100 Plants to Feed to the Bees – a Book Review

by Glenn Steinberg

Available at the Mercer County Library system

The Xerces Society.  100 Plants to Feed to the Bees:  Provide a Healthy Habitat to Help Pollinators Thrive.  North Adams, MA:  Storey Publishing, 2016.

The Xerces Society’s guide to 100 Plants to Feed to the Bees, like Gardening for Butterflies (another Xerces Society book), is basic, reliable, and straightforward – a compilation of 100 types of plants that support bees and other insect pollinators.  From plants that almost everyone will recognize (such as Purple Coneflower and Goldenrod) to obscure species that only the most stalwart, veteran gardeners may know (such as Wood Mint or Gumweed), the list of 100 plants is interesting and informative.  I’m familiar with a lot of garden plant species, but there were new plants here for me to explore in the future.

But again, like Gardening for Butterflies, this is a very basic guide – almost too basic.  Information about each kind of plant is minimal – with spare, vague notations about preferred sun exposure and soil moisture for growing.  Each plant gets more (and more useful) information about “notable flower visitors,” including lists of bees, butterflies, wasps, moths, fireflies, and beetles that frequent the plant or use it as a larval host.  An indication of honey yields and flavor are also often included.  But plants are generally listed not by individual species but by genus, with all species within a genus lumped together.  For a small or uniform genus, this might not be a problem, but for a genus like Coreopsis, Rudbeckia, Asclepias, and others, the genus is so broad that trying to generalize about all its species together just isn’t terribly helpful.  While the authors claim to value “an emphasis on regionally native species” (p. 19), listing plants by genus makes knowing which species might be best in a particular region difficult (although examples of local species broadly for East and West are sometimes included).

Overall, this is an interesting, dependable book, but it’s not as detailed or thorough as most aspiring bee gardeners will want or need.

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