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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Thursday - April 18, 2013

From: Oakland, TN
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Pollinators, Shrubs
Title: Bees on non-native holly from Oakland TN
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have bees all over my Nellie Stevens holly. Can I spray anything to alleviate this issue?

ANSWER:

Oh, please don't kill the bees. We have lost so many, many pollinators to various environmental factors, insecticides and, in the case of bees, Colony Collapse Disorder. Nellie Stevens holly is a hybrid of two hollies, neither of which is native to North America. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and propagation of plants native not only to North America but also to the area in which those plants grow naturally; in your case, Fayette County, TN.

Nellie Stevens Holly is a hybrid, a mix of Ilex acquifolium and Ilex cornuta and therefore is considered a non-native. Kew Gardens, Royal Botanic Gardens indicates that  Ilex acquifolium, is native to Great Britain; in England it blooms in May. From the Missouri Botanical Gardens, Ilex cornuta, native to China and Korea, is also listed as blooming in May.

There are 4 members of the Ilex genus native to Tennessee, of those Ilex decidua (Possumhaw) which blooms from March to May, Ilex opaca (American holly) blooming from March to June, and Ilex verticillata (Common winterberry) blooming from April to July, all are native in the area of Fayette County. The point being, Ilex pollinators, which are mainly honey bees, are in your area now, busily gathering pollen and unintentionally contributing to the propagation of the native hollies. The hollies native to Tennessee all begin blooming earlier, and your Nellie Stevens probably is doing the same thing. We are not even sure pollinating the Nellie Stevens holly makes any contribution to propagation of the holly, because most hybrids are sterile. But it is an enormous contribution to the preservation of the bees.When your holly finishes blooming, the bees will leave. Honey bees are rarely aggressive, and if you spray a pesticide you will not only kill them but various other insects like butterflies.

Please read this article The Importance of Bees in Nature with special attention to this line:

"The bees have to find their food in flowers. The food can be nectar or pollen. Nectar is produced to attract the bees. Pollen is also attracting the bees, but it has another function too: it is produced to ensure the next generation of plants."

 

From the Image Gallery


Possumhaw
Ilex decidua

American holly
Ilex opaca

Common winterberry
Ilex verticillata

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