Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Evaluation of native and nonnative ornamentals as pollinator plants in Florida: I. Floral abundance and insect visitation.

Abstract

Diverse floral resources impart immense value for pollinating insects of all types. With increasing popularity and demand for modern ornamental hybrids, cultivation by breeders has led to selection for a suite of traits such as extended bloom periods and novel colors and forms deemed attractive to the human eye. Largely understudied is pollinator preference for these new cultivars, as compared with their native congeners. To address this gap in understanding, 10 species of popular herbaceous flowering plants, commonly labeled as pollinator-friendly, were evaluated at two sites in Florida [U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cold hardiness zones 8b and 9a] and across three seasons for their floral abundance and overall attractiveness to different groups of pollinating insects. Each genus, apart from pentas, encompassed a native and nonnative species. Native species included blanket flower (Gaillardia pulchella), lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata), pineland lantana (Lantana depressa), and scarlet sage (Salvia coccinea). Nonnative species included Barbican™ yellow-red ring blanket flower (G. aristata 'Gaiz005'), Bloomify™ rose lantana (L. camara 'UF-1011-2'), mysty salvia (S. longispicata ×farinacea 'Balsalmysty'), Lucky Star® dark red pentas (Pentas lanceolata 'PAS1231189'), ruby glow pentas (P. lanceolata 'Ruby glow') and Uptick™ Gold & Bronze coreopsis (Coreopsis × 'Baluptgonz'). Flower-visiting insects were recorded during five-minute intervals in the morning and categorized into the following morpho-groups: honey bees, large-bodied bees (bumble and carpenter bees), other bees (small to medium-bodied native bees), butterflies/moths, and wasps. Floral abundance and pollinator visitation varied widely by season, location, and species. Of the plant species evaluated, nonnative plants produced nearly twice as many flowers as native plants. About 22,000 floral visitations were observed. The majority of visits were by native, small to medium-bodied bees (55.28%), followed by butterflies and moths (15.4%), large-bodied native bees (11.8%), wasps (10.0%), and honey bees (7.6%). Among plant genera, both native and nonnative coreopsis and blanket flower were most attractive to native, small to medium-bodied bees (e.g., sweat bees, leafcutter bees) with the greatest number of visitations occurring during the early and midmonths of the study (May-August). Across the study, butterflies and moths visited lantana more frequently than all other ornamentals evaluated, whereas pentas were most attractive to wasps. Large-bodied bees visited plants most frequently in May and June, primarily foraging from both native and nonnative salvia. While results from this study showed nominal differences between native and nonnative species in their ability to attract the studied pollinator groups, care should be taken to making similar assessments of other modern plant types.