Relative Ranking of Ornamental Flower Plants to Foraging Honey Bees




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1Relative Ranking of Ornamental Flower Plants to Foraging Honey Bees

(With Notes on Favorability to Bumble Bees)
Whitney Cranshaw

Colorado State University
Observations were made during the 2007-2009 growing seasons on the relative attractiveness of various flowering ornamental plants to honey bees (Apis mellifera). This information was collected so that honey bee favorability - or lack of favorability - may be considered in plant selection.
The study was conducted by repeated visits to public garden plantings in Larimer, Denver, Adams, and Cheyenne counties. Gardens were chosen that had large mass plantings of numerous flowering plants so that comparisons could be made and included the Denver Botanic Garden, gardens at Colorado State University (PERC, Flower Demonstration Planting), Welby Gardens, and Cheyenne Botanic Garden. These sites also were chosen because plantings had identification labeling. Plantings were visited between 2 and 12 times between mid-June and mid-September.
Evaluations were made by examining plants that were in flower for the presence of honey bees. A planting was then given a relative ranking based on honey bee numbers. A 0-3 scale was used:

3 - Heavily visited by foraging honey bees

2 - Moderately visited by honey bees and foraged

1 - Honey bees seen occasionally visiting flowers

0 - Honey bees do not forage at these flowers
Data were collected from a total of 319 different plant entries during this study. Variation in rankings between dates did occur; where this occurred from multiple ratings the final ranking was rounded to the nearest whole number.
Numerous other bees and other insects were commonly seen on many plants. Notes were taken on plants that were heavily visited by bumble bees (Bombus spp.).
Results and Discussion
Of the 319 entries (Appendix I), 41 were considered to be heavily visited by honey bees (3 ranking). About half were in two plant families - Asteraceae (Aster Family) and Lamiaceae (Mint Family).
Over twice this number (98) were never observed to be visited by honey bees (Table 2), indicating plants that might be useful in sites where bee visitation was not considered desirable. Certain breeding practices (e.g., flower doubling) were noted to eliminate honey bee attractiveness in some species.
Incidental observations identified 13 flowering plants that were most consistently seen to be visited by foraging bumble bees (Table 3). An additional 19 were noted to be “frequently” visited. A few of these (Solidago, Nepeta, Echinops) were heavily visited by both honey bees and bumble bees. However, other plants (Hypericum frondosum, Sesili gummiferum, Veonicastrum virginicum) visited by bumble bees were largely avoided by honey bees.
Table 1. Plants observed to be most heavily visited by honey bees. (Favorability Ranking 3.)

Cultivar Plant Family





Allium tangitucum Alliaceae

Agastache foeniculum Lamiaceae

Aster novae-angliae Asteraceae

Berkheya purpurea Asteraceae

Berlandiera lyrata Asteraceae

Calamintha nepeta ssp. glandulosa Lamiaceae

Caryopteris ‘Blue Mist Spirea’ Verbenaceae

Chamaebatiaria millefolium Roscaceae

Chrysanthemum serotinum ‘Herbstern’ Asteraceae

Cleome Cleomaceae

Cotoneaster Rosaceae

Echinops exalta Asteraceae

Eremurus stenophyllus Lilliaceae

Ericameria nauseosa Asteraceae

Eriogonum jamesii Polygonaceae

Eryngium giganteum “Miss Willmott’s Ghost” Apiaceae

Euphorbia “Diamond Frost” Euphorbiaceae

Gaillardia aristata Asteraceae

Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ Geraniaceae

Geranium himalayense Geraniaceae

Heliotropium Boraginaceae

Inula royleana Asteraceae

Kniphofia typhoides Asphodelaceae

Malva alcea Malvaceae

Nepeta cataria Lamiaceae

Nepeta x fausenii Lamiaceae

Ocimum Lamiaceae

Penstemon eatonii Scrophulariaceae

Rhus typhina Anacardiaceae

Salvia nemorosa Lamiaceae

Sedum spectabile Crassulaceae

Senecio Asteraceae

Silphium laciniatum Asteraceae

Solidago Asteraceae

Spirea x bumalda Rosaceae

Teucrium chamaedrys Lamiaceae

Teucrium orientale Lamiaceae

Thymus kotschyanus Lamiaceae

Tilia americanum Malvaceae

Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ Scrophulariaceae

Veronica longifolia “Lavender Charm” Scrophulariaceae



Table 2. Plants not observed to be visited by honey bees. (Favorability Ranking 0.)

