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Mediterranean Bee Plants

 
pollinator
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In our Tenerife (Canary Islands) mediterranean food forest, most of our fruit trees and vegetables need pollinators.
And pollinators need flowers most months of the year.

I would love to know what are the best mediterranean bee plants you'd recommend (from experience, please).

Here is a list of our bees’ favorite bee plants, and the months they flower in our mediterranean food forest (altitude: 1,200m/4,000ft):



Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
An aromatic evergreen shrub with blue/pale violet flowers that bloom in spring and summer (but often it flowers as late as November).



Tagasaste (Cytisus proliferus)
Tagasaste is a Nitrogen-fixing legume originating from the Canary Islands.
The flowers are pea-like in shape, white and bloom in winter and attract bees when other sources of honey are scarce.



Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
Its blue-purple flowers, with their unmistakable scent, bloom from February until July or even later.
We planted tons of French, English, Spanish and local (endemic) Lavender in the first phase of developing our food forest – to support the bee population.



Aeonium arboreum
Aeonium flowers are made of many, many small yellow flowers, bloom in winter (January-March).



Fruit trees (Prunus)
Most fruit trees will provide forage to bees, but apple (Malus domestica), plum (Prunus domestica), peach (Prunus persica) and cherry (Prunus avium) trees bloom in February-March and are the most bee-attracting trees in our mediterranean food forest.



Almonds  (Prunus dulcis)
Almond trees help strengthen the bees because they provide them with their first natural food source each spring (early January in our place).



Citrus fruits
Oranges and grapefruits bloom usually in February-March, but our lemons and limes bloom continuously (as the trees produce fruits up to four times a year).



Peruvian Pepper tree (Schinus molle)
The tiny yellow or white flowers yield lots of nectar and can appear several times a year from spring through fall (mainly between May and July).



Loquat (Eriobotrya japonica)
Loquat blossoms in the winter and the bloom lasts at least 2 months.
It is an important source of pollen nectar for our honey bees.



Perennial succulents
Our bees’ favorites are:
  • Carpobrotus acinaciformis – flowers april to July
  • Aptenia cordifolia – flowers September to July
  • Malephora crocea – blooms most of the year


  • I’d love to learn from you…

    What mediterranean bee plants, trees and herbs bees and other pollinators devour in your own garden or food forest.
     
    gardener
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    Are those your plants?
    I am moving.

    The creeping form of symphytum, comfrey that i have attracts bees in spring. Apple and fruit trees. Cardoon, thyme, sage, fennel, phacelia, erica, echinacea, Tilia are others.
     
    master steward
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    Thank you for creating such an informative post.  Those pictures are absolutely beautiful.
     
    N. Neta
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    Yes, Hugo, those are pictures from our food forest in Tenerife (Canary Islands).

    Thank you so much for the list of plants.

    I so want comfrey to succeed here (not so much for the bees, but from bringing the nutrients from deep, deep in the soil) - but the heat and the drought kills it every time.
    Do you grow it in the sun or in a shaded area?
     
    N. Neta
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    Thanks Anna... That means a lot.

    Would you be willing to share the bee plants you're having in your zone?
     
    Hugo Morvan
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    What a beautiful spot you have. That Rosemary is just stunning!
    I got different kinds of comfrey a creeping one that doesn’t root particularly deep and the ones of bocking kind. They form these large deep rootsystems in about two years. Then they’re ready to be split. I put them in full sun and our summers have been scorchers and no rain for month on end. I have watered them very little and all survived except one or two.
    Is it just too hot for the comfrey or is your topsoil so shallow it can’t creep its root into deeper layers i wonder.
    The problem with these Bocking varieties is that they don’t grow from seed. So evolvimg in a way that they adapt to your hot climate will be out of the question.
    Anyway forget my musings i found this website and it speaks of Comfrey in Africa/ North Africa.
    Growing in full sun and semi shade.

    http://www.coescomfrey.com/grow.html

    Hope this helps.
     
