Lupinus perennis production field

The Importance of Late-Season Wildflowers

Oct 16, 2017

Bee on New England Aster

 As summer winds down, the number of blooming species on the landscape begins to dwindle. Fall is also the time of year when migrating Monarch butterflies are seeking vital nectar sources to fuel their long trip back to Mexico. Other insects, like solitary bumblebees, are also trying to find pollen sources to build up reserves before winter arrives. Late blooming native wildflowers provide a much-needed nectar and pollen sources for these pollinators.

Monarch butterflies on Showy goldenrod

Goldenrod species bloom late in the year and the large clusters of yellow flowers add a bright splash of color to the landscape on a cloudy fall day. They also produce large quantities of nectar and pollen for insect species, like the Monarchs pictured above, and bees, flies and wasps. 

Many honey producers sell special batches of Goldenrod honey, which is darker and more flavorful than early-season honey. Laney Honey (of North Liberty, IN) maintains hives on our nursery grounds and have positioned them next to our plot of showy goldenrod (Solidago speciosa) plants to capture that special brew.

Pollinators on goldenrod

Aster species are another great choice for late-season color, nectar and pollen. They range the color spectrum from purple to white, all with yellow centers. You can find an aster species that will grow in just about any habitat or soil type.

Native bee on heath aster

When designing your next native landscape or habitat restoration, remember to include some of these important fall flowering food sources. Planting them in groups of 3-5 will make it easy for migrating butterflies to find the flowers from a distance.

  • Agalinis spp. – Foxglove species
  • Ageratina altissima – White Snakeroot
  • Chelone glabra – White Turtlehead
  • Conoclinium coelestinum – Blue Mistflower
  • Coreopsis tripteris – Tall Coreopsis
  • Eupatorium perfoliatum – Common Boneset
  • Lobelia cardinalis – Cardinal Flower
  • Lobelia siphilitica – Great Blue Lobelia
  • Oligoneuron spp. – Goldenrod species
  • Pycnanthemum virginianum – Common Mountain Mint
  • Solidago spp. – Goldenrod species
  • Symphyotrichum spp. – Aster species
  • Vernonia spp. – Ironweed species