Acanthus hungaricus Achillea filipendula “Coronation Gold”

Achillea millefolium “Moonshine’ Achillea ptarmica

Achillea taygetea Alcea rugosa

Alyssum Allium moly

Amaranthus caudatus Ameria meritima ‘Victor Reiter’

Anemone coronaria Anemone sylvestris

Angelonia Anthemis tinctoria

Aquilegia caerulea Aquilegia flavescens

Arabis Argyranthemum

Artemesia ‘Bwis Castle’ Aster sericeus

Aster dumosus Aster x Finalist

Begonia tuberhybrida Brachycone

Callistephus chinensis Camassia quamash

Campanula carpatica Catharanthus roseus

Celosia (most) Centranthus ruber

Cerastrium tomentosum ‘Silver Cape’ Chrysanthemum (most)

Clematis Cornus kousa

Crossandra Cosmos (doubled flowers)

Dahlia (doubled flowers) Delosperma dyeri

Delosperma floribundum Delosperma rugigenum

Delphinium Dianthus (most)

Diascia integerrima Eustoma

Galium verum Ganzia krebsiana

Geranium (ivy) Geranium richardsonii

Geranium sanguineum Gomphrena globosa

Goodenia Helichrysum basalticum

Helleborus orientalis Heuchera x bressingham

Hosta Hyacinthoides hispanica

Hypericum frondosum Hypericum perforatum

Ismelia carinata Lathyrus latifolius

Laurentia Leucanthemum

Manicaria chamomilia Mercardonia

Miribilis multiflora Nemesia fruticans

Nicotiana Nierembergia

Nymphaea ‘William McClane’ Oenothera missouriensis

Osteospermum barberiae compactivum Penstemon pinifolius

Penstemon rostriflores Penstemon ‘Phoenix Violet, Red’

Petunia Philadelphus cornonarius ‘Silver Showers’

Phlox paniculata Phlox subulata

Pinellia. Platycodon

Polygonum Portulaca (most)

Pycnanthemum Rheum arstrale

Rudbeckia triloba Rudbeckia “Denver Daisy”

Ruta graveolens Sanvitalia

Scrophularia macranth Stachys officinalis

Syringa villosa x reflexa Teucrium lucidum

Verbena (all) Veronica austriaca ssp. teucrium

Veronica pectinata Veronicastrum virginicum

Vinca (all) Viola (all)



Table 3. Plants incidentally noted to be heavily visited by honey bees.

Plants Noted to be Most Heavily Visited by Bumble Bees



Agastache rupestris Anemone nemororosa

Cuphea Echinacea purpurea

Echinops Hypericum frondosum

Nepeta Penstemon x. mexicali

Perovskia atriplicifolia Sesili gummiferum

Solidago Symphylum officinale

Veronicastrum virginicum
Plants Noted to be Visited Frequently by Bumble Bees

Antirrhinum Caryopteris

Clematis stans Cleome

Epilobium Euonymous alata

Helenium Heliopsis

Hypericum perforatum Inula royleana

Lavatera ingernina Liatris

Nepeta racemosa Origanum majorana

Penstemon campanulatus Rosa (some)

Thermopsis montana Veronica spicata

Zauschneria



Appendix I. Relative favorability of different flowering ornamental plants to honey bees. Rankings were based on repeated observations made of formal garden plantings during 2007-2009. Cultivar names reflect identification tags.

