By Carol Davit, Missouri Prairie Foundation Executive Director
Photo: Squash bee in a pumpkin blossom by Ed Spevak
Did you know native companion plants facilitate pollination of fruits and vegetables?
If you are a fruit or vegetable gardener, you likely devote time to your gardening efforts all year long: in fall and winter you may be planning what to plant the next growing season, and, during spring and summer, you are planting and tending your garden, and harvesting produce.
Gardeners—and anyone who likes to eat—depend on pollinating insects for most of the vegetables and fruits we enjoy from farms and our own gardens. By transferring pollen among the flowers of the same species of fruits and vegetables, pollinators allow fertilization occurs and make fruit and seed development possible.
Non-native honeybees are important pollinators of many of our food crops, but numerous species of native bees and other pollinating insects are significant as well. In fact, many native bees—of a variety sizes and shapes—are the only insects that pollinate certain species. For example, squash bees are vital for squash flower pollination.
Native bees need not only nectar and pollen from fruit and vegetable flowers, but also from many native flowers. You can help support native bees and other pollinators by planting a variety of native wildflowers and native flowering shrubs and trees, including ones listed here.
Sustaining and increasing native bee populations with native plants helps ensure there are plenty of pollinators for the fruits and vegetables you grow.
The Grow Native! program has developed this fact sheet with information on native plants you can add in or near your vegetable garden/fruit planting that attract the specific insects that pollinate flowers of specific crop plants.
Find suppliers of native plants from Grow Native’s Resource Guide, which lists Grow Native! professional members who sell native plants, shrubs, trees, and provide native plant services as well.