Favourite Insect Friendly Flowers and Plants – September

Please read the introductory page in the Real Botany of Desire for the background to why I’m listing the observed insect favourite flowers that bloom during this month, and which seem to be the most popular with the groups of insects which frequent our garden. Again a month where choosing just a top 3 favourite insect friendly flowers is really tricky, but my choices for now are Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’, Geranium procurrens and Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ …

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… As always, many of August’s great insect friendly flowers continue blooming into September, so check the previous month as well …

If reading my introductory page is a click too far, then briefly, there’s a huge issue with loss of wild flowers as agriculture intensifies and mono-cultures prevail. This impacts on all the insects which rely on flowers as food sources. But all flowers aren’t equal in their appeal to insects, or particular groups of insects, (e.g. Honeybees, Bumblebees, Hover flies, Moths, Butterflies) and many nursery bred plants have been designed to be attractive to our senses, not insects. Some flowers are useful as both pollen and nectar sources (P,N) whereas others just seem to provide one of these insect foodstuffs, and I’ll try to include this information with the images. So this simple record is to help gardeners think about this issue, and maybe plant more flowers to help our very diverse native insect groups. I’ve found that many of the best plants seem to be some of our native wild flowers which can in other respects have real garden merit. Equally there are many plants from the other side of the globe which are preferentially favoured over native flowers at certain times of the year – there is no simple easy guide to their relative appeal. The positive spin offs from incorporating more insect friendly flowers in our gardens apart from the appeal of seeing the insects themselves will be better pollination of our crops, and more varied wildlife in our gardens, since insects are at the bottom of many animal food chains.

It’s certainly not exhaustive, and if you know other flowers which have equal appeal, which aren’t listed here, do please let me know, and I’ll trial them up here as well. This work started a couple of years before my blog began in March 2011, but previous to that I’d produced the UK’s first DVD-ROM guide to Garden Moths ” In A Different Light”. This project attempts to widen that work in a more general way.

September often brings the final crescendo of insect numbers and diversity in our garden, before the falling away as temperatures start to drop heading into autumn and winter. This month nearly always finds the biggest number of butterflies into the garden, and we’ve devoted a specific, slightly more sheltered part of the garden to incorporate lots of butterfly attracting flowers.

Finally as I mention elsewhere, the actual number of flowers of a single plant type growing together, and their position in the garden (e.g.sun or shade), can also impact on how favoured the flowers are by your garden’s insect population – probably because sun and warmth can affect nectar and pollen production and release.

… Buddleia davidii plants, this is an unknown cultivar, form the mainstay along with Golden Marjoram and Sedum specatbile of an area of the garden planted up for maximum nectar appeal for the late summer butterflies, which forms the peak of the native butterfly season here. This peak in numbers in upland Carmarthenshire is often later than in other parts of the UK. But as well as attracting butterflies, Buddleia flowers are really popular with moths, flies, and some Bumblebees. Red Admiral, Vanessa atalanta, butterfly …

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… Sedum and Golden Marjoram in the butterfly garden. Sedum spectabile ‘Autumn Joy’ is THE nectar flower for butterflies in our garden once the Buddleia have finishing blooming

… And for the first time in 2012 we had, for an afternoon only in early September, hundreds of honeybees descend on the Sedum flowers. The wind was blowing in exactly the opposite direction of the nearest known hive, over a mile away, but it was a particularly warm sunny afternoon. Notice no visible pollen on any of these bees, and compare with the photo later on, taken of a honeybee on the same day on a Hydrangea ‘Blue Zorro’. There are certainly cohorts of honeybees which forage for nectar, and others for pollen. Sedum, at least at this stage of flowering, seems to be firmly in the nectar source camp .

…  Speckled Wood butterfly, Pararge aegeria, and 2 Honeybees on S.spectabile …

… Fuchsia magellanica ‘Alba’ is one of a couple of hardy fuchsias we grow which are perennials surviving down to minus 17 degrees C. They are sometimes visited by Bumblebees. Another late season plant which keeps flowering up to first frosts. 7/09/11.

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… Anaphalis margaritacea ‘New Snow’ has attractive silver foliage, and produces these small flowers for a shortish period in September, but as you can see they are popular with moths and flies …

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… Verbena rigida is a great late season flower with us. Less tall than V. bonariensis, it flowers just as prolifically and like V. bonariensis is very attractive as a nectar source for butterflies, moths and some flies. It has proved to be hardy down to minus 17 degrees C as well, and flowers up to the first frosts. 14/09/11 …

… Verbena rigida is also valued as a nectar source by several Bumblebee species ..

… Geranium procurrens, a trailing Himalayan late season flowering species is one of the most favoured G. for insects – moths, flies, Bumblebees and mining bees.This is a Silver Y moth feeding during the daytime 25/09/11. It will keep flowering until frosts or early December, so is a great late season nectar source …

… And Honeybee on Geranium procurrens …

… And pretty fly on G. procurrens !..