    N. Neta
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    Thanks a million, Hugo...
    Very helpful resource.
    Gonna try and source some comfrey and give it another chance.
    I do have alkaline soil - so that's good, but it's very poor... so... manure to the rescue.
    Make it a great day.
     
    Hugo Morvan
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    Hyssop would also be a great one to add. It lasts for years. Hyssopus officinalis flowers for some ten weeks. I grow them from seed and it’s seed was viable. I make mini hedges with them now. Wind block and weed stoppers. Almost never need watering. And its tea is medicinal for the lungs.
    Nuts it’s not more famous.
    While researching it i came across anise hyssop which is not mediteranean, but bees are even crazier about it. I’ve got to look into that one too!!!
     
    N. Neta
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    Hugo Morvan wrote:Hyssop would also be a great one to add.


    Thank you Hugo... I learn so much from you.
    Will definitely get a pack of seeds of it, as it seems to be easy to get in mainland Spain.
    Make it a great day...
     
    Posts: 63
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    Gorgeous photos!  

    Thyme is wonderful and comes in many varieties.

    Borage is another one the bees seem to love that doesn't mind harsh soil or drought and will happily re-seed itself.

    Jerusalem sage (Salvia hierosolymitana), a surprisingly pretty flowering plant native to Israel, certainly does its job attracting pollinators with its peculiarly shaped blossoms.

    Scabiosa is big genus with many mediterranean species, a favorite of bees and butterflies, & grows well in light, neutral soil in a place that doesn't get wet soil during the winter.

    At least some bare earth, ideally on a sunny slope, is also important for solitary wasps and ground-burrowing bees.

     
    Anne Miller
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    N. Neta wrote:Thanks Anna... That means a lot.

    Would you be willing to share the bee plants you're having in your zone?



    I have Blue Sage, Autumn Sage, and Turk's Cap (not the lily though it is a mallow).

    Here's a thread with pictures of the kind of plants that I have.  They are not my picture as I have no camera.

    https://permies.com/t/121389/design-hummingbird-garden#1091560

    I had lavender though the last drought got them and I have rosemary though mine is not as pretty as yours as the blossoms are a really pale pink-like color.
     
    N. Neta
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    Rebecca Rosa wrote:
    Thyme is wonderful and comes in many varieties.
    Borage is another one the bees seem to love that doesn't mind harsh soil or drought and will happily re-seed itself.
    Jerusalem sage (Salvia hierosolymitana), a surprisingly pretty flowering plant native to Israel, certainly does its job attracting pollinators with its peculiarly shaped blossoms.
    Scabiosa is big genus with many mediterranean species, a favorite of bees and butterflies, & grows well in light, neutral soil in a place that doesn't get wet soil during the winter.



    Thank you so much, Rebecca...

    We have tons of thyme (different varieties) and sage (different varieties), and they're great - both for the bees and for our kitchen (and they're great ground covers).

    Borage - we just sourced some seeds... can't wait for them to take hold and spread.

    I never heard about Scabiosa, but after some research I even found Pterocephalus (Canary Shrub Scabiosa) - which is endemic to my island... Gonna look it up.



    Make it a great day...
     
    N. Neta
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    Anne Miller wrote:I have Blue Sage, Autumn Sage, and Turk's Cap


    Thanks Anne...
    Love our different Sage too.

    Not sure about the Turk's Cap though... seems to need moist soil... which we definitely don't have for 11.5 months of the year...
    Will research if there's a dry mediterranean variety...

    Make it a great day.
     
    Anne Miller
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    We bought our plants from a man in Missouri, which has a moist climate, I think.

    Once established we do not water our plants.  We live with drought and the plants seem to make it okay.  about the end of summer, the Turk's Cap will look a little wilted though they seem to service temp of over 100' F.

     
    N. Neta
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    Anne Miller wrote:Once established we do not water our plants.  We live with drought and the plants seem to make it okay.  about the end of summer, the Turk's Cap will look a little wilted though they seem to service temp of over 100' F.


    Great to know, Anne...
    Gonna look for some Turk’s Cap seeds on our tiny island...
     
