Bumblebees, butterflies and thistle

Thu. Feb. 23, 2017

Click below to listen to my Garden Bite radio show:  Bumblebees, butterflies and thistle

I told you just recently how the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee was set to be on the Endangered list.  Well… it’s on a limbo list right now.  With the changing of the Presidential office, a freeze is on for a litany of actions regarding natural resources and the environment.  The bee could still get protection but it’s not clear when.

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

In the meantime, let’s talk pollinator plants.  And, if you can, just lay off the pesticides.  A gardener’s trade-off is allowing nature’s creatures to have a few feasts from the banquet you serve in your landscape!

Don’t be frightened but I’m going to suggest a Field Thistle!  I hear shrieking…  it’s okay, this is not the nasty invasive Canada Thistle I just recently talked about!  This may not be the highlight of your home garden, in fact it’s not the prettiest thing in the world, but it’s really a great addition to the outskirts of your landscape offering a place for bumblebees, digger bees and butterflies that include painted ladies and swallowtails.

Field thistle aka pasture thistle

The other wonderful thing about the Field Thistle, aka Pasture Thistle, is that it flowers later in the season when other natives are fading out.  Colors range from purple to white.  Minnesota wildflowers

It is a biennial, which means that it grows the first year, flowers the second year and then dies.  But there’s no need to replant, this baby drops seed which sets the whole process in motion for the next years and soon, you have flowers every year from the different plants.

Field thistle with rusty patched bumble bee

You’ll want to plant pasture thistle with other natives, grasses are a wonderful choice, to hide some of it’s less attractive qualities, like dying leaves late in the season.  The pure beauty of this thistle is it’s ability to bring in a wide range of pollinators.

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