The grass is green, the sky is blue, and flowers are blooming! Now is the time to start working on your garden. This spring, why not make your yard a paradise for pollinators, providing them with the nectar and pollen they need to be strong and healthy? Planet Bee spent hours poring over the best pollinator plants native to the Bay Area. We were excited to discover that some have medicinal uses, have been used by Native American tribes, and play host to a variety of butterfly species! Here's a list of some of our favorites:
Baby Blue Eyes: a carpet of beautiful blue flowers, bliss for bees! Annual groundcover, flowers from early spring to midsummer. Must be kept moist if grown in full sun-- prefers partial shade.
Silver Carpet Spreading Beach Aster: Ground cover with silver leaves and purple flowers in late summer. Native to the coastal bluffs of Monterey county. Host to Gabb's Checkerspot Butterfly larvae.
California Poppy: 3 inches tall, with beautiful orange flowers. The state flower of California. Used by Planet Bee in all our seed balls! Medicinal uses include treatment of insomnia, aches, nervous agitation, and diseases of the bladder and liver.
Checkerbloom: 2 foot spreading wildflower native to the coastal prairie, with beautiful pink flowers. A nectar and larval food source for the West Coast Lady, Painted Lady, Common Checkered Skipper, and the Gray Hairstreak butterflies.
Silver Lupine: Tall plant with silver leaves and blue flowers in summer. Host to the caterpillar of San Francisco’s rare and endangered Mission Blue Butterfly. Native Americans have drunk tea with lupine leaves to treat nausea, failure to urinate, and internal hemorrhage. Some subspecies of lupine have poisonous seeds.
Narrowleaf Milkweed: 2-4 foot plant with pink flowers in summer. Larval host and food source for the Monarch butterfly. Tolerates shade. Different Native American tribes have had different uses for it. The Zuni have used the silky seed fibers to make yarn which was woven into a fabric worn by dancers. The Pueblo have eaten green milkweed pods and uncooked roots. The Yokia Indians of Mendocino County have eaten young flowers. A number of tribes have turned the sticky sap into chewing gum by heating it until it became solid, then adding salmon fat or dear grease.
Showy Tarweed: 3-4 foot plant with yellow flowers. Drought tolerant. Some native North American Indian tribes have relied on tarweed seeds as their staple food source. These seeds are rich in oil, and can be ground into a powder and eaten dry, mixed with water, or combined with cereal flours.
California Yampah: 3 foot perennial grass-like plant with white flowers in summer. Native to Mt Diablo. It can be found in the Central Coast Ranges and Sierra Nevada foothills, growing in moist soil, often near streams. Yampah seeds and leaves can be eaten, as can their tubers. These "Indian potatoes" were relished by American Indians to the point the plants were over-harvested to extinction in many areas. Uncooked yampah roots are a gentle laxative if consumed in excess and were used medicinally for this purpose.
For more info on Lupines: http://medicinalherbinfo.org/herbs/WildLupine.html
For more info on Narrowleaf Milkweed: https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/cs_asfa.pdf
For more info on California Yampah: https://granadanativegarden.org/2016/07/14/care-for-a-side-of-yampah-with-your-meal-sir/