Green and Growing: More late-blooming beauties to help local pollinators
Part one of this two-part series focusing on asters and goldenrods is available here.
Are you tired of bad news? Try this: Plant some of the three perennials, four ornamental grasses, three shrubs and one small tree listed below. These 11 natives provide autumn nectar, pollen, seeds, berries, stalks, nesting materials and habitat for bees, butterflies, birds and other creatures.
Their September, October and November blossoms 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.
Three late-flowering perennials
Helen’s flower, Helenium autumnale, is also called sneezeweed because of old-time associations with snuff. The long-lasting blossoms grow best in and around ponds, lakes and streams. The plant attracts butterflies and has special value to native bees. Deer resistant. About three and a half feet tall.
White snakeroot, Ageratina altissima, used to be called Chocolate Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium rugosum). This deer-resistant, late-blooming spreader thrives in dappled shade. It attracts late-foraging bees and predatory insects that help reduce pest insect populations. The ‘Chocolate’ cultivar was a top performer in plant evaluations at Chicago Botanic Garden. About two and a half feet tall.
Hardy ageratum, blue boneset, or blue mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum, is of special value to native bees and attracts butterflies. About three and a half feet tall.
Little bluestem, Schizachyrium scoparium, is a rock star among natives, providing nesting material and structures for bees, acting as a larval host for six native butterflies, and attracting 12 bird species. About four feet tall.
Indiangrass, Sorghastrum nutans, provides cover, nesting material and seeds to ground-feeding birds, attracts butterflies and is a larval host to one butterfly species. About five feet tall.
Switchgrass, Panicum virgatum, provides cover, nesting material, and seeds to ground-feeding birds. It hosts skipper butterfly larvae. Different varieties grow between three and five feet tall.
Prairie dropseed, Sporobolus heterolepis, provides nesting materials for native bees. Great fall color, great groundcover, great edging. Grows to two feet tall.
Brilliant red chokeberry, Aronia arbutifolia, and black chokeberry, Aronia melanocarpa, offer abundant berries in late summer and brilliant red foliage in fall. Both provide berries for birds in late fall and winter.
Sweet pepperbush, Clethra alnifolia, offers sweet scents and abundant flowers in August, brilliant golden leaves in October to early December. It offers fall food and forage to native bees, native bumblebees and honeybees. Butterflies and hummingbirds also frequent the plant for nectar. Many birds and small mammals eat the fruit.
Winterberry, Ilex verticillata, offers decorative red berries in late summer that last late into fall and sometimes until March. (Hungry birds are happy for the food in that food-scarce time.) Winterberry provides cover and nesting for birds, as well as nectar for butterflies. It is a larval host to one butterfly.
A small native tree
Witch-hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, offers yellow flowers in October and November and is our latest blooming regional native plant. Flowers increase each year as the plant matures. It supports native bees as they forage on warm fall days. Twelve bird species visit witch hazel for seeds. It prefers average soil and moisture, and can tolerate a bit of shade. Grows to 20 feet tall.
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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