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    we see a lot of bees on our small fennel plot, and we also keep bees.  fennel seems to be attractive to a lot of insects .

    also see bees active on anything in the mint family.

     
    N. Neta
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    Barry Frantz wrote:we see a lot of bees on our small fennel plot...
    also see bees active on anything in the mint family.


    Thanks Barry for the tips...
    We grow both fennel and mints... don't get them to flower though... Maybe we should (some)...
    Make it a great day.
     
    Hugo Morvan
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    There is bulb fennel and leaf fennel. Things like bronze fennel are perennial. They have a big central pen root. The bulb fennels much less so.
    Those bronze fennels attract many insects. But i fail to remember weather they were bees or these hovering flies that dress up like wasps.
    But anyway they are great attractors of insects for sure. Literally swarming. Big strange insects come from the woods to feast on those tiny yellow flower umbrellas sometimes.
    The foliage tastes exquisite when young and added to a salad! Delicieux!
    Birds feast on the seeds when you don’t cut them though. They’ll lose some on their flight and plant them for you.
    It’s great stuff.
    I never water them when established. Maybe try one in the shade for starters. And if it doesn’t work there then it must be too hot where you ate.
     
    N. Neta
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    Hugo Morvan wrote:There is bulb fennel and leaf fennel. Things like bronze fennel are perennial. They have a big central pen root. The bulb fennels much less so.
    Those bronze fennels attract many insects. But i fail to remember weather they were bees or these hovering flies that dress up like wasps.
    But anyway they are great attractors of insects for sure. Literally swarming. Big strange insects come from the woods to feast on those tiny yellow flower umbrellas sometimes.
    The foliage tastes exquisite when young and added to a salad! Delicieux!
    Birds feast on the seeds when you don’t cut them though. They’ll lose some on their flight and plant them for you.
    It’s great stuff.
    I never water them when established. Maybe try one in the shade for starters. And if it doesn’t work there then it must be too hot where you ate.


    Brilliant. Thanks Hugo...
    Just ordered some seeds of Astydamia latifolia (Canary Sea Fennel) and Ferula communis (Giant Mediterranean Fennel)...
    I wonder if those are bulb fennels or leaf fennels.

    Make it a great day...
     
    Barry Frantz
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    i don't remember what scientific name my fennel has.  it came from a standard seed packet showing picture of bulb fennel.  i never got any bulbs, but lots of top growth with flowers that then when to seed.  now it comes back every year; some i think from prior year plants and some from seed.  since then i've read that where i am (pennsylvania) that bulbs form best from fennel sown for fall growth, and spring seeded fennel will not reliably make bulbs.  i'm going to try both this year; some spring seeded fennel for the bees and summer seeded fennel to try for bulbs.
     
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    Beautiful spot you have! Just amazing to look at :)
     
    N. Neta
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    larass tdvv wrote:Beautiful spot you have! Just amazing to look at :)


    Thank you so much... Katie.
    Loved your website...
    Make it a great day.
     
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    Looking at all your beautiful plants reminds me of what I grew in CA not too long ago...alas, I have moved and am unable to grow many of those specimens (perennially) for the bees and starting all over again. Have you tried growing Phlomis species? I grew Phlomis tuberosa and Phlomis fruticosa--Jerusalem sage--it looks like a Monarda citriodora (which incidentally is also great for the bees) that can get to be over 7' tall in optimal environs. Also the Matilija Poppy, which is just one gorgeous bee magnet...I tried growing it three times, and indeed, the third time was a charm.



     
    Rebecca Rosa
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    N. Neta wrote:
    Thank you so much, Rebecca...

    We have tons of thyme (different varieties) and sage (different varieties), and they're great - both for the bees and for our kitchen (and they're great ground covers).

    Borage - we just sourced some seeds... can't wait for them to take hold and spread.

    I never heard about Scabiosa, but after some research I even found Pterocephalus (Canary Shrub Scabiosa) - which is endemic to my island... Gonna look it up.

