[00:00:00] Andony Melathopoulos: If you're like me, you love native plants for pollinators, but you may have the experience that I've had, where I've gone to the store, looking for a native plant. And I can't quite find them. I see plants there that look like the native plant, but there may be a different color. Maybe the flowers are bigger when he was a taller plant.
[00:00:17] Not exactly the plant that I saw on my hike. Those plants are native ours, right? The question of whether native ares are as good for pollinators as attractive, have the same benefits as the native plants, it's an open question. So I was excited at the opportunity to see this question and the process of being opened up by Jen Hayes.
[00:00:37] Jen Hayes is a graduate student. She's pursuing your PhD. Degree in horticulture entomology here at Oregon state university. She's part of that. You've heard on previous episodes, this a wonderful garden ecology lab led by Gail and gelatto here in the department of horticulture, really focusing in on these multiple questions of plants.
[00:00:57] It can get at nurseries that are benefits to pollinators and the just general impact of gardens on pollinator community. Now I had the chance to catch up with Jen while she was out with her crew from the the garden ecology lab at her plots at the Oak Creek center for urban horticulture. This is wonderful facility that we have in the horticulture department for asking questions about urban horticulture.
[00:01:21] And there are these great plots out there. So I want to share with you now a conversation I had with Jen out by her plots this week on pollinate.
[00:02:18] So I'll start everything off with a little I have a little Jen and you'll send me your bio and I'll introduce you. And then we'll just like, high-end, high-end January here at Oak Creek center for urban horticulture at Oregon state university at your plots. Now it's really great where at the end of summer, and you've been doing this experiment for, I think two years.
[00:02:40] Jen Hayes: Yeah. So we planted the first round of things in 2019, but last year was our first field season. And now we're wrapping up year two.
[00:02:48] Andony Melathopoulos: And I, what I see in front of me is a bunch of plants. Many of them look like native plants. I recognize some of them look a little different, tell it, so we've got natives.
[00:02:58] And native ours, maybe it'd be good to begin with. What's the difference between a native plant and a native art?
[00:03:04] Jen Hayes: Yeah, so not to get into the too scientific definition, but a native plant is essentially a plant that is growing within its native range and then it native ours. It's a short like version of native cultivar.
[00:03:18] And there are plants that have been or natives that have been ornamental bread. So for specific ornamental traits or maybe for resistance traits.
[00:03:28] Andony Melathopoulos: And I was just looking right now in front of me, like I'd seen these been growing all summer and I was surprised. I see Douglas Aster in front of me, which I recognize.
[00:03:39] And then I see these giants. There, they gotta be seven feet tall, which I guess is the native art it's been bred. Tell us a little bit about the, I asked her that Douglas, her, that we're looking at.
[00:03:51] Jen Hayes: Yeah. So these ones are pretty crazy. We started them the same time as the knee. But they've grown taller than my tallest undergraduate assistant, which is pretty wild versus the natives only come up to your knee.
[00:04:05] So they definitely seem to maybe have been bred for stature. Like they're a lot taller and like leg easier than the natives are. Cause the natives are almost like a little Bush when they're fully sure. Yeah.
[00:04:17] Andony Melathopoulos: Up to your sh up to your
[00:04:18] Jen Hayes: shin. Yeah, exactly. So crazy. But I was also told that typically for asters that grow this big, you actually want to cut them back when they get to like knee height and that will promote them to put out more flowers rather than just like growing straight up and then putting out flowers.
[00:04:37] Andony Melathopoulos: I see. Okay. But aside from height, I see one right in front. That has white pedals. So not that kind of the purple pedal I'm used to. So there's tell me about just taking this as one of the examples, what are some of the differences in these native arts, these plants that have been bred from the native plants for horticultural purposes.
[00:04:57] Jen Hayes: Yeah. So some of them it's as simple seeming as a color change. So with the Douglas Aster, the native of course, is that lovely purple color. And then this white cultivar is called Savi snow, and the pedals are white instead of purple. And then we have another cultivar which actually has purple flowers like the native does.
