Stories from the NFCCA Newsletter, the “Northwood News”

Northwood News ♦ April 2018

Easy-Peasy Shrubs for Native Pollinators

By Carole Barth

When considering a shrub for your yard, you may not think of supporting pollinators.  We tend to think more about planting flowers for the native bees and butterflies, and we often forget that moths, wasps, flies, beetles, hummingbirds, and even bats are also pollinators.  But, in truth, we are losing pollinators, with many species in danger of disappearing locally or even facing extinction.  Loss of habitat (due to development and the spread of nonnative invasive plants), increasing use of pesticides, and climate change are all factors threatening pollinator populations.  Thus, it makes sense to try and provide for pollinators whenever we add plants to our gardens.

In particular, native bees are our hardest-working pollinators, contributing an estimated $3 billion worth of crop pollination nationally each year.  A recent nationwide study of the more than 4,000 native bee species in North America and Hawaii found that nearly one in four species is imperiled and at increasing risk of extinction.  (See “Pollinators in Peril” at native_pollinators/pdfs/Pollinators_in_Peril.pdf.)

Their loss will impact much more than agricultural crops.  Native bees also provide ecosystem stability, helping to determine the types and numbers of various other species in the community.  Like the keystone which keeps an arch from collapsing, keystone species keep ecosystems from collapsing.  These interspecies relationships can be surprising; for example, even the grizzly bear depends upon bees.  In late summer, fruit makes up more than 60 percent of a grizzly’s diet.  By helping to keep plant communities healthy and sustainable, native pollinators help provide food and cover for wildlife, prevent erosion, cycle nutrients, and keep waterways clean.

So what can you do?  Reduce pesticide use, provide nesting sites (e.g., let some perennial stalks stand through the winter), and use native plants in your garden.  Below are four shrubs that support pollinators, provide multiseason interest in the garden, and also add a structural element to your design.  These are easy-to-grow, adaptable shrubs that are not fussy about soil, light, or water.  And don’t worry about inviting native bees to your garden:  they don’t sting.   ■

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)
Pollinators:  Butterflies, native bees, and birds.
Notes:  Stunning fall display with yellow leaves and red-violet (edible) berries.  Berries persist in winter.  Crushed leaves repel insects.
Arrowwood Viburnum (Viburnum dentatum)
Pollinators:  Butterflies (host plant for spring azure, secondary host plant for Baltimore Checkerspot, which is Maryland’s state butterfly and on the list of Rare, Threatened, and Endangered Species), native bees, and birds.
Notes:  Showy white flowers in late spring; blue-black edible berries; fall color can be yellow, red-orange, or crimson.  Native Americans used the straight branches for arrow shafts.
Red Chokeberry (Photinia pyrifolia)
Pollinators:  Butterflies (Coral Hairstreak, Striped Hairstreak), larval host for several moths, native bees, and birds, including hummingbirds.
Notes:  Attractive white flowers in spring, vivid red leaves in fall, and bright red edible berries persist in winter.  (This is the plant Aronia juice comes from.)
Sweet Pepperbush (Clethra Alnifoloa)
Pollinators:  Butterflies (Swallowtails, Skippers), especially good for native bees, attracts hummingbirds.
Notes:  Also called summersweet, Clethra has fragrant white or pink flower spikes in July and August.  Very good clear yellow fall color.

   © 2018 NFCCA  [Source:]