Flowers on my property…

Honeybee enjoying a Texas Bluebonnet

Honeybee enjoying a Texas Bluebonnet

Up until I got bees, flowers were just pretty colorful things growing on the weeds in my back yard. And until I got bees, I had no idea just how many flowers I had growing back there – and how many there are. There are just a ton of them back there. Always could be more, of course. There are a few that I’ve yet to identify, but I’ll amend this when I do.

For years I hesitated to get bees because it just didn’t seem that there were enough flowers to support them. It’s rather dry here for much of the growing season and part of the time we have lived here was in a pretty extreme drought. However, I finally took the plunge and as I got into bees I seemed to have my eyes opened to just how many flowers were in this area.

Texas Bluebonnet – Lupinus texensis. A yard in Texas isn’t complete without a patch of that growing. This stuff grows in a nice patch on the very worst soil on our property:

Prairie Bluet – Stenaria nigricans. These are sneaky little plants. They come in early, but are very inconspicuous. The plants are small, and the flowers diminutive. Very pretty. It took me a while to identify this – but there are years before I got bees where I’d walk thru these flowers and I could hear the hum of bees working them – they love them. So now, so do I:

Great Plains Verbena – Glandularia bipinnatifida. I’ve yet to see a honeybee on any of these but they’re growing all over the property and deserve an honorable mention:

Texas Paintbrush – Castilleja indivisa. This baby comes in shortly after the Bluebonnets make a showing. Usually they’re growing intermixed. They’re lovely flowers that compliment the bluebonnets perfectly.

Blue Vetch – Vicia cracca. I’m fairly certain that this is the correct vetch identification – fairly. Close enough for me anyway. Very pretty, and some years very prolific.

Cut-leaf Daisy – Engelmannia peristenia. This is a flower that always attracts my bees. I think this one gives them a good jumpstart – lotsa pollen for the brood and surely lotsa nectar. It’s also a very pretty plant and a pretty flower. I have a lot on my property, but I have seen fields in this area that are just totally blanketted with them – something I’ll have to work on here:

Indian Blanket – Gaillardia pulchella. When I see my bees coming in with a red or dark orange pollen, I know that they’ve been working the Indian Blanket patches I have here and that grow in this area. Another stunning plant that’s just gorgeous to look at and one that the bees appear to like as well.

Spider Milkweed – Asclepias asperula. This is a very plain milkweed, low growing and often disappears in the low tufts of grass that it grows in. But, the bees seem to like it – I see them working this plant often.

Texas Thistle – Cirsium texanum. Thistles are not popular to gardeners and landscapers – but aside from their prickly nature, their flowers are attractive and the honeybees really seem to like them. Last year I had a huge patch of them. This year only a few. They seem to come and go with the years.

Red and Yellow Coneflower – Ratibida columnifera. Same species but the flowers are very distinctive between the two – and I have both. There are the coneflowers that have straight yellow petals, and the coneflowers that have mostly red petals with yellow rims. Otherwise they look identical. Lovely flower – and one that I’ve seen the bees visit as well.

Lemon Bee Balm – Monarda citriodora. Another very pretty flower that has made an increasing presense in my yard. I’m hoping that the more exhaustive pollination by the honeybees will help this flower multiply even faster.

White Horsenettle – Solanum elaeagnifolium. I’ve yet to see a bee visit this flower, but this plant grows reliably regardless of how wet or dry it is here – one of the toughest of the flowering plants that I’ve seen here.

Plains Coreopsis – Coreopsis tinctoria. This is another very pretty flower that comes in late Spring. Oddly, I can’t recall ever seeing a honeybee on this flower – but it looks to be a good pollen source at the least.

Texas Lantana – Lantana horrida. This plant stinks. No really – next to the stink melon, this is the worst smelling plant I’ve come across growing natively here. It just takes walking thru a patch of this and you’ll be happy to get thru it as quick as possible. But the flowers sure are pretty. I have yet to see my bees work these plants either but will keep an eye out for them.

Western Ironweed – Vernonia baldwinii. I was going to pull these weeds when I saw them sprouting up by the house – but decided to leave them. I’m happy I did – their blooms are prolific and lovely – and the bees really like them a lot.

Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale. What landscape is complete without the ubiquitous Dandelion? Long used as the mascot by herbicide companies, this plant is actually a vegetable that just happened to find our environment ideal. While I’ve read that the pollen isn’t the cat’s meow for bees, it makes up for it with rich nectar forage – and you can still batter and fry them flowers afterwards. This plant seems to prefer our front yard over our back yard, but I routinely kick the seed-heads in hopes to spread it out a bit and get more growing. It is variable tho, never overpowering the landscape but rather just giving a scattering of beautiful yellow flowers on a rich green grassy background.

