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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - May 16, 2012

From: Belen, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens, Planting, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Pollinator garden for Belen NM
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Trying to set up a flower garden to attract bees and butterflies. Can you tell me what would be best to grow. I live in Belen, NM.

ANSWER:

This is a great project; there is always a need for pollinators, but they need to be native to the area, and able to feed from the local native plants. So, we are going to suggest that you first read our How-To Article A Guide to Native Plant Gardening. Next, read our How-To Article Butterfly Gardening.

Now, we need to get more specific. Begin by going to our website list from Butterflies and Moths of North America. We will help you select from that list plants that attract butterflies and are native to Valencia County. From our Recommended Species page, here is a list of information you can access on bees.

Value to Beneficial Insects

Special Value to Native Bees - Attracts large numbers of native bees.
Special Value to Bumble Bees - Attracts large numbers of bumble bees.
Special Value to Honey Bees - Important pollen or nectar sources (honey plant) for honey bees.
Provides Nesting Materials/Structure for Native Bees - Plants that native bees nest beneath, within, or harvest parts from to construct their nests.
Supports Conservation Biological Control - Plants that attracts predatory or parasitoid insects that prey upon pest insects.

This information was provided by the Pollinator Program at The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

This is probably information overload, but we are proud of the information we can provide from our website. Now, how to use this information for your specific location. On each list, using the sidebar on the right hand side of the page, select New Mexico, and the amount of shade or sun the area you are planting has. If you are only interested in one kind of plant, like herbaceous flowering plants, you can select on Herbs under Habit or General Appearance. Or you can start with a list of all kinds of plants without selecting on Habit, and then narrow it down with later searches. We tried this out on the list of Special Value to Native Bees, as a demonstration, selecting only on New Mexico. There were 1441 species on that list, which covers all of North America, including Canada but not Mexico. When we specified New Mexico, the number went to 406.

Now, here is where it gets interesting. In New Mexico, you are dealing with several different altitudes and climatic conditions. We used to ride the train to Belen, many years ago, to be met there by family near Albuquerque. If we can remember rightly, the altitude was about 4800 feet. A lot of the butterfly and bee plants we checked on are only native to southern New Mexico, on the border with Mexico. Starting with the bee list, we took the first one on the list, Achillea millefolium (Common yarrow), followed the link down to "Additional Resources" near the bottom of the page, clicking on the USDA Plant link, which gave us a map of North America with the states where that plant is native in green. We clicked on New Mexico, which gave us this USDA Plant Profile Map. Bingo! Valencia County is native to yarrows. Actually, I think you can count on plants that appear in any county in northern New Mexico flourishing in your area.

This is pretty tedious, but we find that many plants are beneficial to both bees and butterflies. We are going to start with the butterfly list, select a few on it that are native to your area, and then look at the other lists to see where there are duplications. If you follow this procedure, you can make your own list much more quickly. It's not necessary to be this precise, it will just help you make selections, depending on availability and space available. We began with the butterfly list, finding 19 native to northern New Mexico. Then, we went to the Special Value to Native Bees list and found 9 on both lists. Now, you should know how to use our database and various resources.

Butterfly and Bee Plants for Northern New Mexico

Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)

Asclepias asperula (Spider milkweed)

Cleome serrulata (Rocky mountain beeplant)

 Fragaria virginiana (Virginia strawberry)

Penstemon cobaea (Wild foxglove)

Robinia neomexicana (New mexico locust)

Rubus parviflorus (Thimbleberry)

Sphaeralcea coccinea (Scarlet globemallow)

Symphyotrichum ericoides var. ericoides (White heath aster)

 

From the Image Gallery


Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Antelope horns
Asclepias asperula

Rocky mountain beeplant
Cleome serrulata

Virginia strawberry
Fragaria virginiana

Prairie penstemon
Penstemon cobaea

New mexico locust
Robinia neomexicana

Scarlet globemallow
Sphaeralcea coccinea

Western thimbleberry
Rubus parviflorus

White heath aster
Symphyotrichum ericoides var. ericoides

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