POllen flowers for bumblebees

Asked April 6, 2020, 3:55 PM EDT

I understand that some plants such as Autumn Joy are sterile. But it attracts bumblebees. Does mean the plant has no pollen, or that the pollen is sterile? If it is sterile, is that nutritious for the bumblebee or not? And what about the nectar? I also see that many sunflower varieties are listed as pollen-free. Can they supply nectar for native bees? Thanks - Sara

Lane County Oregon

3 Responses

Hi Sara, you’ve brought up interesting questions. In regards to the sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, yes, the flower is sterile; however the plant still produces nectar which as you’ve noticed, is highly desirable to bees. Michigan State University Extension publication, “Gardening for Pollinators: Smart Plants to Support Pollinators”, considers Autumn Joy to be highly beneficial for pollinators. You might also like to read through “Selecting Plants for Pollinators” from the Pollinator Partnership/North American Pollinator Protection Campaign which is “designed to provide information on how individuals can influence pollinator populations through choices they make when they plant a garden.” They also mention Sedum species in general as being a beneficial source of food.

The cut flower trade is driving the need for pollen-less sunflowers since people do not like to have fallen pollen staining their indoor surfaces. Sunflowers that do provide pollen are a vital source of late season protein for bumblebees, honey bees, as well as native bees. So if you can find sunflower seeds that do not say they are pollen free then plant those as all bees need both nectar and pollen to survive.

However, you asked about nectar. Yes, the flower would still produce nectar. “Nectar and Pollen, not the same”, is the title of a column written by the Master Gardeners of UC Davis in Napa County. You might find this interesting as it contains more information about both nectar and pollen and their importance to various pollinators.

Enjoy planting for pollinators.

Thanks., Anna. You explained what's going on. Just trying to make the bumblebees happy!

Sara

Hi Sara, you're welcome. I'm glad the service was helpful. When in doubt about what flowers to plant, plant a variety which alllows bees to choose for themselves.

Enjoy.