Pollination Station Continues to Grow
The pollination station, a native plant garden designed to attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other pollinators as well as educating visitors about their role in the ecosystem, was one of Potter Park Zoo’s conservation projects launched last summer. Preparation for this project started in the winter with zoo conservation staff partnering with WildType Native Plant Nursery in Mason to make plant selections. Maintenance staff began preparing the soil in April. In May and June, with the help of many volunteers, over 500 Michigan native plants were planted outside the Discovery Center
Why are Pollinators important?
More than 1/3 of the global food supply depends on pollinators! The food we eat and even some of the clothes we wear depend on pollinators at some point in their production. The garden will utilize Michigan native plants which provide for the needs of native species of pollinators better than non-native plant species. A native plant is a plant that is inherent to a region, they were not introduced by people and they are not cultivated by people. Native plants are adapted to the local environment and require much less care. After the first year, plants become established, leading to less weeding and watering.
Why do pollinators need our help?
Studies have shown that pollinator populations are declining. Climate change, loss of habitat, modern farming practices, and loss of food sources are contributing factors. Our pollinator garden at PPZ aims to highlight the struggles of pollinators and what guests can do at home to help. Even small changes can make a big impact on our native pollinators.
DIY projects to help pollinators:
When we plant a turf grass yard, we eliminate sources of food and habitats for pollinators. Consider planting an area of your yard with a wildflower meadow. There are many local companies that sell seed mixes for different kinds of wildflower meadows. The seed mix for an area can be tailored to your yard, such as sandy or clay soils, full sun or partial sun, wet or dry. Mixes include several different types of wildflower and native grasses. After the first few years, this area will require significantly less care than a traditional lawn and provide year-round interest. Check out the Wildflower Association of Michigan’s business directory to find local suppliers: http://www.wildflowersmich.org/index.php?menu=13
At the end of the season, we often clean up all the leaves from our yards and trim back vegetation in flower beds. Many native species of bees will use these places to hibernate in the winter. They hide in hollow stems for the winter or leave their eggs or larva in the ground under piles of leaves. Maybe you could leave stems and leaves in your flowerbeds over winter, removing them in the spring. Consider having an insect hotel in your yard to help promote native insects such as bees. For more information on how to help our vanishing invertebrate friends, visit https://xerces.org/tag/conservation-comes-home/ to learn more about insects! If you would like to see an example of an insect hotel, be sure to stop by the Nature Play area on your next visit to Potter Park Zoo!
If you are interested in gardening and would like to learn more about volunteering your skills at Potter Park Zoo to help maintain the pollination station garden or any of our other planted beds, check out this page on our website! https://potterparkzoo.org/be-a-volunteer/ .
If you would like to learn more about the pollinators that native plants support, come check out our Conservation Talk on March 20 to learn more from some local professionals! https://potterparkzoo.org/event/public-conservation-talk-michigan-birds-bees/