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Native Plants for BC Bees and Gardeners

Using available data on plant–bee associations, The Native Bee Society of British Columbia has compiled a basic list of native plants that support native bees on BC’s Coast and in the Southern Interior. While many bees are generalists and can access pollen and nectar from a wide variety of flowers, some specialist bees only collect pollen from a narrow selection of plants. In addition, these plants can provide nesting material for native bees in the form of leaves, resins, stems and decaying wood. (See NBSBC’s Forage Resources for Specialist Bees.) 

Our goal was to include plants with different bloom times to offer a continuous supply of pollen and nectar from spring to fall.  We included plants of different size, shape, colour, and growth form.  The plants come from a variety of different habitats: from moist meadows to shady forests to dry grasslands and shrublands; and therefore are suitable for different garden types.  Use the list as a starting point for selecting plants for your particular garden. 

Many of these plants are beneficial to a broad variety of organisms, meaning they are critical for the ecosystem as a whole. Planting these shrubs and herbaceous plants together will create a synergy of lasting ecological benefit for bees, birds, butterflies and moths (adult and caterpillar stages), other invertebrates, and foraging mammals. 

Using this basic list, gardeners can build a strong, supportive infrastructure in landscapes that provide the necessary resources for a healthy bee environment. This list is also meant to create awareness of plants that need to be protected for bees; it is critical that these plants are pesticide and herbicide free for the health of pollinators. 

Criteria for native plant list

  • Plants that are the most common in the BC Coastal and Southern Interior regions (and/or most commonly sighted on iNaturalist).

  • Any association with native bees, (number and species), generalist bees in particular.

  • Covering the entire bee season.

  • Plants that can be grown in gardens—as opposed to plants that thrive better in wild ecosystems.


Notes on eco-specific native plants


Plants that are sourced from the ecoregion where you live are more likely to be compatible with local bee populations, well-adapted to local soils and climate, and more able to provide a connective bridge for pollinators to wild populations.  These ‘eco-typic’ plants, however, have limited availability.  If you are lucky enough to live near a native plant nursery they can share a wealth of information about the specific plants that will thrive in your area.  When purchasing plants, make sure plants are ethically sourced, properly identified, and never poached from the wild.
It is a challenging, yet rewarding journey that requires patience and persistence.  Start small, and grow from there.

Citizen science

The Native Bee Society of BC is embarking on an in-depth study of the relationship of BC native bees to plants and we plan to map out areas with very specific information on the species of bees and their favorite flora. We need your help! Familiarize yourself with the plants in your area and submit photos of bees on those plants to iNaturalist. If you add plant associations to the bee photos you submit, you are helping to build our database. Learn how to do this here. If you don’t know the plant, you can make it a separate observation and then tag your bee observation with the link to the plant in your notes. (It does help us to note if the plant is not native, as these observations also help fill out the database.) 


Good investments

Finally, although some native plants are easy to establish, some are more challenging and take a long time to reach maturity. Once established, native plants can be very low-maintenance and a great investment to your property.  This is another reason we advise buying plants from your local native nursery. They will have a selection of perennials and shrubs that have been given a head start in the nursery over months or even years. Your local native nurseries are also willing to share a wealth of information about the specific plants that will thrive in your soil. Please do not collect seeds or plants from the wild, as this may erode sensitive populations of native plants.

Data sources
iNaturalist, particularly the NBSBC Bee Tracker Project 
The Pollination Ecology Lab, Simon Fraser University 
Discover Life 
Pollinator Partnership

This project is supported by the Bee BC Program; delivered by the Investment Agriculture Foundation of BC with funding from the Government of British Columbia.

Download the Resources

Project Contributors


Lori Weidenhammer

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