It’s National Wildflower Week! The first week in May is a time to celebrate our native wildflowers and the pollinators they support. This post is part of an ongoing series highlighting some of the best plants for pollinators from coast-to-coast. Drawing from our books 100 Plants to Feed the Bees, Gardening for Butterflies , and our Monarch Nectar Plant Guides.
Coreopsis has rapidly grown in popularity, with many cultivars and hybridized versions showing up in wild colors at nurseries across the U.S. These wildflowers are not necessarily “pollinator magnets,” to begin with, and the breeding of native species for color variation may lead to cultivars that are even less attractive to pollinators. That said, they are dependable, long-blooming flowers and some species can attract a diversity (if not an abundance) of pollinators. Prairie coreopsis (C. palmata), for example, is visited by long-horned bees (Melissodes spp.), small carpenter bees (Ceratina spp.), leafcutter bees (Megachile spp.), cuckoo bees (Coelioxys spp.), and sulphur butterflies.
Lanceleaved coreopsis (C. lanceolata) is especially adaptable, widespread, and tough. It’s a good choice for meadow plantings and semi-disturbed areas such as roadsides. The seed of annual plains coreopsis (C. tinctoria) is very inexpensive and easy to grow on bare soil under a variety of conditions. This species does not reseed well, however, or compete well with perennial vegetation – making it a great choice for starting a pollinator habitat while longer-lived perennials are becoming established.
According to Prairie Moon Nursery “Beekeepers consider all Coreopsis species to be good honey sources. In the past, some American Indian tribes applied boiled Coreopsis seeds to painful areas of their bodies in order to relieve ailments such as rheumatism.” The common name is shared by a wide range of plants who have seeds that easily attach to skin or clothing of passersby.
Native range: Roughly two dozen perennial and annual species are locally native east of the Rockies, primarily in the central plains. When shopping at a nursery, you’re likely to encounter many cultivars such as “Moonbeam”, “Zagreb” and others. The research team at Mt. Cuba Center has published a report assessing various aspects of the more widely available cultivars, and Penn State is currently conducting a multi-year trial monitoring the attractiveness of popular cultivars to pollinators.
Best for: Low-care perennial that attracts a number of specialist pollinators. An inexpensive option for large scale restoration projects that allows other perennials time to establish.