[00:05:20] But they tend to be a little bigger. The flowers. And the plant again is ginormous in comparison. So that one has a little bit of like breeding for color as well as stature in it. But across our plants, we've chosen things that have more than just color differences. So we have a Camus in our.
[00:05:41] The study, which of course isn't blooming right now, or even flowering or it doesn't even have foliage out rather, but for that grouping, we have the native Comancheria lake Delania, which is that beautiful purple again. And then one of our cultivars is white and actually also has very gated foliage.
[00:06:03] And then the other cultivar of canvas that we have is like a blue flower. So we have one other plant that has a different color and foliage. We have plants that are different in terms of how tall they grow or how dense their blooms are. So we really do. Have a variety of natives that have been bred for different ornamental traits, which is pretty interesting to see.
[00:06:27] Andony Melathopoulos: Okay. So there are a wide range of traits, not just color stature, maybe bloom, the timing of bloom, multiple characters are being changed. Tell us give us a walk through, you've talked about you've got the Douglas Astor. We were just talking and I see over there, we've got some California poppies and it looks like that year over there.
[00:06:47] Tell us about some of the different plants that have not native ours.
[00:06:50] Jen Hayes: Yeah California, poppy is one of the plants that we actually have three cultivars for, because it has been a little more bread or it might just be a lot easier to breed annuals and perennials. So we have the orange, which is the native.
[00:07:04] Then we have a red cultivar called Macado, which is really beautiful. It's like a Scarlet red and then sometimes shows up looking almost exactly like the native. And then we have a creamy, white colored poppy. Oh, I think I see it over there. Yeah. It's really pretty. It has like really white Paulin too.
[00:07:21] And then we added. Our last cultivar this year, it's called purple gleam. And it's this really pretty like magenta color when it first pops open, but then it bleaches in the sun. So it's not as pretty as the other ones cause they really retain their color versus this one kind of turns like. A whitish yellow in the middle after it's been out for a few days.
[00:07:45] And yeah, we also have Yarra, which is one of our perennials in the study. We also have three cultivars of that. The cultivar called Calistoga. Is one that I mentioned that has different colored foliage. So instead of dark green, it's like a sagey blue, green, and it seems like it produces maybe more.
[00:08:04] Tricombs. So plant hairs on the stems and leaves on the other plants. Do we also have moonshine, which is really popular cultivar of yarrow Brilliant yellow and it's, it does amazing, like it was blooming when we planted it and it hasn't quit versus like the other ones we've seen ebbs and flows in their blooms.
[00:08:26] And then the last yarrow cultivar is called salmon beauty. And it again has like salmon colored flowers, but that one also bleaches in the sun. So it turns yellow after the flowers start to go to seed.
[00:08:43] Andony Melathopoulos: Fantastic. Okay. And we'll be talking you also have Clarkia in here and I remember you were, we were talking about Aaron Anderson's research Clarkie is one of those flowers that.
[00:08:53] Either really love or they are disappointed with, I love Clark. It seems to bloom forever. It's such an attractive plant. Tell us about the clarkias you have here in wa and then sell us on Clark. Yeah,
[00:09:07] Jen Hayes: I think. Absolute favorite of all of the plants we have in our study. It's so beautiful.
[00:09:14] It recedes so readily both the natives and the cultivars. So if you're not familiar with Clark yeah. It's this really pretty little pink native plant. And it often has like red spots in the middle of the pedals. And so we have. Three cultivars of clerk yet in our study, one of them's called Aurora and has really beautiful coral colored flowers.
[00:09:36] And it has some white striping in the pedals occasionally. And then we added this year, Scarlet, which is almost like an inversion. Of the native, where it's pedals are really red and it can get like little spots of pink and instead, and then we have dwarf white, which is like the name says it's a white flower.
[00:09:58] And all of the cultivars actually seem to have much bigger flowers than the native, which is pretty interesting, especially with a name like dwarf white, you would expect it to be like really tiny.
