectar and pollen producer because they attract all kinds of bees and butterflies. In nature they grow from California to Washington and inland as far as Utah. They flower from spring through fall if you occasionally deadhead – chop back the old flowers and leggy growth.
I know there are lots of lists of plants that attract bees but the bees at our nursery fly by many of those to land, collect nectar, and pollen from these. Why? I couldn’t tell you the scientific reason this is only the observation, the bees know and they aren’t saying!
To see the bees performing live you can check out our YouTube page: http://www.youtube.com/user/matilija8225?feature=results_main
Or even better come down to the nursery, pop the truck, and take some of these home for your garden and watch the beeeeeeeeessss!
(For more information go to www.matilijanursery.com)