Green and Growing: Late blooming native beauties serve as food and habitat for pollinators and birds
Tired of lawn care? Consider this: You can help a bee, butterfly or bird by filling former lawn spaces with some of the seven asters and seven goldenrods below. These 14 natives provide autumn nectar, pollen, seeds, stalks, nesting materials and habitat. They are also pleasing to see.
Each description notes how these plants help wildlife, based on information from authoritative websites including Wildflower.org, Xerces.org, gobotany.nativeplanttrust.org, and audubon.org/native-plants. Some of these plants were evaluated by the Chicago Botanic Garden for their performance as landscape plants, so we name the top performers below.
New England aster, Symphotrichum novae-angliae, is a top source of sustenance for bees, particularly bumblebees, and butterflies. It hosts larvae for two butterfly species and attracts twelve species of birds. Grows to four and a half feet tall, though there are some shorter cultivars. Dry to moist soil, full sun.
Calico aster, Symphyotrichum lateriflorum, is medium-size aster that prefers moist soil and can tolerate some shade. Chicago Botanic Garden plant evaluations named the ‘Lady in Black’ variety a top performer. The plant attracts more pollinator species than some larger asters, has special value to native bees and attracts twelve species of birds.
New York aster, Symphotrichum novae-belgii, including the dwarf ‘Wood’s Blue,’ has special value to native bees.
Smooth aster, Symphotrichum leave, has special value to native bees and attracts 12 species of birds.
Aromatic aster, Symphotrichum oblongifolium, is one of the latest bloomers. A top performer in the Chicago Botanic Garden evaluations, it also has special value to native bees.
White wood aster, Eurybia divaricata, is a shade-tolerant, medium-size plant that was a top performer in CBG plant evaluations. It has special value to butterflies.
Heath aster, Symphotrichum ericoides, is a compact plant that loves a sunny, rocky terrain and has special value to native bees. The low-growing variety ‘Snow flurry’ thrives in rock gardens and was a top performer in CBG plant evaluations.
Showy goldenrod, Solidago speciosa, is a very late bloomer with special value to both native bees and honeybees. It attracts 12 species of birds. Only two and a half feet tall.
Gray goldenrod, Solidago nemoralis, grows where little else will. This plant attracts 12 species of birds and supports both honeybees and native bees. About two and a half feet tall.
Flat-top goldenrod, Euthamia graminifolia, has broad flower-heads of special value to native bees. About 4 feet tall.
Zig-zag goldenrod, Solidago flexicaulis, thrives in dappled shade and offers special value to native bees and honeybees. About two and a half feet tall. The ‘Variegata’ cultivar was a Chicago Botanic Garden top performer.
Seaside goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens, thrives in wet or dry conditions and can even tolerate salt. It has special value to native bees and honeybees. About 5 feet tall.
Licorice goldenrod, Solidago odora, has special value to native bees and honeybees, and also attracts 12 species of birds. About 3 feet tall.
Rough-leaved goldenrod, Solidago rugosa, has special value to native bees, honeybees, and 12 species of birds. The ‘Fireworks’ cultivar was a Chicago Botanic Garden top performer. About four and a half feet tall.
In part two of this series, learn about more late-blooming plants that support native bees, birds, butterflies and other creatures, including three perennials, four ornamental grasses, three shrubs, and one small tree.
Kathy Connolly is a writer and speaker from Old Saybrook who specializes in landscapes, land care and horticulture. Reach her through her website, SpeakingofLandscapes.com.
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