[00:10:12] Yeah. The actual like gross habit of the plant is a lot shorter than the native, but the flowers themselves are a lot bigger. But yeah, one of my favorite things about Clerky out, which I learned from Aaron. The study. And then I've gotten to see it in my plant is that these leafcutter bees which are from the family mega Kyla day, they they're called leaf cutters because they take little pieces of leaves and then go and use them when they're developing there.
[00:10:42] And there's a couple of species that really like Clerky pedals. So when we're doing our observations on these plants, we'll see the leaf cutter bees come in land on a pedal, cut a little Crescent shape out of it. And then they fly away with a little pink piece of confetti, essentially that they use in their neck.
[00:11:01] Andony Melathopoulos: So it must look like a pedal that's flying through the air.
[00:11:05] Jen Hayes: Absolutely. One of my favorite things from this study, it's really cool to see. We've got a couple of videos of it happening. And one thing that's interesting. So our project is really focused on pollinators. And whether they're visiting these natives the same ways that they do the cultivars.
[00:11:25] And so in addition to looking at like actual floral visitation, we're looking at resource use in general. So one thing that we've been able to document is they don't just do this on the native Clarkia. We see these little Crescent shapes on the Aurora and the dwarf white, and it actually wasn't intense.
[00:11:47] Those three kind of started dying off and not really having much pedal mass left that we started seeing it on the Scarlet too. So it seems like the Scarlet is maybe their least favorite to take the little pedals from, but they do it on all four of them. W
[00:12:06] Andony Melathopoulos: fantastic. And that sets us up really well because I want to ask you.
[00:12:09] What your research question. So you're doing your graduate work here with Dr. Gail and gelato in the garden, ecology lab. What's your kind of primary question set up concerning these plants and these beds here?
[00:12:21] Jen Hayes: Yeah. So I guess as I mentioned just a minute ago we are looking at native plants and native cultivation.
[00:12:27] To see if there is a difference in pollinator preference between the natives and the cult of ours. And the whole reason we're doing this project is right now, there's a really big interest in gardening for pollinators and in particular native plant gardening. But the issue is a lot of times when you go to the nursery, natives are really hard to find, or they look really sad in there.
[00:12:53] And, they failed to meet the typical consumer expectation of what you go to a plant store to buy. You want like a beautiful plant, like growing up and out of its pot. And a lot of natives just don't respond to like propagation very well. And native cultivars or native ours are a.
[00:13:11] Solution to help the native plant market because they have been developed to look good in pots. They can be scaled up to nursery size, like propagation systems and, they'll sell better than those natives that are like drooping over. In their pots, but the issue is we don't know if those cultivars are providing pollinators with the same resources as the natives.
[00:13:39] And we're also wondering if changes in appearance of the plants might actually. Altar pollinator recognition of those plants. So they're being advertised as pollinator plants still, but no one is going through every single cultivar and making sure that they still meet the like constraints of what is a good pollinator plant.
[00:14:05] Andony Melathopoulos: Oh, that makes total sense. And so you would assume Markia being a great. Pollinator plant that the cultivar would be identical, but it may you have these bigger flowers you were talking about the growth statures, different, maybe the rewards being produced by the plant have been altered, or maybe the way that it looks to a appall a butterfly or a bee is not the way the native plant looks.
[00:14:27] And so they may. I skip it over for some reason. So there's all these things that nobody, these questions aren't really well resolved. Okay, fantastic. I can see in the background, you've got hardworking students, they're on that massive. Douglas asked her right now. And we can hear that vacuum in the back of, they got these little canisters what are they
[00:14:46] Jen Hayes: doing?
[00:14:47] Yeah. Part of our study is actually sampling pollinators off of our plants to understand who is doing the visiting as I'm sure. You've probably heard many times in this podcast, these are really hard to identify and although, Bumblebees and honeybees are really easy to ID in the field.
