By MaryAnn Fink, Pollinator Junction, LIFE Exhibit Curator

Redbud tree/Cercis canadensis – Pollinary Park “food for thought” (and pollinators!)

Redbud trees are native to Missouri. They are great pollinator food providers.

These pretty spring flowering trees are pollinated primarily by bees, including our  honeybees (Apis mellifera), “too-busy-to-care-about-us” bumblebees (Bombus spp.), and our gentle orchard bee (Osmia spp.). The “bunny hole bee” (Andrena spp.) might also consider the Redbud blossoms as fine dining.

Redbud flowers supply both nectar and pollen to many adult pollinators and all through the growing season. The tree’s foliage is also “butterfly baby food.”

The Redbud tree is a “host” plant for a small fairly common butterfly known as Henry’s Elfin/Callophrys henrici.  When any kind of plant is referred to as a “host,” it means the leaves feed the baby butterflies while they are still caterpillars.

The Henry’s Elfin butterfly comes to drink nectar and then lays her eggs on a few leaves. They hatch as caterpillars growing and eating until they cocoon into a pretty butterflies.  Often a butterfly can only use a few select types of plants as “hosts” for their babies, hence the need for many different types of plants in the pollinary park.  Pollen must “bee” within reach of many different shapes and sizes of pollinators. The sweet nectar is the ultimate power drink for tiny to long tongues. An abundance of leaves are needed for lots of crawlies to eat.

Come see me every Wednesday from 9:30 to 11:00 a.m. and see what pollinator food is “bee”ing featured on the menu!