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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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Tuesday - July 23, 2013

From: May, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Lists, Wildlife Gardens
Title: Plants for pollinators in Brown County, Texas
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am attempting to plant on our family property a wide range of native plants for the central Texas area (May, TX). The flowers, bushes and trees that rely on pollinators, in particular bees, in order to have a steady supply of pollen must be a combination to provide food through out the year. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

ANSWER:

On our Recommended Species page you will find a section with the title VALUE TO BENEFICIAL INSECTS with links to lists of plants with special benefit to honey bees, native bees and bumble bees.  These lists contain plants that are not necessarily native to your area, but you can begin by using the NARROW YOUR SEARCH option to limit the list to those that occur in Texas by choosing "Texas" from the Select State or Province option.  For the first list, Special Value to Native Bees, limiting the list to Texas reduces the number of species on the list from 1,444 to 580.  You can further limit the list by choosing a particular General Appearance (e.g, Herb, Shrub, Tree, etc.).  Choosing "Shrub" from General Appearance narrows the list to 75 and this is a reasonable number to scroll through.  You could also add other criteria (e.g. from Light Requirement or Leaf Retention) to narrow it even more.  To focus on having plants blooming for pollinators throughout the year you can choose various months from the Bloom Time slot to limit your list.  Once you've done that there is still the fact that Texas is a really big state and plants that grow in eastern Texas or far west Texas are not likely not to grow well in Brown County.  Let's say you are interested in one of sumacs (Rhus sp.) perhaps Rhus copallinum (Winged sumac).  On its species page scroll down to the bottom and you will find a link to the USDA Plants Database under Additional Resources.  When you click on that link and go to the USDA Plants Database page for that plant you will see a distribution map.  Clicking on Texas on that map will give you a map showing the distribution of counties where the plant has been reported as growing.  If you click on this Texas map again it will have the names of the counties on the map.  You will see that Rhus copallinum has been reported mostly in eastern Texas but nowhere close to Brown County—so Winged sumac is not likely to grow well in Brown County.  If you do the same exercise for Rhus trilobata (Skunkbush sumac), you will find that it has been reported growing in Brown County.  (Please note that a few of the distribution maps on the USDA Plants Database won't have county distribution maps for various states, only the one showing the distribution among states.)  For any species you choose from the lists, be sure to check the GROWING CONDITIONS section on the species page in our Native Plant Database to see that they match the conditions of your site. 

This a wonderful project you are doing.  Not only are honey bees in trouble from colony collapse disorder, but native bees are declining as well, mainly from loss of habitat.  Very best of luck with your project!

 

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