Bee-friendly plants series: Hawkweed

Hawkweed flowers are everywhere right now…by the gazillions. The flower is like a small dandelion in shape and colour and the flower (usually single) is borne on a slender hairy stem about a foot high (less if it is re-growth after a mow). The leaves lie in a rosette on the ground if it is mouse-eared hawkweed –the most common of many varieties. The stem shows white latex if you snap it. Hawkwwed is a plant of dry, infertile, acid and compacted soils. You will see it in lawns, but not if there is a lawn fetish in place and the turf is limed and fertilized. I drove from Debert to Five Islands early this week. Very few lawn worshippers along the shore, I’d say, and hawkweed was abundant. I couldn’t find many references to it as a honey plant, but a plant list from New York State listed 27 honey plants. The top five were clovers and goldenrod and aster and hawkweed was listed at the same level as 22 others as minor honey plants. But it is numerous and blooms from June through September. That’s got to mean something. The guy in Economy who hosts my bee yard backs off the mowing when my bees are in residence; he says the bees rise up from the hawkweed as he mows and he doesn’t want to kill them, so he parks the mower. I thank him for that. My pictures show honeybees collecting pollen from hawkweed. Honeybees are faithful to their chosen task and chosen flower, I believe. A trip will be for either pollen or nectar. And on that trip only one kind of flower will be visited. Hawkweed seems to be on their call list, maybe not a favourite, but there anyway. Folksy factoid: an orange variant of hawkweed is sometimes called Devil’s paintbush, and though hawkweeds are an invasive species, Devil’s paintbrush is sometimes grown as an ornamental.

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