Published on October 15, 2021

Pollinator Garden Installed at Tidmarsh

Volunteers digging in pollinator garden beds at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary

During spring and summer of 2021, Mass Audubon staff and volunteers designed and planted a new pollinator garden at Tidmarsh Wildlife Sanctuary. 

The garden encapsulates all of the seasons of bloom and provides a variety of flowers to support local pollinators in their search for nectar and pollen. It contains several varieties of native host plants that pollinators depend on to complete their life cycles. Through thousands of years of co-evolution, the caterpillars of these moths and butterflies have adapted to counteract the defenses of these native plants on which they depend for food and shelter.

These caterpillars serve as an essential part of the food web. Caterpillars eat plants, making them primary consumers that are then eaten by secondary consumers. Through this chain of events, caterpillars deliver a tremendous amount of energy from plants to other animals – more, in fact, than any other plant-eater!  

Please come visit and check out our garden! Below is a list showing what plants you will find in each bed. Two contain species adapted to dry sandy soils characteristic of the widespread sandplain habitats in southeastern Massachusetts, while the third contains wetland plants and other species that prefer moister soil.

→ Learn how to create your own pollinator garden!


Bed #1 — Sandplain Species

Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis) in bloom

Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis)

Wild Lupine (Lupinus perennis)

  • Blooms April-July
  • Has a tower of pea-shaped, deep purple flowers that you may recognize from the children’s book Miss Rumphius
  • Larval host for 28 species of butterflies and moths including the Eastern Tailed-Blue, Karner Blue, and the Frosted Elfin, which is classified as vulnerable under the Endangered Species Act

"Little Joe" Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium dubium 'Little Joe')

  • Blooms August-October
  • Dwarf variety that only reaches 3-4 feet—while the full-sized variety can grow up to 7 feet tall
  • Visited by birds, honey bees, and butterflies including skippers, fritillaries, and swallowtails
  • Host plant for over 30 species of caterpillars

Lance-leaved Coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolate)

  • Blooms June-October
  • An abundant New England native you’ve surely seen before
  • Dependable and easy to care for with a long bloom time
  • A reliable source of nectar and pollen

Bed #2 — Sandplain Species

Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis) in bloom being visited by a native bee

Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

  • Blooms April-September
  • Long-lasting bloom
  • Excellent source of nectar for hummingbirds & native bees
  • Popular with butterflies including Red Admirals, Painted Ladies, Tiger Swallowtails, & fritillaries

Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon digitalis)

  • Blooms May-July
  • Tall plant with white, bell-shaped blossoms
  • Attracts native bees, bumblebees, & hummingbirds
  • Host plant for nine species of caterpillars

Bed #3 — Wetland Species

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum) and Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos) in bloom

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)
& Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)

Rose Mallow (Hibiscus moscheutos)

  • Blooms July-September
  • Hibiscus plant with a stunning, large pink blossom
  • Native to marshes, wet floodplains, & other rich, moist habitats—adaptable in gardens
  • Attracts hummingbirds, native bees, & butterflies
  • Host plant for 21 species of caterpillars 

Anise Hyssop (Agastache foeniculum)

  • Blooms June-September
  • Member of the mint family
  • Gives a pleasant fragrance through its leaves and blossoms
  • Good source of nectar and pollen for butterflies, hummingbirds, and native bees

Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis)

  • Blooms April-July
  • Pea-like blossoms are visited by native bees
  • Host plant for the Wild Indigo Duskywing, Eastern Tailed-Blue, Orange Sulphur, Frosted Elfin, and 12 other species of butterflies and moths