Solar energy is at its peak in the northern hemisphere, and with it an incredible blossoming of plant and insect life in my garden. My favorite plants blooming at the moment are Echinaceas, Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa), and narrow leaved mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium). Bumble bees hit a population explosion at this time every year that never fails to lift my spirits.
The other day, a kid with some exterminator company came knocking door-to-door. I stopped him mid-pitch to tell him that I actually garden FOR insects. He was pretty taken aback by that and promptly gave up his spiel. Honestly, he should have just turned around when he saw my Monarch Waystation and Certified Wildlife Habitat signs up.
One plant I want to highlight in this update is partridge pea (Chamaechrista fasciculata). This plant is WAY underused in my opinion, and it should be in every insect lover’s garden. It is low-growing with lovely fern-like leaves. It doesn't really hit peak bloom until August around here, but a few flowers have opened up in my yard.
This plant is native to most of the eastern U.S. It is an annual legume that is very
easy to naturalize spreading seeds about in late winter/ early spring. Bees are attracted to the flowers very early in the morning for the protein rich pollen they offer. It is truly incredible to see bumble bee masses swarming a stand of these flowers. The rich seeds are a favorite of game birds like grouse and wild turkeys as well.
But what really intrigues me about this plant are the extra floral nectaries it has at the base of each leaf. If you observe a plant closely, you will see many ants drinking at these nectaries. Here is a photo of a Crematogaster drinking:
It is theorized that plants offer these nectaries to encourage ants to act as protectors against pests.
So if you have some free space in your garden, why not sprinkle some partridge pea seeds about and see what happens?
Edited by ANTdrew, June 25 2019 - 6:02 PM.