#BringBackTheBees, Another Misguided Conservation Effort

The listed species in the Veseys/Cheerios wildflower mix
The listed species in the Veseys/Cheerios wildflower mix

Another example of a poorly-designed “wildflower” seed mix to entice the public to engage in conservation efforts with Cheerios’ #BringBackTheBees campaign (see previous post on DuneCraft’s “Native” Perennial Seed Bombs). Really, how hard is it to consult an ecologist or botanist for efforts like these?

And what a lesson in providing both common and scientific names. It’s not possible to identify fully what is even in the mix from the list of common names they provided. Even the list of common names is only listed on the Canadian version of the site, not on the American version. EDIT: I reached out to Veseys, who provided the seed mixes, and their horticulturist was able to provide to me a list of the scientific names (after a little bit of back-and-forth – e.g. they first claimed to have included Erysimum scoparium in the mix, a species endemic to the Canary Islands, but later confirmed it was actually the much more common Erysimum × marshallii/Cheiranthus × allionii) . I have updated the table below.

The species in the Bring Back the Bees wildflower seed mix come from all around the world with no attempt to plant a mix of flowers native to North America, where seed packets were shipped. Nor are most of the species perennial. They will briefly provide some nectar and pollen resources to insects for a year or two, but soon be out-competed by perennial weeds and invasive species and look downright messy.

Please don’t plant these. Search for a native plant nursery or native plant society near you to find out how you can really help your local nature. Plant wildflowers (and grasses and sedges and rushes and ferns and trees and shrubs) that are native to your area. Support NATIVE bee and other habitat conservation efforts. Learn more at the Native Bee Awareness Initiative, the Xerces Society, or from a native plant society near you.

“Bee Friendly” Wildflower Mix by Veseys/Cheerios

The species highlighted in green are the only ones appropriate for planting in my area in Illinois. But please buy them from a local native plant nursery or gather seeds with permission from the landowner.

Common Name on Website Assumed Scientific Name Life Cycle Origin
Forget-Me-Not, Chinese Cynoglossum amabile Annual Asia
Wallflower, Siberian Erysimum × marshallii (syn. Cheiranthus × allionii) Biennial/Perennial Europe
Poppy, California, Orange Eschscholzia californica Annual/Perennial North America – West Coast
Coneflower, Purple Echinacea purpurea Perennial North America – Eastern
Aster, China, Single Mix Callistephus chinensis Annual/Biennial Asia – Eastern
Poppy, Corn Papaver rhoeas Annual Europe
Coreopsis, Lance Leaved Coreopsis lanceolata Perennial North America – Eastern
Flax, Blue Linum usitatissimum Perennial Europe
Baby Blue, Eyes Nemophila menziesii Annual North America – West Coast
Gilia, Globe Gilia achilleifolia Annual North America – West Coast
Indian Blanket Gaillardia pulchella Annual North America – West Coast
Tidy-Tips Layia platyglossa Annual North America – West Coast
Coreopsis, Plains Coreopsis tinctoria Annual North America – Midwest/Northwest
Sweet Alyssum, Tall White Lobularia maritima Annual Europe
Hyssop, Lavender Agastache foeniculum Perennial North America – Upper Midwest
Daisy, Fleabane* Erigeron annuus Annual/Biennial North America
Forget-Me-Not Myosotis alpestris Unknown Arctic
Aster, New England Symphyotrichum novae-angliae Perennial North America – Eastern
Bergamot Monarda fistulosa Perennial North America

*I guess you can plant this, but it’s a spontaneous weed…

Native, perennial landscape designed by our ecological consulting firm, ecology + vision

“Native” Perennial Mix: Seed Bombs by DuneCraft

This morning my boss brought this gem into work. Seed Bombs by DuneCraft. They’re little balls of clay and who knows what else mixed with what this (American) company has deemed a “native perennial mix” of seeds.

dunecraft native seed bombs

At first I thought, awesome! But no, in reality, it’s a mishmash of primarily weedy European wildflowers, at least one of which (dame’s rocket, Hesperis matronalis) is listed as a noxious weed/banned in a few states here in the US. So uh, Hobby Lobbys of Connecticut, Colorado, and Massachusetts, hope you’re not selling these.

dunecraft native seed bombs species flowers

Below is a table showing the nativity of these species. I deemed “native” as hailing from the Midwest because that’s where the seed bombs were purchased (Illinois) and where viability testing was done (Ohio). But really, there’s nowhere in the world I would recommend using this product except perhaps indoors, as a demonstration of seed germination (they have a nice timelapse video on their website).

dunecraft native seed bombs chart nativity native non-native invasive

I am all for native wildflowers, habitat restoration, and gardening/landscaping with native plants. It’s what I do! And I am sure that the lack of proper seed sources for native landscaping sold at big box retailers is not likely to go away soon. But man, is this product misleading. If you do want to use native plants in your landscape, search the web for a native plant nursery near you (or if you have any questions send me a message!).

Maramech Woods Forest Preserve in Spring

Photos from Maramech Woods Nature Preserve / Maramech Forest Preserve on March 26th, 2012.

maramech marsh marigold skunk cabbage
The flatwoods is rife with Symplocarpus foetidus (skunk cabbage, foreground) and Caltha palustris (marsh marigold, background).

maramech signage

Although the entire forest preserve is approximately 90 acres, about half of it is a dedicated Nature Preserve (48 acres). Additionally, approximately 70 acres are an Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (INAI) site. The interplay of which areas get deemed which designation and quality is interesting to me. For instance, it is included in categories II and III by the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory (IL DNR, September 2011). Category III includes all Nature Preserves, which means 48 acres are included by default. Category II includes “specific suitable habitat for state-listed species or state-listed species relocations,” which means that about 22 acres outside of the 48-acre nature preserve either contained state-listed species when the INAI conducted field surveys, or was deemed high enough quality to be considered for relocation of state-listed species. The other 20 acres consists of “cultural” areas such as the picnic pavilion, parking lot, turf grass, and perhaps low-quality natural areas.

The Illinois Nature Preserve Commission site says:
“This diverse northeastern Illinois woodland is located in the Grand Prairie Section for the Grand Prairie Natural Division. The preserve is a complex of sedge dominated wet savanna/northern flatwoods, seep springs and wet-mesic to dry-mesic upland forest with associated successional fields, upland forest and a small pine plantation as buffer. The tract is moderately disturbed, but is important because of the unique interplay of several different natural communities.”

maramech winter echinacea
Echinacea in winter. Anyone have a good way to distinguish E. purpurea from E. pallida seedheads in the winter? The individual seeds are different–Prairie Moon nursery shows E. pallida seeds have a dark band across each one, whereas E. purpurea lacks this band, but I’m curious if there is a general gestalt difference. Here’s looking at you, Echinacea Project; I know y’all are E. angustifolia but you may know, eh?

maramech tree trunk

maramech mayapple
I can’t help but keep posting photos of my favorite spring plant (Podophyllum peltatum, mayapple).

maramech sporophytes

More about Maramech: Chicago Wilderness Magazine, Into the Wild: Maramech Woods, spring 2009