Native Plant Patch: Spanish Needles

a wild patch of Spanish needles (Bidens alba)

I have always been a defender of weeds and wild things … the overlooked and unappreciated … the underdogs in the natural world.

So there’s no better place to start with my articles about wild patches of nature.  I’m going to post photos of native plant patches that have been left to their own devices and point out all the wildlife that use them.  People are always amazed at the amount of life and beauty in a seemingly lifeless, and useless, wild patch of plants that I can point out to them.  So following the suggestions … that I share … here goes.

Check out all the beauties that call a small patch of Spanish needles home! 

gulf fritillary
southern carpenter bee
lynx slider

Spanish needles are wonderful, native, wildflowers.  I’ve been advocating them to people forever.  Bidens alba is the botanical name for this wildflower.  Another common name for Bidens alba is beggar tick.  

Just a few of these wildflowers, left to go wild, in your green space will create a mini-meadow and provide for pollinators that you may not realize you even had in, and around, your yard.  The patch that I found was a small area right next to a busy highway.  No one stopped to notice all the activity except for me.

baby katydid
Halloween pennant dragonfly
longtailed skipper

Spanish needles grow without any human interaction at all, except for seed transport, and they can eek a living out of seemingly nothing.  They grow in a variety of soil and light conditions, and use natural rainfall as their only source of water.  They provide so much for so many creatures in a very small space.  Insects abound where this native, Florida, wildflower grows.  We are losing pollinators at a fantastic rate because of habitat destruction and poisons.  Every little bit of pollinator habitat helps.  Create a mini-meadow and enjoy all the tiny creatures that show up!

European honeybee
Southern spreadwing damselfly
blue-winged black thread waisted wasp

All the creatures that use these flowers need these flowers to survive … to get through their lives … to complete their life cycles.  In addition to the pollinators there are predators that live amongst the petals and stems.  These beautiful wildflowers are also a larval host plant for one of our native butterflies – the dainty sulphur (Nathalis iole).  The cycle of life is created, but on a very small scale of tiny creatures.

sweat bee
dainty sulphur
cloudless sulphur

My hope is that by my pointing out these tiny creatures it will give you pause next time you decide to give Spanish needles the heave ho from your garden. Don’t hate … pollinate and provide a safe place for Florida wildlife!

Buy Florida ecotype Bidens alba seeds here!

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