• Pollinators and Native Plants

Pollination happens when wind, water, or wildlife carry pollen from the anther (male part) to the stigma (female part) of flowers. Almost 90% of the world's flowering plant species rely on animal pollinators. Pollinators help us to enjoy well-balanced diets and healthy ecosystems. They provide nutritious fruits, vegetables, and nuts like blueberries, squash, and almonds. This food is important for wildlife, too. Black bears, for example, eat raspberries that are pollinated by bumble bees. Pollinators also create stable environments since they pollinate plants that stabilize the soil and prevent erosion. These plants can buffer waterways, store carbon, and provide habitat for other wildlife. Plus, flowering landscapes are beautiful. Without pollinators, our environment would look very different.


    Why the Need for this Project?

Human activity has left an irrevocable mark on the landscape we occupy. In Minnesota, about 98% of the prairie once occupying much of the western part of the state is now gone, lost to agriculture and development. Wetlands, big woods, and other ecosystems are being affected as well by continued human activity and encroachment as well as pesticide use, diseases, parasites, the spread of invasive species, and changing precipitation patterns brought on by climate change. Habitat loss has had a devastating effect on native pollinators that rely on these wild and semi-wild areas for forage.

Almost 90% of the world’s flowering plant species are pollinated by animals and depend on insects, birds, bats and other organisms to transport the pollen for them. More than 100,000 varieties of insects, including bees, moths, butterflies, beetles and flies, serve as pollinators, as do at least 1,035 species of vertebrates, including birds, mammals and reptiles. Almost all of Minnesota’s animal pollinators, especially in the prairie region, are insects. Minnesota is home to about 400 species of native bees, about 2,500 species of native butterflies and moths, and many other native insect pollinators such as wasps, flies, and beetles.

Flowering plants and insects have evolved together. The native plant communities of Minnesota, like other regions of the U.S., has its own suite of bio-diverse plant and pollinator species that exist in a delicate balance. In Minnesota’s increasingly altered landscape, we are seeing troubling declines in the diversity of both our native flowering plants and native pollinators. This growing imbalance has far-reaching impact on agricultural productivity that shows up on our supermarket shelves to human health and life impediments to the production of life saving drugs. The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Extension Volunteer Programs are extremely well-positioned to be on the forefront of a timely and critical movement to educate the public about pollinators, how to protect them, and how to protect their habitats.

    Get Involved!
The Minnesota Landscape Arboretum and Extension Volunteer Programs (Master Gardeners, Master Naturalists) are very well-positioned to disseminate information, provide education, and engage a wide diversity of people in their communities on the benefits of using native plants in the landscape and their overall value to pollinators and species preservation. This project is focusing on preserving, protecting, and propagating three plant species of native flowering plants - Milkweeds, Prairie Clovers and Blazing Stars. These plant species are particularly beneficial for pollinators and thrive in a wide range of landscapes. These plants can be found all over Minnesota from the northwest tip of the state to the southeast corner and just about everywhere in between. Milkweeds are the sole source of nutrition and habitat for monarch butterflies and also provide habitat and food for native bees. Prairie clover and blazing star are also readily consumed by many types of wildlife – and are a particularly valuable food source for pollinators such as bees and butterflies.

By participating in this project, Volunteers will increase their knowledge around:

- issues of pollination

- ecology of honeybees and native bees

- plant selection for pollinator forage

- bee lawns and re-thinking turfgrass management

- current issues with pesticides

- how individuals, businesses, and municipalities can make a difference in creating sustainable habitat for pollinators.   


In addition, Volunteers who agree to be “Citizen Scientists” will:

work in their communities to increase and/or raise awareness of native pollinator habitat

- increase their knowledge and capacity to identify, collect, clean and submit seeds of the selected plant species

- contribute to re-population efforts of native milkweeds, prairie clovers and blazing stars in their communities