Honey Bee Favorability



Cultivar Rankinga Plant Family



Acanthus hungaricus 0 Acanthaceae

Achillea ‘Gypsy White’ 1 Asteraceae

Achillea filipendula ‘Parkers Variety’ 1

Achillea filipendula “Coronation Gold” 0

Achillea millefolium “Moonshine’ 0

Achillea millefolium “Roseum’ 2

Achillea ptarmica 0

Achillea taygetea 0

Alcea rosea 2 Malvaceae

Alcea rugosa 0

Allium tangitucum 3 Alliaceae

Alyssum 0 Brassicaceae

Agastache cana 2 Lamiaceae

Agastache rupestris 2

Agastache foeniculum 3

Agastache foeniculum ‘Golden Jubilee’ 2

Ageratum 1 Asteraceae

Allium moly 0 Alliaceae

Amaranthus caudatus 0 Amaranthaceae

Amaranthus sp. 0

Amsonia illustris 1 Apocynaceae

Anagallis 1 Myrsinaceae

Anchusa azurea 1-2 Boraginaceae

Anemone coronaria 0 Ranunculaceae

Anemone nemorosa 2

Anemone sylvestris 0

Angelonia 0 Scrophulariaceae

Anisodentea ‘Elegant Lady Improved’ 2 Malvaceae

Anthemis tinctoria 0 Asteraceae

Antirrhinum 1,2 Plantaginaceae

Aquilegia 2 Ranunculaceae

Aquilegia caerulea 0

Aquilegia flavescens 0

Arabis 0 Brassicaceae

Argyranthemum 0 Asteraceae

Armeria meritima ‘Victor Reiter’ 0 Plumbaginaceae

Artemesia ‘Bwis Castle’ 0 Asteraceae

Asclepias tuberosa 2 Apocynaceae

Asclepias incarnata 2

Aster novae-angliae 3 Asteraceae

Aster novae-belgii 2

Aster sericeus 0

Aster dumosus 0

Aster x Finalist 0

Astericus 1 Asteraceae

Astrania major 1 Apiaceae
Bacopa 1 Scrophulariaceae

Baptista australis 1 Fabaceae

Begonia boliviensis 1 Begoniaceae

Begonia tuberhybrida 0

Berkheya purpurea 3 Asteraceae

Berlandiera lyrata 3 Asteraceae

Bidens 1 Asteraceae

Brachycone 0 Asteraceae

Brachteantha 1 Asteraceae

Buddleja 1 Scrophulariaceae

Bulbine frutescens 3 Asphodelaceae

Brunnera macrophylla 1
Calibrachoa 1 Solanaceae

Calamintha nepeta ssp. glandulosa 3 Lamiaceae

Callirhoe involucrata 1 Malvaceae

Callistephus chinensis 0 Asteraceae

Camassia quamash 0 Agavaceae

Campanula carpatica 0 Campanulaceae

Campanula glomerata 1

Campanula persicifolia 2

Campanula rotundifolia 2

Capsicum (ornamental) 2 Solanaceae

Caryopteris ‘Blue Mist Spirea’ 3 Verbenaceae

Caryopteris clandonensis 2

Catharanthus roseus 0

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides 1 Plumbaginaceae

Celosia (most) 0 Amaranthaceae

Celosia plumosa ‘Fresh Look’ 2

Centaurea montana 1 Asteraceae

Centaurea simplicicaulis 1

Centranthus ruber 0 Valarianaceae

Cerastrium tomentosum ‘Silver Cape’ 0 Carpophyllaceae

Chamaebatiaria millefolium 3 Roscaceae

Chelone lyoni 1 Scrophularicaeae

Chelone obliqua 1

Chrysanthemum (most) 0 Asteraceae

Chrysanthemum serotinum ‘Herbstern’ 3

Chrysocephalum apiculatum 1 Asteraceae

Clematis 0 Ranunculaceae

Cleome 3 Cleomaceae

Cornus kousa 0 Cornaceae

Coreopsis 2 Asteraceae

Coreopsis auriculata ‘Nana’ 1

Coreopsis verticillata 1

Coreopsis grandiflora 1

Cotoneaster 3 Roseaceae

Crossandra 0 Acanthaceae

Cychnis chalcedonica 1 Caryophyllaceae

Cosmos (doubles) 0 Asteraceae

Cosmos (single) 2

Cuphea 1 Lythraceae
Dahlia (single flowers) 1 Asteraceae

Dahlia (doubled) 0

Delosperma cooperi 2 Aizoaceae

Delosperma dyeri 0

Delosperma floribundum 0

Delosperma rugigenum 0

