Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Mapping Pollinator Hotspots in the Riley Park Community Garden

This week I'll be working with the community to map the pollinator hotspots at the Riley Park Community Garden and logging the types of pollinators that are visiting the garden at this time of the year. Our main event is the workshop on Saturday afternoon from 1:30 pm to 3 pm, but I am getting a head start on targeting and labelling some of the key plants and pollinators we'll be studying. Today I noticed this female turquoise sweat bee sunning herself on the petal of a purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) plant. Then she started scanning the soil underneath the plant for her nesting hole where she lays her eggs and provisions the nesting cells with pollen.

Lucky for her, there are patches of bare soil under the plant. She was searching for a hole, but seemed unable to locate it. Or perhaps she was deciding on the best location to make a new nest. Bees memorize the objects and plants around the nest hole in their own kind of mapping exercise. I noticed this plant growing under the Echinacea. It's a "weed" called common purslane (Portulaca oleracea). In doing research on vegan forms of Omega 3 fatty acids, I discovered that this is a very nutritious plant and an important one in the vegan diet. I recently saw an online post by a farmer who wanted to know what herbicide to use on it. Rather that killing it, he should be harvesting and selling it! It's delicious in salads. I've made a Greek salad with it, which is fantastic, and I'm sure you could puree it, freeze it in ice cube trays and put it in smoothies. Studies are showing the plant is full of  omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants. I buy mine at the UBC Farmer's market from the Mayan gardeners.

I'd never seen common purslane in bloom until now, so we much check to see if the pollinators are using the blossoms. In any case, it's a nutritious ground cover that can serve as a sign post for ground-nesting bees and a healthy food for humans.

Please join us on Saturday to look for bees, butterflies and more!!!

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