National Butterfly Center
IMPORTANT POLLINATOR PLANTS
& The Bees That Pollinate Them
Below is a shortlist of pollinator plants that are essential to maintaining a diversity of bee species at the National Butterfly Center. Most of these are native to the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Notably, some of the NBC plants most important to wild bees are fairly humble "weeds" allowed to sprout undisturbed -- scrub mallows like Rio Grande abutilon and spiked Malvastrum; unobtrusive groundcovers like frog fruit and erect spiderling; and self-seeding wildflowers like silverleaf nightshade, common sunflower, Texas snout bean and alamo vine.
Native bees divide into two groups: "generalists" that forage on a broad array of plants, and "specialists" that feed on a particular plant genus or family. A diverse wild bee population requires a mix of plants that sustain both generalist and specialist bees. At the NBC, mallows and aster-family flowers serve as important food sources for specialist bees. Essential generalist bee plants include many flowering shrubs that are well-established in NBC gardens for the benefit of butterflies. Chief among these are crucita, low croton, Turk's cap, firebush, and Berlandier's fiddlewood.
Aster-family plants with long bloom periods -- daisies, blanket flowers, goldeneye, Mexican hat and hierba del marrano -- are also key food sources for generalist at bees at the NBC. Ornamental trees with long bloom periods such as esperanza and Duranta erecta, both native to the neighboring Mexican state of Tamaulipas, serve the pivotal function of maintaining generalist bee populations during periods of flower scarcity caused by drought or unseasonable cold snaps.
* Plants essential to the survival of rare & unusual native bee species have been marked with an asterisk.
Pollinator Plants Important to Native Bees