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Mr. Smarty Plants - wildflowers for bees and hummers in central Texas

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Thursday - June 16, 2011

From: Burnet, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens
Title: wildflowers for bees and hummers in central Texas
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I'm building a native habitat for different hummingbirds and bees at the Inks Lake Fish Hatchery, and I was wondering what kind of native plants in Texas attract these creatures but are also low maintenance.

ANSWER:

 You are doing a real service to support our bees at a time when mysterious factors are causing their decline. But beware, watching bees can become addictive. There are many very interesting native bees in addition to the common honeybee. A useful website to describe this is sponsored by the Texas Bee Watchers. There you can find several lists of flowering plants favored by bees. The best strategy is to have some plants blooming at all possible times so that it is not a feast or famine situation for the bees. Even in winter bees are attracted to blooms of the non-native Rosemary(Rosemarinus officinalis). Native plants blooming in the early spring include Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita) and Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud). A bit later come Tradescantia gigantea (Giant spiderwort) and Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana (Hinckley's golden columbine). Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet)(not a perennial) and Oenothera speciosa (Pink evening primrose) follow in April. Species holding their blossoms for some time in the summer include Wedelia texana (Zexmenia), Lantana urticoides (Texas lantana) and Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood). Texas kidneywood is a bee magnet in central Texas. In the autumn Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed), Symphyotrichum oblongifolium (Aromatic aster) and Solidago nemoralis (Gray goldenrod) will kick in. These are but a few of the many bee-friendly plants native to Texas. Check out the growing conditions on these examples by clicking on the species names. None of them should require a great deal of work once they start growing.

Many of the above plants are also visited by hummingbirds.  You might have as many as three species of hummers.  In April Ruby-throated Hummingbirds begin migrating through Austin on their way north.  About a month later our summer resident Black-chinned Hummingbirds arrive.  When these two species fly south in the fall you might find Rufous Hummingbirds wintering in your area.  They prefer rural locations, especially if hummingbird feeders are available. 

Hummingbirds are especially fond of red-colored flowers.  In early spring they love Salvia roemeriana (Cedar sage), Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine), and columbine.  Later on, Penstemon tenuis (Brazos penstemon), Salvia greggii (Autumn sage), and Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle) provide the birds with nectar.  In late summer, Butterflyweed and Aromatic Asters take over the job.  Click on each name to determine whether they prefer full sun, partial shade, or shade.  All these plants require some care when starting out, but as natives they can soon take care of themselves, especially if we do not continue this year's intense drought.

 

From the Image Gallery


Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata

Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Giant spiderwort
Tradescantia gigantea

Hinckley's golden columbine
Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana

Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

Pink evening primrose
Oenothera speciosa

Zexmenia
Wedelia texana

Texas lantana
Lantana urticoides

Aromatic aster
Symphyotrichum oblongifolium

Gray goldenrod
Solidago nemoralis

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Texas kidneywood
Eysenhardtia texana

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