NATIVE PLANTS FOR POLLINATORS
Staff helps community pollinator gardens flourish
Atamasco lily Zephyranthes atamasca
By MELINA LOZANO DURAN
Threadleaf coreopsis Coreopsis verticillata
False indigo Baptisia alba
Wild bergamot Monarda fistulosa
Carolina jessamine Gelsemium sempervirens
New England aster Symphyotrichum novae-angliae
Most visitors know the Garden is abuzz with activity in spring and summer. But what they may not realize is the Midtown attraction also is an oasis for many animals that have been pushed out of their natural habitats, including some 20 species of native bees. Bees and other pollinators such as butterflies, birds and insects are welcomed as VIP guests at the Garden because without them plants would not be pollinated. Beyond their beauty, pollinators are especially critical to agriculture. It’s estimated that onethird of the food consumed daily relies on pollination. Loss of biodiversity, habitat destruction and pesticide use are ongoing global threats to these animals. Yet, there are many ways consumers can encourage pollinators – from simply planting patio pots with colorful flowers that attract them to carefully designing and cultivating pollinator gardens. For seven years the Garden’s conservation staff has taken that message on the road. It has partnered with community groups through the Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership, Park Pride, City of Atlanta and The Conservation Fund to educate residents about the issue and to increase pollinator habitats, including creating pollinator gardens adjacent to community gardens in seven city parks. There, community members have been trained to become stewards of the projects for continuing pollinator conservation. Programs also have been offered at local elementary and middle schools where students can learn the importance of native plants, food gardens and how they rely on the help of animal pollinators. Additionally, college interns have helped survey insect pollinators in established pollinator gardens focusing on native bee species. Georgia is home to about 400 of the 3,400 native bee species throughout North America. These species are key in the reproduction and sustainability of natural ecosystems, the animals they support and of agricultural crops. The hairy bodies of bees and foraging habits that actively search for pollen and nectar make them successful pollinators. Despite the challenges, the National Pollinator Garden Network recently announced that its Million Pollinator Garden Challenge has registered more than a million pollinator gardens over the past four years, surpassing its goal. Yet it’s not enough to focus conservation efforts solely on pollinator gardens. Biological inventories, citizen science and events such as the Great Georgia Pollinator Census are needed to better understand how to support other pollinator species such as birds, butterflies, flies, moths and beetles. In natural areas where plant restoration MELINA LOZANO DURAN efforts are under way, the Garden plans is the Garden’s former to conduct baseline insect pollinator Pollinator Garden Coordinator. surveys to assess the success of ongoing habitat restoration efforts. 16 PlantIntel
Staff help community residents tend their pollinator garden.
HOW TO ENCOURAGE POLLINATORS • Know what lives in your area. Visit the Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership at gapp.org • Avoid using pesticides for insect control, including mosquitos. If mosquitos are a problem, get rid of any standing water where they breed.
Orange coneflower Rudbeckia fulgida
WHY IT MATTERS
• If you do not have a garden, pots of colorful-blooming plants work, too. • Leave some bare patches in garden beds because 70 percent of native bees are ground nesters.
Wild sweet William Phlox divaricata
• Plant at least three flowering plants per season that will attract pollinators. • Insect pollinators like bees and butterflies usually live in and on plants (Butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed; bees build their nests in hollowstemmed plants). • Concentrate on flowering native plants.
Butterfly weed Asclepias incarnata
Goldenrod Solidago caesia
Pollinators are critical for biodiversity, especially in agriculture in which one-third of the food supply relies on them. atlantabg.org 17
PlantIntel: Science in Action | Vol. 1, Issue 1, 2019-20