It’s not a garden, it’s a habitat

Ecologists estimate that only 3 to 4 percent of land in the United States has been undisturbed by human activity. That’s why providing habitat — food, shelter and nesting areas for wildlife — within sustainable urban landscapes should be an important goal for everyone.

We can’t create a perfect natural habitat for each species. However, we can make a difference by using Florida’s native wildflowers and plants. Learn how!

Common eastern bumble bee (Bombus impatiens) on purple thistle (Cirsium horridulum) Photo by Mary Keim

Know your native pollinators: Bumble bees

Bumble bees are very efficient pollinators because they “buzz pollinate.” The bee grabs onto a flower and vibrates its flight muscles but not its wings. This causes the flower to release its pollen. It also creates an audible buzz at the frequency of a middle C note. The genus name Bombus comes from the Greek bombos, which means “buzzing sound.”

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Surprise colors from your favorite plants

Don’t let the title scare you off! I’ve been wondering why plants of the same species sometimes occur in different colors, so I did a little research. As you can see from my photos, some common flowers that have appeared in my garden are red and yellow forms of milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) and blanketflower (Gaillardia puchella). I also have red, pink and white tropical sage (Salvia coccinea), which I’m sure many of you have also grown. Do you ever have white flower forms of your typically blue spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis) or Stokes’ aster (Stokesia laevis)? Wonder what’s going on?

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Bring native bees to your landscape

Do you enjoy juicy watermelons, local blueberries and strawberries and fresh Florida orange juice? How about carrots, broccoli, almonds and apples? If you do, please thank an insect! More than 100 crops are dependent on insect pollination, resulting in an economic value of $18 to $27 billion in the United States. Major Florida crops that benefit from bee pollination include cucumber, watermelon, specialty citrus, squash, strawberries, avocados, blueberries and eggplant.