To me, a cup of tea is not complete without a spoonful of honey. Our kitchen’s honey collection ranges from jars of amber-coloured local honey to pale, creamed honey brought back from previous travels. Our neighbours have hives, and the air is always buzzing with these beneficent harvesters.
Plants depend on pollinators for their survival. From bees and butterflies to birds and bats, pollinators are essential to biodiversity and ecosystem health. Yet, all around the world, pollinators face threats from pesticides, pollution, diseases and habitat loss directly related to human activity.
Though it might be an exaggeration to say I couldn’t live without honey, it’s not hyperbolic to say that, without pollinators, the natural systems we humans depend on would collapse.
We can support our local pollinators by growing plants that offer nectar and larval food sources.
Nurturing larval food plants is of particular importance. Though it might put off some gardeners to think that their plants may end up looking very nibbled at certain times of the year, consider it a small price to pay for the ecosystem services these industrious insects provide. In most cases, the caterpillars will not harm the plant, and it will grow back all the better for its natural pruning.
Here are six native plants and three non-native ornamentals that will help bring pollinators to your garden, keep the honey flowing, and our ecosystems going.
Bull Hoof | Bauhinia divaricarta
Named for its distinctively shaped leaves, this native plant is an excellent nectar source for butterflies, particularly Swallowtails. Did you know that the Cayman Islands has an endemic Swallowtail? The Cayman Swallowtail (Heraclides andraemaon tailori) is found only in Grand Cayman.
Sea Lavender | Argusia gnaphalodes
In addition to being drought and salt-tolerant, this silvery seaside native’s tiny, white flowers are very attractive to butterflies.
Red Top, Scarlet Milkweed | Asclepias curassavica
Although not native, this easy-to-grow, colourful ornamental is a favourite in local gardens where it attracts Soldier (Danaus eresimus tethys) and Queen (Danaus gilippus bernice) butterflies. It seems to come in two main varieties: the traditional red and orange combination and an all-yellow version.
Wild Cinnamon (Endangered) | Croton nitens
Bees absolutely love the cream-coloured, puff-ball flowers of this native plant. It’s also the larval food plant for the Cayman Brown Leaf Butterfly (Memphis verticordia danielana).
Cat Claw | Volkameria aculeata
This bushy shrub is almost always swarming with butterflies that come to drink from its showy, white flowers. Named Cat Claw for its spines, this plant is drought and salt-tolerant.
Cayman Sage (Critically Endangered) | Salvia caymanensis
Thanks to a partnership between the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and Dart, this critically endangered native is now flowering outside of Foster’s Camana Bay. Presumed extinct and rediscovered by Carla Reid in the 2000s, this plant’s tiny blue flowers instantly attracts bees upon planting.
Broadleaf | Cordia sebestena var. caymanensis
Another favourite plant for local butterflies, this endemic variety of Broadleaf has scarlet flowers and white fruits.
Ganges Rose, Bermuda Primrose | Asystasia gangetica
This humble plant makes a wonderful ground cover. It is hardy, drought-tolerant and comes in a variety of colours. Bees, in particular, love to collect pollen from these pretty flowers.
Firebush | Hamelia patens
This ornamental plant has bright orange flowers that earn it its common name. While there is also a native version (Hamelia cuprea), the exotic Firebush is more likely to be found in plant nurseries. Firebush attracts bees, Sphinx Moths, and even visiting hummingbirds.
Originally published in Real Life Magazine: https://www.reallife.ky/editorial/plants-for-pollinators