Delosperma ‘Mesa Verde’ 2

Delphinium 0 Ranunculaceae

Digitalis 1 Scrophulariaceae

Dianthus 0 Caryophyllaceae

Dianthus giganteus 2

Diascia 1 Scrophulariacae

Diascia integerrima 0

Doronicum carpaticum 1 Asteraceae
Echinacea purpurea 2 Asteraceae

Echinacea purpurea “Sunrise” 1

Echinops exalta 3 Asteraceae

Epilobium canum 2 Onagraceae

Eremurus stenophyllus 3 Lilliaceae

Ericameria nauseosa 3 Asteraceae

Eriogonum glaucus ‘Olga’ 2 Polygonaceae

Eriogonum jamesii 3

Eryngium bourgatii 1 Apiaceae

Eryngium giganteum

“Miss Willmott’s Ghost” 3



Erysimum spp. 1 Brassicaceae

Euphorbia “Diamond Frost” 3 Euphorbiaceae

Eustoma 0 Gentianaceae
Galium verum 0 Rosaceae

Gaillardia aristata 3 Asteraceae

Gaillardia pulchella “Sundance Bicolor” 2

Ganzia 0 Asteraceae

Ganzia krebsiana 0

Ganzia linearis 1

Gaura linheimeri 2 Onagraceae

Genista sylvestris var. pungens 1 Fabaceae

Geranium (ivy) 0 Geraniaceae

Geranium (zonal) 1

Geranium ‘Jolly Bee’ 3

Geranium x cantabrigiense 1

Geranium himalayense 3

Geranium richardsonii 0

Geranium sanguineum 0

Gomphocarpus physocarpus 2 Apocynaceae

Gomphrena globosa 0 Amaranthaceae

Goodenia 0 Goodeniaceae

Gypsophila paniculata 2 Caryophyllaceae
Halimodendron halodendron 1 Fabaceae

Helenium 1 Asteraceae

Helianthus annuus 2 Asteraceae

Helianthus maximillanii 1

Helianthus ‘Lemon Queen’ 3

Helichrysum basalticum 0 Asteraceae

Heliopsis 1 Asteraceae

Heliotropium 3 Boraginaceae

Helleborus orientalis 0 Ranunculaceae

Hemerocallis 1 Hemerocallidaceae

Heuchera sanguinea 1 Saxifragaceae

Heuchera x bressingham 0

Hibiscus 1 Malvaceae

Hosta 0 Liliaceae

Hyacinthoides hispanica 0 Hyacinthaceae

Hydrangea 1 Hydrangeaceae

Hypericum frondosum 0 Clusiaceae

Hypericum koutchense 2

Hypericum perforatum 0
Impatiens 1 Balsaminaceae

Inula royleana 3 Asteraceae

Iris sp. 2 Iridaceae

Iris lactea 1

Ismelia carinata 0 Asteraceae
Kitagawia terebinthinceum 1 Apiaceae

Knautia macedonia 1 Dipsacaceae

Kniphofia typhoides 3 Asphodelaceae

Kniphofia “Border Ballet” 1
Lantana 2 Verbenaceae

Lathyrus latifolius 0 Fabaceae

Laurentia 0 Lobeliaceae

Lavandula angustifolia 1,2 Lamiaceae

Lavandula x. intermedia 2

Lavatera thuringiaca 2 Saxifragaceae

Leonitis leonurus 1

Leucanthemum 0 Asteraceae

Liatris 2 Asteraceae

Limonium gmellinii 2 Plumbaginaceae

Limonium platyphyllum 1

Linum perenne 2 Linaceae

Lipinus perene 2 Fabaceae

Lobelia 1,2 Lobeliaceae
Manicaria chamomilia 0 Apiaceae

Malva alcea 3 Malvaceae

Menthal pulegium 1 Lamiaceae

Mercardonia sp. 0 Scrophulariaceae

Miribilis multiflora 0 Nyctinginaceae

Monarda didyma 1 Lamiaceae

Monardella ‘Baby Canyon’ 2
Nasturtium 1 Brassicaceae

Nemesia 1 Scrophulariaceae

Nemesia interspecific 0

Nemesia fruticans 0

Nepeta 3 Lamiaceae

Nepeta cataria 3

Nepeta x fausenii 3

Nepeta racemosa 2

Nicotiana 0 Solanaceae

Nierembergia 0 Solanaceae

Nymphaea ‘William McClane’ 0
Ocimum 3 Lamiaceae

Oenethera macrocarpa 1 Onagraceae

Oenothera missouriensis 0

Origanum 3 Lamiaceae

Origanum “Hopley’s Purple” 3

Osteospermum 1 Asteraceae

Osteospermum barberiae compactivum 0

Osteospermum ecklonis 1
Paeonia 1 Paeoniaceae

Pentas 2 Rubiaceae