[00:15:07] The tiny ones really aren't even under a microscope sometimes. So what we do is we vacuum sample for diversity, and we also pair that with five minute observations where we work on a higher morpho species level. So like 98 grouping BS by their physical appearance. And so what that means is like 98% of our like bees that we record are small black bees.
[00:15:36] Andony Melathopoulos: Which may comprise many species. Yes. Okay. Gotcha.
[00:15:40] Jen Hayes: Many as, as far as I'm concerned. But yeah, so we we use a vacuum instead of a net, which has maybe a more traditional and to melodical tool because we really want to preserve the flowers in our studies. We don't want to slam. The heck out of our plants and then have all of the bees disappear.
[00:16:03] So this is a way for us to target these individually on the plants and also maintain the integrity of the flower. Okay.
[00:16:11] Andony Melathopoulos: So you got the, I can see them, they're there in that little tote, the little canisters, and those will be taken back to the lab and then you'll You both make this observation on the fly, but then you are going to identify the bees and you can ask questions about whether the visitation is different between, I guess the the cultivar and the native are.
[00:16:29] Jen Hayes: Yeah, exactly. See if we have the same groups of pollinators visiting each of the different plant groups.
[00:16:37] Andony Melathopoulos: Now, if you find differences, is there anything that you're doing to try and pull out? What exactly is going on? What is it a different, are they not seeing the plants or is the reward down? How are you tackling that into the problem?
[00:16:50] Jen Hayes: so we actually have a lot of things we're doing it to tackle this huge question of if there is a difference. Why? So we're measuring a lot of aspects of floral display, and this is as simple as how big across is the diameter of this flower or how deep is this flower? Because those could potentially impact Different sizes of pollinators that are able to access their rewards.
[00:17:18] And then in addition to that, we're going to look at the physical rewards themselves. So for some of our plants, we will be collecting pollen and looking. It's the actual nutrition of pollen. Wow. And then we're also hoping to do nectar as well, either quantity or sugar content to see if that changes between the natives and the cultivars.
[00:17:41] And we also have an undergraduate student oh gosh, Urso. What is the acronym? Oh
[00:17:48] Andony Melathopoulos: yeah. Oh yeah. The USDA.
[00:17:50] Jen Hayes: It's not USDA. It's undergraduate student like research
[00:17:55] Andony Melathopoulos: programming here for undergraduates at OSU when you come to OSU. And the thing I've heard about undergrad to come to OSU, one of the thing they love is that they immediately get plugged into experiential learning.
[00:18:05] And so you can do a project. So you got somebody from that program working with you, engage.
[00:18:16] Okay. So yeah. Yeah, somebody who's working on this and what are they doing?
[00:18:20] Jen Hayes: Yeah, so we put, basically applied to have a student come work with us on this project. And so surveyor who's you should definitely have on the podcast in the future. She's amazing. But she's taking multi-spectral photographs of our plants, which It sounds crazy.
[00:18:37] And it is because there isn't really a firm like developed a methodology for it, but essentially we have this camera and we're trying to mimic B vision. So obviously bees don't have the same, like cones and rods or even the same kind of eye that we do. So we can't use our own eyes and look at a plan.
[00:18:57] I assume that the changes that we see are the same things that the beach,
[00:19:02] Andony Melathopoulos: so that Douglas Aster over there that's white might not, may actually be like profoundly
[00:19:07] Jen Hayes: different. Yeah. And what's especially interesting is bees don't really see red or infrared at all. And we have a few cultivars that are like bright red.
[00:19:16] So in order to better understand how pollinators are perceiving. Our plants, we're taking these photographs and essentially what we're doing is we're taking ultraviolet photos. And then we're also taking photos that combine ultraviolet blue and the green spectrum, because that's primarily what bees see.
[00:19:40] And so when we take those photos, we're able to see maybe things that we can't see with our own eyes that the bees are seeing. So some plants have what are called nectar guides, which appear in many different ways. So some of them are visible, like a lot of mint family plants lavender mint itself, of course, and like a regular snow.