    Make it a great day...



    No worries, I can happily talk about plants all day.... Thyme and sage are really wonderful in so many ways, aren't they? And, borage will definitely spread and take hold, so plant it somewhere you don't mind that for years to come for sure

    That Pterocephalus (Canary Shrub Scabiosa) is beautiful - Scabiosa is also called pincushion flower because the 'flower' is like a cushion stuck full of hundreds of needle/trumpet-shaped flowers. It is a really great nectary flower, I have a garden variety in my hummingbird garden here and it's always popular with the bees too.

    I was inspired to look up some more of your island's endemic flower species - I'm sure you're probably already aware of them, but just in case, these would be great to help support your endemic pollinators. I don't know how possible these all would be to get ahold of in a legal and ethical way, so definitely do your due diligence and research, or if they'll grow happily where you are, but these jumped out at me as looking really enticing for pollinators. I know a few are popular in horticulture so you should be able to find those, I hope. These are not my photos, just found from around the web.

    Canarian Snowball looks like it produces hundred of flowers on one umbel - anything with that parasol/sunshade shape is usually a good bet for bees and other pollinators in my experience. Recognizing what forms of flower pollinators prefer, and presenting a good variety of those is one of the best ways to draw them in - just have the best free buffet around, and they will come in droves! With native species and wild type varieties, its a safe bet that if it looks good for pollinators, it is. With more domesticated plants, some have been bred to look showy for humans but not produce as much nectar, or to be sterile or low pollen, whatever... so looking to native types that MUST work to attract pollinators in order to survive is often a good bet. With domesticated varieties, a little more research or experimentation is needed before you can be sure they will attract bees and other pollinators, but by all means they shouldn't be ignored either.


    Cedronella canariensis, aka Balm of Gilead or Canary Anise Lemon Shrub is a perennial (despite that name, I don't think it has much culinary or medicinal use?), has some lovely flowers. It does prefer moist soil, and can grow up to 1 meter tall. It looks a lot like some of the plants we have here that are important for native bees.


    Echiums aka Tajinaste, or giant bugloss, are truly unique and beautiful! I'm a big fan of this plant and it's really cool that it comes from Tenerife, I never knew. I see it grown in nurseries, yards and landscaping, and even in surprisingly small containers. What a statement plant! It will certainly get the attention of pollinators, and everyone else. They're fairly popular in California and sheltered gardens up the US West coast for hummingbirds, bees and butterflies and their majestic form and because they're so easy to grow - as long as the soil isn't too wet, they should be happy (if grown in a container, they should also be protected from frost). The red Echium wildpretii "Tower of jewels" is one I tend to see in nurseries here, but it looks like there are many species endemic to the canaries & Tenerife including that one, and Echium simplex which has a beautiful white flower spike. The red one is one I remember from my home growing up, and it would get about 8 feet tall and was always buzzing with pollinators. My mom would store the pot in the plastic-lined "greenhouse" space under our porch for the winters and haul it out after our last frost.




    And lastly, not an endemic, but it should grow very well for you - sedum/stonecrops! These succulents can put on quite the show for the bees and other insects, and at a time of year (autumn) when a lot of summer's blooms are winding down. There are many varieties and its easy to find cold hardy ones, and endless colors and forms. I use them as another groundcover in the rocky, dry, harsh areas around our home, and as a filler in planters. It's just so easy, truly a "lazy gardener" kind of plant.

    Sedum brevifolium


    Sedum spurium 'Fuldaglut'
     
    N. Neta
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    Rebecca Rosa wrote:I was inspired to look up some more of your island's endemic flower species...


    WOW!
    Thank you so very much, Rebecca...

    And yes, I know some of those... but not having all of them... yet...
    You definitely gave me the kick in the butt... to add them to our endemic collection.

    You will recognize these Tajinaste Rojos (Echium wildpretii)


    On the road from our house...

    And... one of the dozens growing up voluntarily in our garden...
    (Just next to the chicken coop):



    Thank you so much again... will update about the other ones soon...
     
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