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?

We welcome your pictures on social media. Please tag your pictures by using the following hashtags #environment and #tommiebuzz.


Cómo se anda el camino

Pare. Concéntrese en el movimiento. Note la presencia o ausencia de los polinizadores ¿Qué plantas son populares entre los polinizadores? ¿Y cuáles dejan en paz?

Comparta sus fotos con nosotros en los medios sociales. Por favor etiquete sus fotos usando estos hashtags #environment y #tommiebuzz.


Pollinator Path Printed Map

Wander the Path and Discover St. Thomas' Pollinators

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.

poll path chapel garden


“The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ #13)

Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdooors

Daylilies are ubiquitous in the midwest.  They are tough, low maintenance plants that thrive in difficult settings.  But do pollinators visit them? 


“Each community can take from the bounty of earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ #67)


Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdooors

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. 

poll path flagpole bed


“Every creature is thus object of the Father’s tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. " – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ #77)


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.  

poll path fountain plaza


“Rather than a problem to be solved, the world is a joyful mystery to be contemplated with gladness and praise.” -Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ #12)

Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdooors

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.

poll path ASC




“Christians in their turn ‘realize that their responsibility within creation, and their duty towards nature and the Creator, are an essential part of their faith.’[John Paul II, Message for the 1990 World Day of Peace]” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ #64)


Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors


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.  

poll path ows planters


“It is good for humanity and the world at large when we believers better recognize the ecological commitments which stem from our convictions” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ #64)


Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors




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!

poll path OWS long bed


“The natural environment is a collective good, the patrimony of all humanity and the responsibility of everyone” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ # 95)


Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors


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.

med garden july 2017 500px


“By virtue of our unique dignity and our gift of intelligence, we are called to respect creation and its inherent laws, for ‘the Lord by wisdom founded the earth’ (Prov 3:19).” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ #69)


Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors



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.  

poll path parking ramp


“In doing so, it emphasizes all the more our human responsibility for nature.  This rediscovery of nature can never be at the cost of the freedom and responsibility of human beings who, as part of the world, have the duty to cultivate their abilities in order to protect it and develop its potential” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ #78)

Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors


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.


“…nature as a whole not only manifests God but is also a locus of his presence…. Discovering this presence leads us to cultivate the ‘ecological virtues’.” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ # 88)


Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors


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.


“Because all creatures are connected, each must be cherished with love and respect, for all of us as living creatures are dependent on one another.” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ # 42)




Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors



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. 

poll path stewardship garden


“Each creature possesses its own particular goodness and perfection...Each of the various creatures, willed in its own being, reflects in its own way a ray of God's infinite wisdom and goodness.”– Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ # 69)

Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors

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.  

poll path pollinator garden

“A fragile world, entrusted by God to human care, challenges us to devise intelligent ways of directing, developing and limiting our power.” – Pope Francis (Laudato Si’ # 78).


Pollinator Path Imagery for use with signage outdoors