[00:20:02] They have these little things. It's on the flowers that kind of lead the bees to the reward center. And then things like irises have like striping. So there's a lot of visible patterns, but there's also ones that only appear in ultraviolet, but what's consistent about them is they typically look like highly contrastive.
[00:20:23] For example, one of our plants we have is called baby blue eyes. It's pneumophila men. ZZI it's this little annual flower. It's so cute. I wish it grew better in our plot, but it really doesn't like our clay soil. But yeah, so if you haven't seen it, it's this tiny little blue flower.
[00:20:43] Andony Melathopoulos: You get up close.
[00:20:44] It is not just blue. It's got
[00:20:45] Jen Hayes: all sorts of some like veins that are purple-y blue. And so what we see is a blue flower with a white center. When we look at that photo in our insect vision. So that's the UV with the blue and green only, it's almost a completely. Opposite of what we see. So the flower looks almost entirely white and then it has this cyan colored circle in the middle.
[00:21:14] So that's, what's called like a bulls-eye nectar guide. So it's like very apparent in the middle of the flower. And it's telling these this is where the resources. And so we. Then took pictures of the cultivars. One of which is a completely white version of the Namatjira. And it had the same bullseye in the middle, which was so exciting.
[00:21:39] And then the other PA Niumatalolo we have is called penny black. And I think if you. I've seen pneumophila Immaculata it's this white flower that has like purply black spots on it. I think it's some sort of cross between that and the men ZZI because it's a tiny flower with white and the center black kind of along the middle of the pedals and then white tips and under B vision, the middle of the flower and the tips of the flowers.
[00:22:11] Blow really. So it's a totally different like ultraviolet signal than what we see in the native. And then the white pole.
[00:22:22] Andony Melathopoulos: This is fascinating. This is a really great data set and it's, I can just see how people. Eager and anxious to not only know which called native are, or cult a native, our native plant is the best, but also why this is going to be fantastic.
[00:22:38] Is do you have any early early findings that you can share with
[00:22:41] Jen Hayes: us? Yeah, so we're in year two and. I'll share. Gail's favorite little anecdote about plants is like for perennials, especially the first year they sleep the second year they creep. And then the third year they, I love that perennials.
[00:23:00] Like they aren't really fully mature until their third year. So I'm like hesitant to say anything. Because this is only the second year of establishment for some of the plants, but the trends seem to be a little more clear. Annual goals. So across the board, the native poppy seems to be the favorite compared to the cultivars.
[00:23:23] So that stuck out last year, the native Clarkia also was way more visited than the. The Aurora and the dwarf white. I'm not sure if that's going to be the case this year, now that we have added the Scarlet. And because we always see a bunch of tiny bees on the Scarlet, really? Yeah. So those are the two maybe I can include Columbine in this, which has been a really weird plant.
[00:23:48] Cause it really sleeps the first year I was. Not convinced that it was going to perform well at all in our study. Cause last year I think we were really excited when one had seven flowers and this year the native has put, I think as, as many as 60 out at a time, So it's just it's so different year two, but the cult of our, we have one record, I think, of a be visiting it ever versus the native we've seen tens of bumblebees on it this season.
[00:24:20] So I think that one's going to be a clear winner. But I forget about it, cause it just, it doesn't get a lot of action.
[00:24:28] Andony Melathopoulos: Okay. All right. Thanks for the early results. We we do a section in the podcast where we ask our, and I've kinda just we actually had this scheduled for three weeks from today and I showed up with my recording here.
[00:24:39] So this is very impromptu, but I have the segment at the end. I asked people for a book recommendation, their go-to tool and their favorite B. And I'm going to, we're going to just take a quick break here while you collect your thoughts.
[00:24:53] Okay. All right. You've done really well. I quickly talked about this. I'm so curious, but it was very impromptu, so that could go in directions that I completely don't expect. So we start with book
[00:25:05] Jen Hayes: recommendation. Someone talking on a pollinator podcast. I feel obligated to say the solitary bees, because it is a really cool and nerdy read for people who are really into bees.
