New OSU project: Measuring Native Plant Attractiveness to Beneficial Insects and to Gardeners

Written by Gail Langellotto, Gail.langellotto@oregonstate.edu

On the very day that I am typing this note, Aaron Anderson (a M.S. student in my lab) and Lucas Johnston (an undergraduate student in my lab) are staking out Aaron’s research plots at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center in Aurora, OR.  Later this week (weather-permitting), Aaron, Lucas, myself and others will be planting 150 1 m2 plots with 30 different plant species.  These plants will include 25 species of plants native to Oregon’s Willamette Valley (Table 1), and five popular, non-native, ornamental plants that can be found on lists of plants purported to be attractive to pollinators.  We’re still debating the identity of the non-native plants, but are considering: Agastache, Lavendula ‘Gros Blue’, Lavendula ‘Edelweiss’, Nepeta, Salvia, Origanum or Hyssop.

Table 1.  Native plants selected for this study.

Plant Species Common Name Life History Bloom Color
Clarkia amoena Farewell-to-spring Annual Pink
Collinsia grandiflora Giant blue eyed Mary Annual Blue
Gilia capitata Globe gilia Annual Blue
Lupinus polycarpus Miniature lupine Annual Purple/Blue
Madia elegans Common madia Annual Yellow
Nemophila menziesii Baby blue eyes Annual Blue/White
Eschscholzia californica California Poppy Annual Orange
Helianthus annuus Common sunflower Annual Yellow
Phacelia heterophylla Varied-leaf phacelia Annual White
Acmispon (Lotus) parviflorus Annual White/Pink
Achillea millefolium Yarrow Perennial White
Anaphalis margaritacea Pearly everlasting Perennial White
Asclepias speciosa Showy milkweed Perennial Pink/White
Aquilegia formosa Western red columbine Perennial Red
Aster subspicatus Douglas’ aster Perennial Purple
Camassia leichtlinii Common camas Perennial Purple/White
Delphinium menziesii Western Columbine Perennial Purple
Eriophyllum lanatum Oregon sunshine Perennial Yellow
Fragaria virginiana Wild strawberry Perennial White
Iris tenax Oregon iris Perennial Purple
Eriogonum compositum var. compositum Arrowleaf buckwhweat Perennial Yellow/White
Sedum spathulifolium ssp. spathulifolium Broadleaf stonecrop Perennial Yellow
Sidalcae virgata Rose Checkermallow Perennial Pink
Sisyrinchium idahoense Blue-eyed grass Perennial Blue/Purple
Solidago canadensis Goldenrod Perennial Yellow

We have four key objectives for this project, one of which requires citizen science input.

  1. Assess the abundance and species richness of beneficial insects (including pollinators, parasitoids and generalist predators) associated with Willamette Valley native plants, to develop a rank-ordered list of recommended plants .
  2. Measure native Willamette Valley plants’ attractiveness to pests.
  3. Document the total and peak bloom duration of Willamette Valley native plants, as part of an effort to develop planting schema recommendations that provide season-long resources to beneficial insects.
  4. Measure aesthetic appeal of flower species to home gardeners to create separate planting schema recommendations likely to be adopted by home gardeners.

Since a key component of this project is to develop recommended lists of pollinator plants for home gardeners, we want to make sure that the plants that we’re recommending will be embraced by gardeners.  This is where citizen scientists come in.

After our plants are established, we will be asking folks to rate the plants’ aesthetic appeal, and to note how likely they would be to include each plant in their garden.  We’ll be inviting folks to our study site, and asking for your opinion.  We will also set up an online poll, for those who can’t make it to Aurora.  This aspect of the study still needs approval by the OSU Institutional Review Board, since surveys are considered human subject research.  But, as soon as we get approval, we look forward to hearing from you!

Visit our website to learn more about our projects (http://blogs.oregonstate.edu/gardenecologylab/).

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