St. Thomas Pollinator Path
The Pollinator Path is a series of gardens, some planted to attract pollinators and some planted for aesthetic purposes. These gardens allow students, faculty, staff and visitors to study pollinator activity and learn how to support declining pollinator populations.
How to Walk the Pollinator Path
Stop. Focus on movement. Notice the presence or absence of pollinators. Which plants are popular with pollinators, and which are they leaving alone?
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This new contemplative garden was not designed with pollinators in mind, however, its mix of trees, shrubs and perennials provide a good amount of pollen & nectar for pollinators from May until September. The early blossoms on the Hawthorn trees attract high numbers of native bees, followed by the fluffy white blooms on the false spirea, then the catmint and salvia, coneflowers and ornamental onion.
Daylilies are ubiquitous in the midwest. They are tough, low maintenance plants that thrive in difficult settings. But do pollinators visit them?
This site represents a traditional annual bedding plant design. The flowers were not selected for their value to pollinators, however, the Salvia attracts a moderate number of honey bees. The Alyssum border provides a great habitat for beneficial insects, like syrphid flies and spiders.
This site is a focal point for Tommie Pride with its purple and white color theme. It also happens to be a hot spot for early season pollinators who flock to the block plantings of catmint on the one side and mid to late season Salvia, hyssop and ornamental onion on the opposite side.
The entrance to Anderson Student Center provides a showcase of three of campus work-horses that all provide food for honey and bumble bees: Catmint, Salvia and Allium. Catmint and Salvia bloom early and will rebloom in the late summer if they are sheared back after the first bloom fades. All are high-value pollinator plants that also happen to be low-maintenance and tolerant of less-than-ideal conditions.
These planters serve as showcases for summer annuals followed by evergreen arrangements in the winter. The challenge for these planters is to find annual flowers that actually attract bees, butterflies, and other pollinators. This year we had success with a two of the six annuals and will be using them again next year - Purple Heart Setcreasea, Bondi Blue Scaveola. It has been exiciting to see honey, bumble and other native bees drinking nectar from the Scaveola and gathering pollen from the Purple Heart blooms.
This bed has the second highest pollinator diversity on campus and is composed of 17 different species, 13 of which are perennials, 5 are native cultivars and 2 are Minnesota natives. On any sunny day, you can see a host of honey bees, bumble bees, and other native bees and butterflies visiting many of these nectar and pollen-rich flowers, especially the giant hyssop, Joe-Pye weed, Culver's Root, and yellow coneflower. The Zinnias are there for passing butterflies. Walk by slowly and don't be embarrassed to stand and stare for a bit!
The newly installed Medicinal Garden is home to over 75 species of annuals and perennials which have brought in a stunning array of pollinators including bumble bees, two-spotted long horned bees, green sweat bees, honey bees, syrphid flies, Monarchs and other butterflies as well as a Ruby-Throated hummingbird. You are welcome to sit at the center table or benches and soak in all the activity - weekdays from 8:30-4:00.
This rain garden was planted years ago with a mix of perennials selected for their ability to tolerate the conditions of a rain garden - wetter towards the bottom, drier at the top. New native plantings have been added to attract native bees. Currently, Turtlehead is the highlighted plant, which attract bumble bees, one of the few native bees strong enough to pry open the petals and get to the nectar reward.
This planter is isolated in the middle of an asphalt parking lot. The reason it is included in our Pollinator Path is to see if any pollinators find it worthwhile to visit such a remote set of annual flowers. It turns out that they do! Main visitors to this planter are syrphid flies, some bumble and some honey bees.
This site is included soley to point out the magnificence of a giant stand of cup plants. This is a Minnesota native plant that grows to over 8 feet every summer and is covered in yellow, sunflower-like blooms that attract bumbles and many other native bees as well as a variety of other beneficial insects. It is also a larval host plant for two types of moth. As the name implies, the leaves are in opposite pairs that join at the stem, forming a "cup" that retains rain water used by insects and birds and the seeds bring finches and sparrows once they mature.
The Stewardship vegetable garden and zinnia border have been attracting pollinators and birds for the last several years. The squash blossoms host specialist squash bees and the zinnias provide much needed nectar in fall for passing Monarch butterflies.
The Pollinator Garden hosts over 25 Minnesota native flowers that, in turn, host Minnesota native pollinators. This bed was created with plant donations from the Kings-Maplewood Club who donated about 100 plants in 2015 and another 125 plants in 2017. To savor the experience of this bed, you must stand a few feet away and just watch for movement. Don't look at the flowers themselves, look at who is ON the flowers and flying ABOUT the flowers. Once you see the activity, zero in and see how many different kinds of bees, beetles, flies and butterflies you can spot. This bed has our highest pollinator diversity due to the number of Minnesota natives.