[00:25:18] But I also just read this novel. That was like a very delightful read called the house in this really ancy. And I would highly recommend that if you want something a little more non-educational.
[00:25:29] Andony Melathopoulos: I think this is great. This is a great thing, because I think for many graduate students, you do need time to recuperate your brain and reading a book can really just take you somewhere else to tell us a little bit about why you like this book so much.
[00:25:41] Jen Hayes: It's like a fantasy book and it just totally takes you to another world, which, I feel like we all can benefit from right now. I like have had a really hard time getting myself to read anything the last two years. And that I got through in three days. So it's just one of those books you don't want to put down.
[00:25:58] Cause it's just so sweet. And yeah, like diving into the fantasy world is really fun.
[00:26:02] Andony Melathopoulos: Sometimes I've got a big, long drive coming up, so I'm going to download the book on tape. Thanks for the recommendation. Second question I have for you is go-to tool. What does indispensable on your day-to-day
[00:26:13] Jen Hayes: work?
[00:26:14] Yeah, so I don't use any tools, really consistency. Consistently, except for my hands. So I guess that
[00:26:24] Andony Melathopoulos: Francis rat Nick's on episode one set his eyes
[00:26:27] Jen Hayes: okay. I feel validated from that. Yeah. I use them for a weeding for plucking flowers, for catching male bees in my hands. So yeah.
[00:26:39] As long as you're able to tell that it's a male, you just sneak up to a flower and then scoop it.
[00:26:44] Andony Melathopoulos: And and how do you know if
[00:26:45] Jen Hayes: it's a male? I've been teaching my students on Bumble. First cause they're a little more obvious. So they have an extra little segments on there and a abdomen that almost makes them look like they have a little tail and they have really long and 10 I compared to the females.
[00:27:02] So what do you check for those two things? It's safe to go in.
[00:27:06] Andony Melathopoulos: Okay, that talking about bumblebees last, question's always like hard one for everybody to answer, especially when they spend the summer looking at bees. What is your favorite pollinator
[00:27:16] Jen Hayes: species? Okay. I don't have a specific species, but I really love orchid bees, because they're so different from things that we see and like most of north America and they have.
[00:27:30] Specialized legs instead of holding Paul and they hold floral like sense, which is crazy. They're a little perfume bees, and they're also like super metallic. At least some of the smaller species are. So they're really beautiful and really weird.
[00:27:46] Andony Melathopoulos: They are really stunning bees. I think we had Steve Jabber on a couple of episodes ago and he does work in blueberries, but he always.
[00:27:54] The technician always go to Billy's to do be serving and they always delight at putting out like a little bit of winter green, then the males just,
[00:28:02] Jen Hayes: yeah. It's so cool. Yeah. You use totally different like methodology to observe them to like using attractants instead of just sitting and staring at flowers.
[00:28:11] So they're really cool.
[00:28:12] Andony Melathopoulos: Good luck staring at flowers. It sounds you had another year to go, but this is fascinating work and I know gardeners around the state, but also just pollination ecologists who want to know how things work are going to be following this closely.
[00:28:23] Jen Hayes: Yeah, me too. I'm excited to find out how things turned out as well.
[00:28:27] Thanks again. Thank you.
There has been an explosion of interest in using native plants for pollinators. Along with this interest there is the question of whether nativars - a natural variant that has been found in the wild and brought into cultivation - are equally beneficial to pollinators. This week we look into an ongoing research project asking this very question.
Jen Hayes is a graduate student pursuing a PhD degree in Horticulture & Entomology. Jen is a Vermonter who is passionate about pollinators; she fell in love with native bees as an undergraduate in the Ricketts Lab at the University of Vermont. Since her first exposure to bee research, she has had the opportunity to work on pollinator studies in Vermont, Ecuador, North Dakota, and Oregon. She is interested in how human-developed landscapes, such as farms and gardens, can achieve dual goals of pollinator conservation and plant productivity.
Go To Tool:
Using my hands… I use them for everything from weeding to catching male bees in my hands”