What is Blooming in April?

What is blooming in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat in April? Today I found pasque flower, wild plum, redbud and dandelions. Yes, we have dandelions in the pollinator habitat.  They are a great early blooming plant for pollinators.  I found tiny native bees visiting the plants.  Let a few plants remain and bloom in your habitat.  Remove the dead flowers before they go to seed.

MJ Frogge

Monarch Migration

The monarch migration has begun! We are seeing so many monarchs in the Cherry Creek habitat this week. This is really good news.  Thousands of monarchs died in Mexico due to a surprise snow storm, in March, before they started their migration this spring. The fact that there are so many this fall is a good sign.  We will remain hopeful that the population will rebound.

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Monarch on zinnia in the Cherry Creek Pollinator Habitat in September.

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Several monarchs on the zinnias in the pollinator habitat during fall migration.

To continue helping monarchs and other pollinators in the fall it is important to have fall blooming perennial plants like asters and tall sedum.  Also consider annual flowers such as zinnias and sunflowers in the landscape too.

Enjoy the great fall weather!

MJ

Spring in the Pollinator Habitat

Spring is here at the pollinator habitat.  Many of our native plants have started to grow. Prairie ragwort, shell-leaf penstemon, bee balm and purple poppy mallow are all leafing out.  The wild plum is blooming! Approximately two weeks earlier than last year.

MJ

What’s in Your Habitat?

Tiger lilies in my landscape that will be replaced with pollinator plants.

Tiger lilies in my landscape that will be replaced with pollinator plants.


Your yard is a habitat.  Many insects and animals live there even if you do not notice them. Consider planting more native plants for pollinators. Fall is a great time to evaluate your landscape and plan for next year. Take time to walk through your yard and evaluate each plant. For some of us that will take a while. While you are looking, ask yourself these questions. Is the plant healthy? Has it out grown its location? Do I have to use pesticides to keep it healthy and disease free? Is it a good pollinator plant? Is it invasive? Is it a water hog? Do I even like this plant? Where did that come from?

This spring, summer and fall I have asked myself these same questions as I walk through my landscape. I had a shrub that had a lot of winter damage. I removed it and was amazed at how it opened up the yard. It was in a prime, full sun location. In another part of the yard I have tiger lilies. Their pollen stains my clothes and I avoid them when they are blooming. These two areas will be planted with native perennials and other plants beneficial to our pollinators. I am still working on my list, but common milkweed and Culver’s root have already been planted. I know I need more early spring and early August blooming plants. It is important for pollinators to have plants blooming April through October. I am excited at the opportunity to plan these new garden areas and it will help me survive another cold Nebraska winter.

MJ

Common milkweed planted where I took out shrub that had severe winter injury.

Common milkweed planted where I took out shrub that had severe winter injury.

Fall in the Habitat

We have been enjoying beautiful fall days this week in the pollinator habitat.  Chris helped me unload another truck load of bark.  Thank you Chris and I promise this is the last load for this year. Soni and I spread the bark and placed new pavers, donated by Jim.  The pavers make it easier to walk through our dry stream bed that was added for erosion control and direct foot traffic through the habitat.  I planted the seeds of native plants that we have collected this month. We also have planted several trees. Redbud, oak and spruce trees will benefit all wildlife when they mature.

MJ

View of habitat in the fall.

View of habitat in the fall.

New paver walkway.

New paver walkway.

Praying mantis in container flowers looking for next meal.

Praying mantis in container flowers looking for next meal.

Collecting Seeds

Common milkweed seeds ready to relocate by the wind.

Common milkweed seeds ready to relocate by the wind.

Another beautiful fall day!  It is a perfect day to collect seeds from native plants.  Our milkweeds are going to seed, so it is important to collect some before they all go poof in the wind.  After collecting the seeds, you can replant them in a new location as soon as possible. They will germinate next spring.  If you are saving the seeds, be sure to give them time to dry out completely before you store them.  They will rot if not dried properly.  Be sure to label the envelope or container you store them in.

Monarch Watch needs milkweed seed donations to continue their Monarch habitat restoration efforts. Monarch Watch is a nonprofit educational outreach program based at the University of Kansas. Visit their website at monarchwatch.org  to learn more about their efforts in saving monarch butterflies.

MJ

Swamp milkweed seeds.

Swamp milkweed seeds.

Butterflies!

