#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

Bunker Hill Forest Preserve Bioblitz (9/14/2013)

NOTE: The statistics on page will be occasionally updated as we add more observations and make further species identifications.

Bunker Hill Bioblitz Fall 2013
Bunker Hill Forest Preserve Bioblitz Participants Hard at Work (Play)
Jane Balaban & Erin Faulkner Botanize
Inspired by the San Francisco McLaren Park Bioblitz organized by Nerds for Nature, Save McLaren Park, iNaturalist, and Bay Nature Institute, we (Habitat 2030) decided to have our own event a bit closer to home. Habitat 2030 is a group of 20-30-40-somethings in the Chicago region who are dedicated to the understanding, preservation, stewardship, and general nerdy appreciation of the natural areas that form the beautifully diverse Chicago Wilderness region.

Bunker Hill Forest Preserve is a Forest Preserve District of Cook County site consisting of open savanna, woodlands, and wooded riparian area through with the North Branch of the Chicago River runs. We chose this site for its proximity to Chicago and for the fact that one of Habitat 2030’s members is an assistant steward there. The bioblitz took place on Saturday, September 14th, 2013 from 9AM to 4PM, with a break for lunch inbetween (grilled pineapple! Nutella pastry! bruschetta!). Emeritus stewards extraordinaire John and Jane Balaban led us throughout the site, pointing out this or that rare or unusual plant or creature, in addition to the common species. Many thanks for their assistance.

So, what did we find?

symnov As of 10/01/2013, we had 592 observations contributed by 9 participants. A total of 12 people participated – some used smartphones and others used cameras and haven’t yet uploaded their observations. We have identified 231 unique species to species level. That means we had many duplicate species, species only identified broadly (e.g. Insects, Carex, etc.), and 102 uncategorized observations. The most observed species (with 5 observations each) were New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae, left), wild leek (Allium tricoccum), sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale), and bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii).

Observations as of 9/16/2013
All Our Observations: Green = Plants, Orange = Animals, Blue = Fungi, White = Unclassified
Observations per Taxonomic Group (as of 9/15/2013)

Taxonomic Group % of Total Observations
Plants 66.3% (339)
Unclassified 18.2% (93)
Insects 7.2% (37)
Arachnids 2.5% (13)
Birds 1.8% (9)
Fungi 1.4% (7)
Mammals 1.0% (5)
Other Animals 1.0% (5)
Mollusks 0.4% (2)
Fish 0.2% (1)

Become a citizen scientist and help us out by signing up for iNaturalist to identify our unknowns or confirm our observations. Research grade observations will automatically be added to the Bunker Hill Species Guide, a nice way to explore the biodiversity of this urban forest preserve.

View all the Bunker Hill Forest Preserve observations on iNaturalist here: http://www.inaturalist.org/observations?utf8=%E2%9C%93&q=&search_on=&quality_grade=any&place_id=57796&swlat=&swlng=&nelat=&nelng=&taxon_name=&taxon_id=&day=&month=&year=&order_by=observations.id&order=desc&site=&tdate=&filters_open=true&view=map

fuzzy oak gall
Cataloging an as-of-yet unidentified oak gall (view the observation on iNaturalist).
brain egg sac
We have no idea yet what this is yet either (view the observation on iNaturalist).
tiny spider
Our youngest participant proudly shows off a tiny spider she found (view the observation on iNaturalist).
Bunker Hill Forest Preserve
Thanks to everyone who participated! We hope to host more of these events in the future.

Fall Prairie at Jay Woods

New England aster at Jay Woods
One of the brightest prairie flowers blooming right now is New England aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae), here with the ellipsoid (egg-shaped) seed heads of grey-headed coneflower (Ratibida pinnata), whose seeds, by the way, smell pleasant enough to rid your hands of snake musk if you ever happen to be looking to remove that particular odor from your hands.

Fall prairie at Jay Woods

Canada wild rye (Elymus canadensis), big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii), more grey-headed coneflower, with stiff and tall goldenrods (Solidago rigida and altissima) in the background.

Jay Woods Forest Preserve Bing Maps Kendall County

Jay Woods is a charming little forest preserve in northwest Kendall County. The western half is a restored prairie while the eastern half is a remnant woodland through which the Little Rock Creek flows.

Illinois Public Land Survey Map Jay Woods Forest Preserve
The Public Land Survey maps show stark lines between what they deem “timber” and “prairie,” but these lines would have been more blurred in reality, with a mosaic of oak openings in the transition from woodland to prairie. As an aside, in recently exploring these township plats, I’ve been amazed by the amount of woodlands that were cleared for agricultural purposes. Joel Greenberg notes in his wonderful book, A Natural History of the Chicago Region:

“For many immigrants used to forest, there was a strong prejudice against treeless scapes; lands that were incapable of supporting trees could hardly be suitable for agriculture.” (pg 39)