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… For the first time in 2011 I saw and managed to photograph a small Bumblebee on a Cyclamen flower. This is C. hederifolium. Apart from a very few flies visiting both these and C.coum flowers in the spring, few pollinators seem interested (or about at this time of the year, where C. coum is concerned). So for good seed production, I hand pollinate with a small artist’s brush …

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… Eupatorium maculatum ‘Atropurpureum AGM is a newly introduced plant for us, and along with some other Eupatorium is a big hit with butterflies 1/09/11 …

… Clethra alnifolia ‘Hummingbird’ is a September flowering shrub, with scented white flower clusters, that appeal to some late flying moths, and flies …

… A late flowering favourite of ours for poor soil and containers, is low growing Persicaria vaccinifolia. It also seems to be a very popular late season nectar flower for some Bumblebees, Honeybees, flies and moths …

… Silver Y moth on Persicaria vaccinifolia …

… Honeybee on P.vaccinifolia …

… Persicaria amplexicaulis var. pendula finishes flowering in early September, but is still a preferred flower for a couple of our Bumblebee species …

… Japanese Anemone, Anemone japonica, is a bit of a thug like plant here in this common and unnamed (or lost name!) pink form, but produces masses of flowers which are really attractive as pollen sources to lots of different flies, and occasionally Bumblebees, but not as of 2012, honeybees …

… Bumblebee on Anemone japonica …

… Erodium manescavii is another favourite of ours for free draining areas, and low maintenance pots, and continues flowering from May to October, and appealing to a range of flies, Bumblebee and mining bees, as the lower insect in the image above …

… Crocosmia  cultivars also flower into September, and appeal to some flies and Bumblebee species …

… Late flowering Rose ‘Grouse’ continues into September with a profusion of interestingly scented flowers which appeal to flies, Bumblebees and Honeybees …

… New in our garden for 2012, the perennial Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’, begins flowering in September and attracts many flies and Bumblebees  for both pollen and nectar …

… Astrantia major often seem to produce a second flush of flowers in September which attract some Bumblebee species, and numerous flies …

… Himalayan Honeysuckle, Leycesteria formosa, continues flowering into September attracting some Bumblebee species, flies and, after dark, moths, which are attracted to sticky secretions around the developing fruits …

… Many of our Aster cultivars begin to bloom in September, and they provide great late season nectar and pollen for a huge range of insects from butterflies and moths to flies and Bumblebees. This is a Small Copper butterfly, Lycaena phlaeas …

… Fly on small flowered Aster …

… Lysimachia clethroides, one of our favourite insect friendly flowers, continues flowering into September and continues to attract butterflies, moths, flies and Bumblebees …

… Several single Dahlia cultivars, like this Dahlia ‘Bishop of Auckland’ continue flowering into September and attract flies and Bumblebees, for both nectar and pollen …

… And honeybees and mining bees, as on this D. merckii …

… Erysimum ‘Bowle’s Mauve’, is another plant which flowers continuously from May, but it’s in September that it seems to excel here as a butterfly attractor, for nectar, and also gets occasional fly and Bumblebee visits, as below …

… One of our newly grown annuals for 2012, which we’ll repeat next year for its stunning blue flowers as well as it’s fly, Bumblebee and Honeybee appeal. The native Cornflower, Centaurea cyanus …

… And another lovely floriferous blue annual, Echium ‘Blue Bedder’, which appeals to flies, Honeybees, Bumblebees and a few moths as a nectar and pollen source flowering continuously through the summer …

… Honeybee on Echium flower. Early in the morning, it took the bee quite a time to select a flower to visit out of many apparently similar ones. Perhaps a flower which needs a little warmth to release nectar?…

… Cosmos ‘Purity’ which also as an annual attracts flies and Bumblebees …

… Aconitum ‘Spark’s Variety’ continues flowering into September and is really popular with a couple of Bumblebee species, and we value it for the richness of its purple flowers, even if it is a highly poisonous plant …

… A new perennial for us in 2012, Lobelia siphilitica, seems attractive to some smaller Bumblebee species, and occasionally Honeybees …

… Native Yellow-horned poppy, Flavium glaucum, continues flowering into September and attracts lots of flies and Bumblebees as a nectar and pollen source …

… As does native Fox-and-cubs, Pilosella aurantiaca, attracting mainly flies and some Bumblebees, and occasionally Honeybees …

… Native Common Knapweed, Centaurea nigra, only just keeps flowering into September, but still receives various fly and Bumblebee species visits …

… Native Welsh poppy, Meconopsis cambrica, continues to flower with a few blooms in September, and still gets fly and some Bumblebee species visits …

… For the first time in 2012, our many Hydrangea cultivars have received lots of visits from pollen collecting Honeybees. Very few other insects seem to visit the small flat flowers of Hydrangeas – just the very occasional Bumblebee and a few flies. This is the stunning H. ‘Blue Zorro’ cultivar …

… Meanwhile the adjacent plants of a couple of Chelone obliqua and C. glabra cultivars are actively sought out by a couple of Bumblebee species, which largely ignore the Hydrangeas …

… Another perennial flowering into September is Veronica longifolia ‘Rose Tones’, which attracts a few Bumblebee species, and some moths …

… Linaria genistifolia continues flowering for several months and into September with masses of flowers, but it’s only rarely that I see a Bumblebee or other insect on its pretty flowers …

… In contrast, the nearby annual blue Borage flowers, Borago officinalis, are a firm favourite with many Bumblebees …

Thanks for reading. And do browse around the rest of the Blog Pages….

Our garden at Gelli Uchaf opens most of the year, when we’re around, by appointment, for charity under the National Garden Scheme. Please see the Garden Overview page for visiting details, or by clicking here. 

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Last updated 23/01/2013

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