Penstemon digitalis 2 Scrophulariaceae

Penstemon eatonii 3

Penstemon grandiflorus 1

Penstemon heterophyllus 1

Penstemon linaroides 2

Penstemon x mexicali 2

Penstemon pinifolius 0

Penstemon rostriflores 0

Penstemon virgatas ‘Elle Bucele’ 2

Penstemon ‘Phoenix Violet, Red’ 0

Penstemon ‘Lilliput Rose’ 1

Perovskia atriplicifolia 2 Lamiaceae

Peroskia ‘Longin’ 2

Petunia 0 Solanaceae

Philadelphus cornonarius ‘Silver Showers’ 0 Hydrangeaceae

Phlomis cashmeriana 1 Lamiaceae

Phlox 1 Polemoniaceae

Phlox bifida 2

Phlox paniculata 0

Phlox subulata 0

Phystostegia 2 Lamiaceae

Pinellia spp. 0 Araceae

Platycodon 0 Campanulaceae

Polygonum 0 Polygonaceae

Portulaca (most) 0 Portulacaeae

Portulaca grandiflora 1

Pycnanthemum 0 Lamiaceae

Rheum arstrale 0 Polygonaceae

Rhus typhina 3 Anacardiaceae

Rosa 0,1 Rosaceae

Rudbeckia 1 Asteraceae

Rudbeckia fulgida 1

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Prairie Sun’ 2

Rudbeckia triloba 0

Rudbeckia “Denver Daisy” 0

Ruta graveolens 0 Rutaceae
Salvia coccinea 2 Lamiaceae

Salvia farincea 2

Salvia hybrida 1

Salvia greggii 2

Salvia nemorosa 3

Salvia pachypsylla 2

Salvia splendens 1

Salvia verticillata 2

Sanvitalia 0 Asteraceae

Satureja montana 3 Lamiaceae

Scabiosa 3 Dipsacaceae

Scabiosa ochroleuca 2

Scaevola 3 Goodeniaceae

Scaveola ‘Bombay White’ 1

Scaveola ‘Bombay Blue’ 1

Scaveola ‘Topaz Pink’ 1

Scrophularia macranth 0 Scrophulariaceae

Scutellaria 1 Lamiaceae

Sedum aizoon 1 Crassulaceae

Sedum kantschaticum ‘Floritreum’ 1

Sedum litterale 2

Sedum spectabile 3

Sedum spurium 1

Sedum telphinum 2

Senecio 3 Asteraceae

Seseli gummiferum 0 Apiaceae

Silphium laciniatum 3 Asteraceae

Solidago 3 Asteraceae

Spirea x bumalda 3 Rosaceae

Spirea japonica 1, 2

Stachys 1 Lamiaceae

Stachys officinalis 0

Symphytum officinale 1 Boraginaceae

Syringa villosa x reflexa 0 Oleaceae

Syringa pekingensis 1

Syringa reticulata 2

Syringa 3 Oleaceae
Tagetes 1,2 Asteraceae

Tanacetum 2 Asteraceae

Tanaretum coccineum ‘Robinson’s Red’ 1

Teucrium chamaedrys 3 Lamiaceae

Teucrium canadense 2

Teucrium lucidum 0

Teucrium orientale 3

Thalictrum aquilegifolium 1

Thymus 2 Lamiaceae

Thymus ‘Clear Gold’ 2

Thymus x citriodonus 2

Thymus kotschyanus 3

Tilia americanum 3 Malvaceae

Torenia 1 Scrophulariaceae

Triteleia 1

Trollius europaeus ‘Orange Princess’
Verbena (all) 0 Verbenaceae

Verbena bipinnatifida 0

Verbena hybrida “Quartz Burgundy” 1

Veronica austriaca ssp. teucrium 0 Scrophulariaceae

Veronica spicata (most) 2

Veronica spicata ‘Rosea’ 2

Veronica spicata ‘Sunny Border Blue’ 3

Veronica liwanensis 2

Veronica longifolia “Lavender Charm” 3

Veronica pectinata 0

Veronicastrum virginicum 0 Scrophulariaceae

Vinca (all) 0 Apocynaceae

Viola (all) 0 Violaceae
Zauschneria garrettii 2 Onagraceae

Zinnia (most) 1 Asteraceae

Zinnia ‘Zowie’ 1

Zinna ‘Profusion Fire’ 2



a Ranking Scale: 3 - Heavily visited by foraging honey bees; 2 - Moderately visited by honey bees and foraged; 1 - Honey bees seen occasionally visiting flowers; 0 - Honey bees do not forage at these flowers


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