The last few days we have notice more Monarch butterflies in the area.  Many butterflies and moths have been seen in the habitat. Black swallowtail, painted lady, cloudless sulphur, pearl crescent and mourning cloak butterflies have been seen this year. Whitelined sphinx, yellow collared scape, chickweed geometer and several skipper moths have also been identified.
It is important to provide a food source for the caterpillars in the habitat. Swallowtail caterpillars feed on dill and parsley. Painted lady caterpillars feed on sunflower and thistle. As we all know Monarch caterpillars feed on milkweed. I am impressed as I drive around Lincoln at how many landscapes have common milkweed growing in them. Even school landscapes have milkweed! It has been reported for several years that monarch populations are declining. A coalition has submitted a petition for the U.S. Department of the Interior to protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act.
This summer my family raised several monarch caterpillars in a butterfly rearing tent. The eggs were located on very small plants that would not provide enough food or were located in an area in jeopardy of being mowed or stepped on. It was amazing to watch the caterpillars complete their life cycle and a thrill to release the butterflies in our backyard habitat.
MJ

Swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.

Swallowtail caterpillar on parsley.

Black swallowtail butterfly on tall thistle.

Black swallowtail butterfly on tall thistle.

Monarch butterfly ready to leave rearing tent.

Monarch butterfly ready to leave rearing tent.

‘Lone Wolf’ Sawtooth

Sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek Habitat

At 9 feet, this perennial sawtooth sunflower is standing tall in the Cherry Creek Habitat

My, my, my… how one of our perennial sunflowers has grown!

We have a sawtooth sunflower (Helianthus grosseserratus) in the Cherry Creek Habitat. When grown in tight colonies the sunflowers reach 3-5 feet tall. However, when you plant one by itself (described as a ‘lone wolf’) it can reach up to 12 ft tall. This afternoon, we went out and measured the sawtooth sunflower in the Cherry Creek habitat and it is 9 ft tall. It is glorious! Unfortunately, it is too tall for the space (and could be aggressive),  so we’ll have to move it later. There are plenty of pollinators on the sunflower now and it certainly is a standout in the habitat.

Other habitat news:

  • Excited! Jim in our office is busy adding a camera out back so we can view the habitat on the web and share video. We should even have “night vision”.
  • We’ve also been doing some nitty gritty work with weeding and adding more rock to keep working on the erosion issues with the space.
  • The activity at the bee nesting structure has really slowed down, although I did see one leaf cutter bee busy at work. Bumble bees have certainly not slowed down their activity – they are still as busy as “bees”.
  • Today, we saw a lot of monarchs moving south on their migration while working in the habitat.
  • As we move into fall, it will be time to harvest seed and plant more plants.
  • Speaking of sunflowers, the Lemon Queen sunflowers may not look as pretty now that the flowers are gone, but they are providing food for birds. This afternoon, a female cardinal and three of her young were busy feeding on the seeds.

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When a thistle makes you smile…

Native thistles like this tall thistle, are important to our pollinators. Remember, not all thistles are bad. It didn’t take long for the bumble bees and skipper to find this beautiful thistle flower. The tall thistles are just starting to bloom in the Cherry Creek Habitat. We can’t wait!!

Native thistles are both beautiful and important to our pollinators.


Enjoy “A Pasture Poem” by Richard Wilbur featuring the “thistle”
– also set to music (full text of the poem follows)

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The Redbud and the Bees

Redbud and leaf-cutter bee signs

Leaf-cutter bees are using this redbud to help line their nesting cells.

I’ve been carefully tending two Eastern redbud seedlings in my garden at home. The little tree seedlings have survived two major hail storms this past month and yet, they are growing nice and straight. This week while the temperatures are cool, I’ll carefully pot them up so we can transplant them into the Cherry Creek Habitat this fall.

The Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), is native to the eastern US, including eastern Nebraska. It grows in the wild on moist soils in valleys or bottomlands, as an understory tree in open woods. At maturity, the redbud is 15 to 30 feet tall.— Acreage Insights Plant of the Month

When I went out to check on the redbuds this morning, it looks like one of our native bees has also found the seedlings. The circular cuts in the leaves are one of the clues to leafcutter bees – one of our important native pollinators. Pretty excited to see they are in my yard! Although soon, the bees will have to use leaves from my mature redbuds for their nesting cells. Check out this information about leafcutter bees from UNL Extension’s Backyard Farmer series.

Here’s to sharing the buzz!

Soni

UNL Extension provides research-based information to help you make informed decisions any time, any place, anywhere – http://lancaster.unl.edu