Bee on flowering treeMost people know that bees need nectar from flowers to survive. But what kind of flowers? A small leafy plant that flowers is called a forb, and that’s what most people think plants need.

But bees don’t get most of their nectar from forbs – bees get most of their nectar from trees! And trees will not only have more flowers than forbs, but their flowers will have more nectar per flower as well.

Trees also provide shade and habitat for other wildlife, too.

Most trees that provide nectar bloom in the spring, but the time that bees are suffering most is summer, when few nectar-providing trees are blooming.

This is why the single best thing that you can do to save the bees is to plant a nectar-providing tree that blooms

Here  you’ll find a list of native trees (and shrubs) that are nectar-providing and summer-blooming.

Native, summer blooming trees

Basswood

Basswood

Tilia americana

Max height: 60-120 ft
Max spread: 30 ft
Growth habit: faster than average
Sun preference: full sun (and it will earn it)
Soil preference: well-draining
Water preference: average
Description: Called “the queen of the honey trees,” this tree will grow quickly and, once it starts blooming (in 8-15 years), will produce nectar about two to three of every five years. The honey produced is light-colored and has a slight lime flavor, and said to be high-quality.

Button bush

Buttonbush

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Max height: 15-20 ft
Max spread: 10-12 ft
Growth habit: average
Sun preference: full sun to partial shade
Soil preference: think swamps and riverbanks
Water preference: prefers constantly-wet soil, thrives in swampy areas
Description: This bog-dwelling shrub or small tree has fantastic, spiky-ball flowers that attract butterflies as well as honey bees. If you have a consistently-wet area of your land, then this tree is perfect. It is reported to grow deep taproots.

Devil's Walking Stick

Devil’s Walking Stick

Aralia spinosa

Max height: 12-15 ft
Max spread: 10-15 ft
Growth habit: average
Sun preference: full sun to shade
Soil preference: well-drained
Water preference: average
Description: This tree lives up to its common name. The trunk of this tree is ringed with vicious thorns. It’s an interesting conversation piece of a tree, provided you keep a safe distance.

Staghorn SumacStaghorn sumac Rhus typhina
Flameleaf sumac
Flameleaf sumac Rhus copallina

Max height: 15-20 ft, Staghorn • 20 ft, Flameleaf
Max spread: 10-15 ft, Staghorn • 20 ft, Flameleaf
Growth habit: average, multi-trunked, suckering
Sun preference: full sun
Soil preference: tolerant of many soils
Water preference: average
Description: Staghorn sumac and Flameleaf sumac are not related to poison sumac. The leaves of both are attractive in both the summer and the autumn. Some people report that Staghorn will rapidly spread by seeds and suckers, so managing new growth may be problematic. The honey that bees make from Staghorn sumac is divine. Flameleaf sumac will spread and eventually form a mounding hedge-like plant. It will also be covered in bees when it is blooming.

Native, summer blooming shrubs

Shrubs are not as important to bees as trees are, but not everyone has the room to plant a tree.
If you must choose a shrub over a tree, then here are several options from which to choose.

Summer Sweet

Summersweet

Clethra alnifolia

Growth habit: average
Sun preference: full sun
Soil preference: prefers wet soil, do not let this plant dry out
Water preference: heavy
Description: This shrub produces many racemes of fragrant flowers. Bees will be all over it.
Shrubby St. John's Wort

Shrubby St. John’s Wort

Hypericum prolificum

Growth habit: average
Sun preference: full sun
Soil preference: well-drained
Water preference: average
Description: This plant is related to other plants called “St. John’s Wort,” though ingesting it is not advised. It will be covered in beautiful golden flowers in summer.

Coral Berry

Coralberry

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Growth habit: average
Sun preference: full sun
Soil preference: well-drained
Water preference: average
Description: This plant will produce flowers and then colorful berries.
New Jersey Tea

New Jersey Tea

Ceanothus americanus

Growth habit: average
Sun preference: full sun
Soil preference: well-drained
Water preference: average, drought tolerant
Description: This native shrub is reported to appreciate more sandy soils. Its leaves have also been reported to be a substitute for tea.

Bonus Tree

Witch Hazel
This rare tree does not bloom in summer – it blooms in late fall and provides bees with a last chance at nectar before they try to survive the cold winter.

Witch hazel

Hamamelis virginiana

Max height: 20-25 ft
Max spread: 20-25 ft
Growth habit: average, multi-trunked
Sun preference: full sun to shade
Soil preference: well-drained
Water preference: average
Description: Make sure you buy the correct plant: Hamamelis virginiana. There are other trees called “Witch Hazel” that are NOT the same plant. This tree will be covered in wispy, golden flowers when all the other deciduous trees and shrubs have shed their leaves.

Joint production with Trees AtlantaTrees Atlanta Logo

Thanks goes to Mike Conner of Honey Tree Nursery and to Shannon Trimboli of Solidage Press, whose efforts helped make this possible.

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