Pollinators and Their Preferred Flowers in Arizona

Many diverse organisms are involved in the pollination of flowers, not just honey bees. Different pollinators prefer different types of flowers. Studying the relationship between flowers and their pollinators is very useful to help maintain endangered species, to encourage propagation of your favorite plant and/or to help you create a garde n that attracts the type of pollinator you are interested in.

In general, pollinators are attracted to plants that often an abundant reward such as pollen and/or nectar. Bees tend to prefer flowers that are ultraviolet, blue, purple, or yellow. They are attracted flowers with petals that form a landing platform, and that have a sweet scent. In my yard the bees are attracted to lupines, palo verdes, acacias, cassias and rosemary.

Butterflies, on the other hand, visit flowers that are orange, yellow, pink or blue. They like that have a wide landing pad, but will visit more tubular flowers as well. Examples of butterfly flowers are zinnias, butterfly bush, calendulas, Mexican sunflowers, and hollyhocks.

Moths are active at night, so require flowers that are open and providing nectar at night. White flowers with a very strong, sweet scent are easiest for them to locate. Examples of flowers for a moonlight moth garden are honeysuckle, datura, flowering tobacco, and primrose. In fact, yuccas can only be pollinated by one insect, the yucca moth.

We tend to forget other insects that pollinate flowers. Beetles come to dull, reddish brown flowers that smell spicy or like rotting fruit. Examples of beetle pollinated plants are magnolia and spice bush. Flies pollinate a few specialized flowers. The y are attracted to drab, colorless or green flowers that often emit a foul odor to lure them. Examples are dutchman's pipe and stapelia.

Most of us know that birds, and particularly hummingbirds, prefer red and orange flowers that are tubular in shape. Flowers that are pollinated by birds generally lack a scent. Examples are ocotillos, salvias, red yuccas and aloes.

Finally, an important group of pollinators that is often forgotten are bats. They, like the moths, are attracted to flowers that open as night. Examples of bat pollinated plants are saguaros and agaves.

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