What’s Popular with Pollinators: New Jersey Tea and Goatsbeard

Happy Independence Day to the USA! As it’s vacation week and my mind is currently on all things outdoors, I’m going to keep today’s posting short and simply highlight some native plants that are buzzing right now with pollinator activity on our small farm in central Massachusetts. Right now, the most popular place for pollinators is the New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus) which is alive with an incredible variety of pollinator species, including small butterflies, moths, predatory beetles, hover (syrphid) flies, parasitic wasps along with native bees of every shape and size :

New Jersey Tea blooms

Frothy plumes of New Jersey Tea blooms are a magnet for pollinators

To learn more about this short and lovely eastern native shrub, read my yesterday’s posting at BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com.

A few weeks ago, all the pollinator action was on the Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus), aka Bride’s Feathers, which is a perennial plant native to the eastern US from Pennsylvania to Indiana south to Arkansas and NC, as well as in the west from British Columbia to Alaska south to Oregon and California. The detail in this photo doesn’t do justice to the sheer volume of tiny pollinators that covered these flower plumes:

Goatsbeard (Aruncus dioicus)

Goatsbeard is an excellent tall plant for a partly-shaded woodland edge in fairly moist soil. Read more about goatsbeard at my June posting at BeautifulWildlifeGarden.com

Enjoy summer and take some slow and quiet time outdoors to look closely for pollinators in your gardens! As long as you don’t disturb them, they are not likely to sting you, and once you watch for a while, you’ll be amazed at the drama and life played out every day inside even one plant. Beware  - identifying the visitors to a wildlife garden is addictive and may lead you into a lifelong fascination with how nature keeps itself in balance when we don’t interfere!


© 2012, Ellen Sousa. All rights reserved. This article is the property of Native Plants and Wildlife Gardens. If you are reading this at another site, please report that to us

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About Ellen Sousa

Ellen Sousa gardens, farms, writes and teaches from Turkey Hill Brook Farm, a small horse farm in the Worcester Hills of central Massachusetts. Author of The Green Garden: The New England Guide to Planning, Planting and Maintaining an Eco-Friendly Habitat Garden, published by Bunker Hill Publishing in summer 2011. She also blogs about habitat and earth-friendly gardening in New England and is on the team at Beautiful Wildlife Garden. Follow @THBfarm on twitter.


  1. Sue Sweeney says:

    Nice. I’ve never seen wild NJ Tea even thug it’s supposed to be native to New England. What cultural conditions does it like?

    • Ellen Sousa says:

      Sue – I’ve never seen it in the wild, either. Cullina states that it’s native to sandy or rocky soils, woodland edge and pine barrens.
      Ellen Sousa recently posted..Mulch – Use What You’ve Got!

  2. Mary Pellerito says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Learning about insects, especially bees, is quite fascinating.
    Mary Pellerito recently posted..Name That Garden

  3. Donna@Gardens Eye View says:

    Ellen I have been noticing how goatsbeard is getting its due finally in blog posts. I did a plant profile a month ago saying how under utilized it was…Hoping more folks find this incredible plant.
    Donna@Gardens Eye View recently posted..Gardens Eye Journal-July 2012

    • Ellen Sousa says:

      Donna, I think it’s a case of…once you get your first look at a really happy, fully blooming goatsbeard, you HAVE to grow it :)
      Ellen Sousa recently posted..Mulch – Use What You’ve Got!

  4. Ruth Parnall says:

    Ellen -

    First of all, congratulations on your award from New England Wild Flower Society!

    And second, to report that we have just dug up and given away to the garden club plant sale our large and well established A. dioica. It was really quite lovely (and beneficial to pollinators) on it’s own in the high shade at a bend in our mown path. But this year we found many seedlings in the moss of the path and the nearby edges. I did not know it would spread like that…insufficient research before planting – and a caution to others. I do love plant volunteers, but our yard is too small to have a huge patch of this plant. Hope all the rest of what we have will keep the pollinators happy.

    • Ellen Sousa says:

      Thank you Ruth! I too have noticed some self-seeding here (central Mass) – maybe 3-4 seedlings over the course of 5 years. The seedlings are welcomed as I have a large partly shady slope to cover…but yes, if you have only a small area of garden space to work with, you’d want to remove the seedlings and give them away to friends with larger gardens :)
      Ellen Sousa recently posted..Mulch – Use What You’ve Got!

  5. Betty Hall says:

    Ellen, I agree totally as to the addictiveness of becoming aware of the many garden visitors. And the more I learn, the more I realize there is to learn and am glad for it. I still enjoy blossoms. However, I find myself more and more drawn to the interactions between plants and animals. It’s good to know I have company.
    Betty Hall recently posted..Purple coneflower visitors


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