Sow Thistle – Sonchus asper. This plant is often assumed to be Dandelions by people less interested in plants and more interested in killing weeds. But rather than the cut-leaves of a Dandelion, this plant has spiny leaves like a thistle. Nevertheless, the flowers do bear a remarkable resemblance to the Dandelion, and it is suitable as a pot-herb as well. I don’t think enough grows on our property to really make a difference with the bees – but that could change in time – they’re really pretty when in bloom.

Queen Anne’s Lace – Daucus carota. This plant grows prolifically on our property, especially down in the moister parts. It’s a pretty plant and produces loads of flowers that results in lotsa seeds that stick to hair, clothing and are hard to get out of your socks and whatnot. I’ve noticed that my bees don’t seem to prefer this particular flower for forage. While I’ll see the bees going crazy over my Cut-leaf Daisies and Prairie Bluet, I hardly see a bee hitting up these abundant flowers.

Leavenworth Eryngo – Eryngium leavenworthii. A very spiny plant that often grows as a single long stem terminating in several branches with an odd pineapple-looking purple flower at the tip of each. It is an annual that typically blooms in late August.. When there’s a lot of them, they turn the view purple and are actually very pretty. I’ve yet to see honeybees working them tho but will keep an eye on them.

Pricklyleaf Dogweed – Dyssodia acerosa. A diminutive and extremely drought-hardy little plant with small gray-green leaves and diminutive little yellow flowers. This plant grows all over the place here and everywhere on the driest parts of our property and remains green even when the grass whithers and turns yellow. I’ve not seen bees working these flowers tho but hopefully they do provide forage when better forage is lacking. acerosa

Garden Sage – Salvia officinalis. This is a newcomer to my collection. But from what I’ve read, there’s nothing quite like sage honey. Mine will still be a mix of wildflowers but perhaps my sage will add it’s blessing to the mix anyway.

Blackberry – Rubus fruticosus. The subspecies is only a guess. It’s a blackberry, folks. Thorny, viney, lotsa white flowers, lotsa tart to sweet berries with a moderate number of plump, black drupelets. Nevertheless, blackberry honey is popular and while I only have a few of these vines growing completely unattended on my property, I do plan on propagating them massively and getting a LOT of blackberry plants growing here before long. Happy bees, happy me – bees like the nectar and pollen, and I so like to get berry-faced.

Honey Mesquite – Prosopis juliflora. I’m fairly certain about this identification too, tho I could be wrong. Nevertheless, this mesquite is considered a weed by most of the ranchers in this area, but it grows thickly and prolifically all around here and on my property as well. I have to say that if there’s a single most influential source of nectar for my apiary, this would be it.

Jerusalem Thorn – Parkinsonia aculeata. This one isn’t growing on my property but very close by and I have seeds – very soon I’ll have a patch of it growing here before long. This is an odd looking tree but it just covers itself thickly with yellow flowers and is in bloom currently.

Smooth Sumac – Rhus glabra. This is a lovely tree that flowers profusely in the late Spring and early Summer here. Every time I walk by there are bees all over it. During time of drought here I firmly believe this is one of the trees that allowed the colonies to keep storing up honey. I have a few on my property and across the road and there are some along the creek and I hope to dig up starts and get more growing.

Staghorn Sumac – Rhus typhina. This is a very tropical looking Sumac that has luxuriant and large foliage and an almost succulent looking trunk. It resembles a multi-trunked palm especially when it’s fairly young. Another profuse flowering tree that the bees just adore. It’s Fall foliage is also very colorful to. It may be a weedy tree, but I can certainly think of worse to have around and don’t mind this one at all.

Chickasaw Plum – Prunus angustifolia. I first noticed this clump of shrubs and trees a few years ago. Normally, it is very inconspicuous, growing amongst the other trees and not really standing out. But come spring, before the leaves emerge, these shrubs and trees just get completely plastered with little white flowers. My bees really appreciate this early injection of nectar, not to mention every other bee, wasp and butterfly in the area.

This list is a work in progress, of course. There are still more wildflowers I need to identify. Some non-native flowering plants I have here are peach trees, roses, lotus, and I’m sure the bees get pollen from my cattails too. And let’s not forget the ubiquitous dandelions that seem to stick to our front yard. And the list continues…

Michael Vanecek

I've been keeping bees with no treatments whatsoever for several years. I've followed a basic philosophy of if the bees don't bring it into the hive then it doesn't get put into the hive with good success. After a life-time of naturalism, this was simply the logical course to take with honeybee husbrandry and proof is out there buzzing and making honey right now.

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