Pollinator Syndromes predict which animals are most like to visit which plant. Pollinators are those animals that give the invaluable service of helping plants reproduce and create seed or fruit that humans and others eat.
There are many pollinators including bats, bees, beetles, birds and butterflies.
The flower type, shape, color, odor, nectar, and structure vary and attract different pollinators according to the pollinators likes and needs. Such characteristics are pollination syndromes.
Pollinator syndromes aren’t always correct but are used as a starting place to predict interactions. Apparently, only one-third of plants can be accurately classified according to pollinator syndromes.
Plants Butterflies Like
Butterflies generally land on a plant to sip nectar. This is why they tend to visit flat blossoms with many nectar sources or small flowers. The flatness of the blossom provides a nice stable landing pad. Butterflies like asters, sedums, milkweeds and coneflowers for those reasons.
Plants Bees Like
Bees like blossoms that give plenty of nectar and lure the bees in with a sweet fragrance. They tend to visit flowers white or blue
Plants Hummingbirds Like
Hummingbirds tend to visit red, tubular shaped flowers. This is why hummingbird feeders that we fill with sugar-water mixtures have red somewhere on the container.
A Pollinator Syndrome Table
Use the chart below to understand why certain plants attract bees, butterflies or other animals.
|Color||Dull white, green or purple||Bright white, yellow, blue, or UV||Dull white or green||Scarlet, orange, red or white|
|Odor||Strong musty; emitted at night||Fresh, mild, pleasant||None to strongly fruity or fetid||None|
|Nectar||Abundant; somewhat hidden||Usually present||Sometimes present; not hidden||Ample; deeply hidden|
|Pollen||Ample||Limited; often sticky and scented||Ample||Modest|
|Flower Shape||Regular; bowl shaped – closed during day||Shallow; have landing platform; tubular, c||Large bowl-like, Magnolia||Large funnel like; cups, strong perch support|
|Color||Bright, including red and purple||Pale and dull to dark brown or purple; flecked with translucent patches||Pale and dull red, purple, pink or white||Dull green, brown, or colorless; petals absent or reduced|
|Odor||Faint but fresh||Putrid||Strong sweet; emitted at night||None|
|Nectar||Ample; deeply hidden||Usually absent||Ample; deeply hidden||None|
|Pollen||Limited||Modest in amount||Limited||Abundant; small, smooth, and not sticky|
|Flower Shape||Narrow tube with spur; wide landing pad||Shallow; funnel like or complex and trap-like||Regular; tubular without a lip||Regular: small and stigmas exerted|
The table is courtesy the U.S. Forest Service Celebrating Wildflowers site.
https://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/What_is_Pollination/syndromes.shtml. Accessed 18 December 2020.
How Can You Use Pollinator Syndromes to Attract Pollinators?
This information is useful in choosing plants to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and other pollinators to your garden. Often times a flower species that attracts in it’s simple native form does have the same usefulness in an hybrid form, like Zinnias.
When I plant basic flat blossomed Zinnias in my garden, butterflies flock to them. If I plant the “pompom” blossoms with many, many petals, the butterflies don’t visit them nearly as much.
Further information on Pollinators and Pollinator Syndromes