Pollinators prefer native roses

Stepping into Nature - Minden Riverwalk

Pollinators prefer native roses

Minden, Ontario K0M 2A1, Canada

Created By: Haliburton County Master Gardeners


The small flower of this Native Rose (Rosa blanda) has a simple, wide open shape with five pink petals and upright stamens loaded with pollen and nectar. This feature allows bees and other pollinators to land easily. Many of the hybrid varieties of roses have so many showy petals that the pollinators cannot access the centre of the flower to get the pollen. This is not good on many levels: the bee doesn't get food and the plant doesn't get pollinated and it may not produce rose hips, which is another source of food for wildlife. “They are all show and no go” says entomologist Stephen Bachman of the U.S. Department of Agriculture https://www.nwf.org/Magazines/National-Wildlife/1999/Grow-Native-Roses

After rose blossoms have dropped, rose hips will appear and ripen in the fall throughout early winter. Rose hips are a winter food for birds and mammals such as waxwings, pine grosbeaks, grouse, rabbits, coyotes and skunks. Rose hips have high Vitamin C content and were used to treat scurvy when citrus fruits were not available. They are also used to make tea, in baked goods and puddings and their pectin can be used as a thickener. Rose petals can be sprinkled into salads, candied for cake decoration, made into jams, jellies, vinegars and syrups.

The Native Rose is resistant to pests and diseases and requires little care. It grows in thickets, open woods, meadows, roadsides, rocky slopes and shores in full or partial sun and dry to moist soil. https://cwf-fcf.org/en/resources/encyclopedias/flora/wild-roses.html#species

Do you love roses, but are worried about caring for them? The Haliburton County Master Gardeners have some tips for caring for roses on our website at: https://www.haliburtonmastergardener.ca/resource/pruning-and-maintenance-of-rose-bushes/

Other plants at this stop:

Weeping spruce

Have you heard and been confused by terms such as hybrid, cultivar, nativar and variety?

Don’t despair, experienced gardeners have been as well. When it comes to introducing native plants to the fragile and pristine environment of the Highlands, here is what you need to know. First, the research is ongoing so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Grow straight species because they are the plant that you would find in the wild. Seeds are gathered from various wild varieties of plants and planted by nurseries or you can do it yourself. A cultivar is a plant that has been bred to bring out a particular colour, shape etc. A nativar is a cultivar from a straight species/wild-type of native plant.

There are 2 reasons why you want to avoid planting cultivars and nativars.

  • The first is that a cultivar can cross pollinate with the native species and negatively alter the genetics of the native plant and its attractiveness to wildlife. This is the case in areas of pristine nature where native species still exist. If you want to plant a cultivar or nativar make sure it is sterile.

  • The second reason is that we don’t have enough data to know if the changes to create a cultivar attractive to people are beneficial to wildlife. In some cases it may make no difference, in others the pollen may be less nutritional, the double petaled flowers inaccessible or the altered colour may not be attractive to a bee.

Native plant species have evolved very slowly over thousands of years in tandem with the native bees and other insects so that both plant and insect benefit from this long association. Cultivars sometimes called Nativars have been manipulated in such a way that their leaf colour, for example, is purple instead of green. The native Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius) has green leaves that the caterpillars like to eat. There is a cultivar called Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Diabolo’ with attractive purple leaves but they are distasteful to the caterpillar. And if you want to support songbird populations you’ll want to provide them with food. Caterpillars are some birds' favourite food so you’ll want to, for example, grow lots of the green coloured native ninebark and only a couple or maybe none of the fancy purple leaved ‘Diabolo’ cultivar.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Stepping into Nature - Minden Riverwalk


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